…or indeed my Camembert is past its sell by date… I am reversing back down by the wall that I was driven up…by an article in The Mail on Sunday, January 11 2015. Never did I think that I would be sharing emotions with the Guardianista fraternity/sorority (so as not to elicit the harpy-like wrath of Ms Toynbee), but Toby Walne (TW) has, I admit, irritated me greatly. The article focused on the administrative costs involved in tenancies and how these are frequently “hidden” from tenants. Let us be very clear. As an agency that specialises in residential lettings, we do charge an administration fee. This is disclosed on the property description details so cannot be tagged under “hidden”. TW rather sniffly states that agents “justify” their fee for services including drawing up tenancy agreements and credit checking prospective tenants. Correct. We charge a fee for the service that we provide that includes: sitting with the applicants in the office to correctly complete the forms-as mistakes cannot be rectified, collating the necessary information before passing it to an outside referencing company, discussing feedback from the said company with the applicants – particularly if they failed to pay a mobile ‘phone bill three years ago that sent their credit score through the floor-but seeing if we can still (with the agreement of the landlord) fulfil their wish to rent. If we proceed, we then prepare 4 individual contracts and an inventory before again meeting with the applicants to fully explain their obligations under the contract, before they sign it. By the time that we move in the tenants we have spent some considerable time in their company. That is our job. But it is a job, it is not volunteer work for a charity.
Our erstwhile journalistic friend then makes a big deal about how on top of their fees, tenants must “typically” pay a month’s rent up front. There is nothing “typical” about it, it is fact and established practice. Just as any of us with a mortgage have to pay at the start of the month before we may have ever lived in the property. Welcome to the real world TW.
Examples are cited of tenants who when questioning the fees charged by an agency were told in no uncertain terms, that if they didn’t pay, the agency would have no problem in finding someone who would. Clearly someone who dipped out of the “Customer Relations/Dealing with Customer Queries” seminar; naughty naughty, HR will be after you. But as the area where the rental property was located was South West London, whilst the brusque manner of the agent was not to be condoned, they were right when they said that they would have any number of (desperate) prospective tenants willing to pay, no questions asked.
The bit that did make me chuckle was the bald statement that tenants are “unfairly treated” because they are “forced” to go through an agency rather than directly to the landlord. Er, one thing TW. How do you think the agents come to have the properties on their books? By some stealth operation of nefarious behaviour involving secret agents, honey traps and unfortunate videos that would have them choking on their G&T at the golf club? Or because a homeowner wishing to put their property on the rental market chooses someone who is a professional in their field (ergo knows what they are doing) and chooses to avail themselves of this expertise in order to facilitate a rental income? The crux being that they do not want-to paraphrase TW-deal directly with the tenant.
Having rectified several wrongs -although I can do nothing about Toby Walne’s inherent dislike of estate agents-I am now off to enjoy the last days of a glorious but vanishing dynasty. The girls of Page Three are from next week to be sporting slightly more garments than the tradition of their proud heritage. It clearly is a day of firsts: not only do I find myself sharing sentiments with Polly Toynbee but I now find myself empathising with Jodie Marsh.