I had a conversation with a tenant today whom wasn’t a very happy bunny.  She had enquired about a property we had advertised for rent on Rightmove.

It transpires that she had already applied for references through another local agency, a brand name with a supposed reputation that for obvious reasons shall remain unnamed (though their card marked with me).  As per the usual agency process when an offer is accepted, she had paid a holding deposit of £400 to the agent which included her reference fees on the understanding that the agent no longer showed any viewers the property whilst references were undertaken.

Now her story goes that her employer had responded relatively quickly verifying her income as acceptable however, her current landlord had not responded even though he had been chased by the referencing Company.  This had been going on for over a week (her tenancy would be starting a few weeks later), and she was in talks with the landlord to have him complete the reference.Her gripe was not just that the agent had let the property without telling her or giving her the chance to remedy the situation.  But rather that they had told her that she was not getting any refund of her fees at it was her fault the tenancy wasn’t going ahead.

This irks me.  The second time today!

Why do a minority (well at least I hope its just a minority) of agents think its OK to rob tenants of their hard earned?

Now I’m sure that I’ve read the OFT guidelines on holding deposits and I’m sure that it isn’t OK to keep the tenants money.  Especially given that the offending agent had re-let the property to another tenant.

Effectively they had earned twice!

I recommended that the tenant contact the Borough of Lewisham trading standards department and report the behaviour, as it’s totally unacceptable from an estate agent, let alone a so-called reputable agent.  This is vindication of why the private rental sector could do with regulation of some kind.

Tenants, if an agent treats you like this.  Complain, and hard.

Ask for terms and conditions relating to any holding fee you pay and ask on what basis the agent will keep all of it.  Log onto your local trading standards website and check the OFT guidelines for unfair agreements with letting agents.  You will be pleasantly surprised (or pretty darn mad if something like the above had happened to you).