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Help, please? Anyone who knows about contract law/letting agents

(18 Posts)
Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 17:01:35

In April I saw a house I liked but was due to give birth imminently, so the overenthusiastic, school leaver of a letting agent spoke to the owners and got them to agree to let it over the summer, so I could rent from November.

I think I signed an agreement, but never returned the guarantor form and have a letter to say I could not be referenced until they had that, and everything was on hold. I told the agent I wasn't prepared to pay a deposit as things might change because of the baby etc, and it was left that I'd let her know nearer the time - but I made it fairly clear that the housing benefit I'd thought would increase with another child, would not be going up after all, and I was unlikely to be able to afford it.

I had a call today from the agents - actually mine went bust and this is a different company - asking for a decision. I told them it was off as things have changed, we now need a car and it has no parking etc.

I asked for my fee back, which I paid in April, of £117, and was told it was non refundable.
It strikes me as bad practice to take a fee when no referencing has been done, and I haven't even a copy of the agreement. I asked for copies of everything relating to it but she said no, she would have to charge me more for that. cow

Do I have a claim, here? I feel swindled. Can anyone advise me please?

Thanks smile It's a lot of cash to pay for, well, nothing much.

SenoraPostrophe Mon 17-Sep-07 17:05:00

it's bad practice to take a fee of £117 when referenceing/credit check actually costs about a tenner imo.

but as far as I know, non refundable is non refundable, whether they did the work or not. but I'd write to the manager anyway.

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 17:05:15

By the way I believe you could describe the agent as party to very high pressure sales techniques - I kept saying I didn't think I'd be able to afford it and she just went on and on, saying 'well let me know' and I was just thinking, 'I AM letting you know' iyswim.
I remember thinking, I don't want to pay this fee, but I can't get out of this office unless I do' sort of thing. Of course she is long gone...off to study primary teaching, I believe. hmm

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 17:05:47

Thankyou Senora, it was the manager I spoke to just now sad

Freckle Mon 17-Sep-07 17:06:01

Ask them for a copy of all documentation, particularly where it says that the deposit is non-refundable. If they say they will have to charge you for copies, point out that, if you were to issue a claim in the small claims court, they would have to provide copies anyway, so they might as well provide them now.

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 17:08:55

Yes, I think I will try again to get copies. After all I paid them for that paperwork, I think?

I might try downloading the claim forms and sending them to her just to freak her out.

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 17:37:17

Is there a chance they could chase me to pay for the rent, considering I may have signed a tenancy agreement? To my knowledge the landlady never signed it as I didn't return the guarantor form.

SenoraPostrophe Mon 17-Sep-07 17:57:10

I doubt you'd have signed a tenancy agreement before credit checks were done - I imagine you just signed a thing that says "this money is non refundable". You'd definately have a copy of a tenancy agreement anyway.

I think there's an ombudsman you can report them to now isn't there?

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 19:32:50

Thankyou - well, I know the landlady didn't sign, because she was waiting for the guarantor thing. But I was afraid there would be nothing to stop them signing it and returning it to me, if it was that I signed (I think I signed something, and it wasn't about the fees) and forcing me to pay rent for the next two years. shock

I am in touch with the local housing advice centre but they said they weren't specialists in legal stuff, and if I could find out what I'd signed it would help. But she is refusing to tell me what I signed. It's horrible.

I can never get through to the CAB as it always seems to be busy and they don't return calls. I will try and find out about an ombudsman but I don't know where to start.

Going to go and bury my head in a bar of Cadburys finest and hope it all goes away. <sob>

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 19:34:55

Oh, she sent me a 'draft' copy of the tenancy, with no signatures because in her words (this was still the 13 year old agent) she couldn't let me have the real thing because the checks hadn't been done and therefore I'd have paperwork to say I was entitled to the property without them having anything to ensure they'd have guaranteed rent.
So maybe everyone did sign it...? Oh bolleaux.

smallwhitecat Mon 17-Sep-07 19:40:40

Message withdrawn

Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 19:48:10

Smallwhitecat what's the SC? Small claims, I get it. Yes, I might be able to do it online, but I'd need to know if I was justified legally or could end up paying their costs iyswim.

I think the fee was for agents costs, like 'drawing up' an agreement (like they didn't have one in the cupboard already hmm) and phone calls to the owners etc. Which must have amounted to all of, oh, a pound.

I know, I need to see what I signed but short of taking a shotgun into the offices I don't think it's going to be forthcoming.

I feel like they are just totally in control here because I don't know my rights. It's so upsetting.

smallwhitecat Mon 17-Sep-07 19:54:02

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Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 20:01:59

Ah, thankyou SWC, that makes it a bit clearer. The 'manager' as she called herself seemed really sly.I understand that the plicy is not to refund fees paid, but honestly it seems more a question of goods not provided, or something. I mean I paid for something that was not done - credit checks, referencing etc. So how can they possibly say that's reasonable.

The thing that gets me most is that I was heavily pregnant, sat in that office and I knew I shouldn't hand over my card, I knew it, it seemed wrong at that point when nothing was finalised or agreed for sure, and I wish now I'd walked out and said no. But at that point I did want the house, even though I wasn't certain it was do-able, and was afraid it wouldn't still be available - funny thing was, the next day she rang and said they had let it for the summer, even though I hadn't produced the deposit or signed anything. So it would still have been available in 6 months whether I'd paid for it or not - it was perhaps I suppose a sort of holding fee, for something that would have been available anyway I think. ?

No wonder they went bust. Total unprofessionalism IMVHO...

Thanks very much for explaining about the SC. I will see if threats work. You never know.

smallwhitecat Mon 17-Sep-07 20:05:32

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Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 20:13:52

Now that's why you are a lawyer and I'm not...I'd never have thought that she might be being obstructive because she had something to hide! Do I actually have a right to copies of stuff I signed, or is she within her rights not to share it with me?

I'm not sure how to go about approaching her reasonably. as opposed to lamping her

smallwhitecat Mon 17-Sep-07 20:23:25

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Jennifer8 Mon 17-Sep-07 20:38:57

That sounds very reasonable, thankyou ever so much for getting involved in my 'headache' tonight and helping me sort it out. I really appreciate it!

Yes, I think that's perfectly Ok to ask them to demonstrate exactly what I have paid them for. They didn't give me a copy of the agreement, if such it was, because the landlady hadn't signed it yet so they took it for her to sign. I guess there was no point having an unsigned copy.

I do have the draft but no record to say I signed anything. I kept the receipt for the payment and the letter saying they were waiting for my guarantor form, and until they received that, everything was on hold.

I think there may have been some other agreement as in something to say I'm paying these fees and I understand the terms etc. but I can't find it and she did let slip that there was 'nothing you've signed' to say it but that the fees were non refundable.

So I guess she doesn't have it either...hopefully!

Thanks again, you've been smashing x

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