It will come as no surprise to our regular followers that yet again Cheshire and Co have their finger on the pulse of the media. By that I mean that en route to an appointment yesterday I was listening to the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2. The lead item was the malfeasance of letting agents; primarily the various fees charged to tenants, that incidentally have been banned in Scotland. The housing charity Shelter are launching a campaign to have the same ban implemented in England and Wales. At the outset, let us just say that as always there are two sides to this story. On the one hand we have the belief that housing is a social right and should be provided free of cost to the whole of society. On the other side of the argument we have the capitalist pigs who try to mug off everyone and make as much money as possible. As Eric Arthur Blair wrote, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others..” (sic). Answers on a postcard to the Cheshire and Co office if you can identify the pen name of the aforementioned Mr Blair.
A lettings agency is a service business – a point that was acknowledged by all parties in yesterday’s radio debate – even begrudgingly by the charity’s representative. As a result, everyone expects all businesses to turn a profit. Even the most socialist members of our society would agree that buying or using a service has a cost. But, there is a limit as to what can be charged for providing the said service. Yesterday’s debate raised some horror stories that we as reputable letting agents found abhorrent. One particular example was of an agency charging a new referencing fee to the same existing tenant on three separate occasions. Whichever way you look at it, that is a total rip-off. Another example was of agents charging check in and check out fees. Again, this is taking the proverbial. Just because the market is on fire and an agent can name their fee, it doesn’t mean that they should and thereby smother the golden goose. One of the individuals interviewed was a private landlord who managed his properties himself, but readily acknowledged that self-management is not for everyone. Another agent interviewed also commented that she and her colleagues acted primarily in the interests of the landlord but also were mindful of the interests of the tenant and in doing so were available 24/7. Round-the-clock service has a price. We also charge an application fee to the tenant but this is not simply filling in a form and ringing up their boss for a reference. It is always about matching the right tenant to the right landlord. On occasion, this is after they have ‘failed’ a referencing procedure. This is not because we ignore the hard facts but because we discover the whole situation, interview them and can then put forward a case to the landlord that this individual may actually be suitable as a tenant. Of course, if the landlord says no, their decision is final as they are our client. Do the housing charities expect us to carry out this professional work for nothing? I think that you will find that your independent agent will charge clear transparent fees and not attempt to extract a bodily fluid, unlike some or our corporate brethren who will charge you for just entering the office.
“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”. (sic) Mr Blair again. Well said.