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Is my estate agent allowed to do this?

(218 Posts)
kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 10:27:31

We moved in 4 months ago on a 6 month lease. Soon after moving in, we were sent a list of charges. Well I was surprised at first at what I read. In all my 12 years of renting with different agents around the country from moving about quite often, I've never met an agent who charges us £60 for extending the lease for another 6 months, or charging £75 for extending the lease to a 1-month running lease after our 6 mth lease is up.

The house has problems. The lounge window had a 2 inch crack on the bottom left corner which was never fixed. The agent had a builder come in to look but then after he went away, we never heard from him again. Now the crack has grown to a 8 inch crack.

And now, this is another first for me as well, but the agent sent us a letter at the beginning of October to ask us to tell them "soon as possible" if we are moving out of the house or not. Well I do want to move as this home is too small for us but we took it at first because it was the only house for rent in the area we wanted at first. But since letting agents often want people to move in within a month after putting down a deposit, we are still in the process of viewing new homes but didn't think we should pledge to move in any properties yet until November. So I did not respond to the current agent's request to speak to them yet.

This morning, a lady from the agent's office came knocking on the door. She came to do an inspection. She claims they have sent a letter to us earlier telling us they were coming to do an inspection. Well no they didn't, plus they didn't call either, so we were completely unawares of this. This is the school holidays and the house is a bit of a tip. At first I wanted to turn her away as this to me is an unannounced inspection, but my "soft" husband kept winking at me to let her in and she had a really argumentative tone to her voice and sounded very pushy but basically she "wanted" us to go to their office afterwards to speak to her boss to let them know whether we are moving or not.

I have never met an estate agent like this. I felt like arguing with her about the surprise inspection but because of my husband's obvious reluctance to put up any resistance, I let her be.

I feel like all this agent has done is not standard estate agent practice. Or is it?

PigletJohn Wed 29-Oct-14 11:30:00

They are allowed to ask, and you are allowed to say no.

It's your home, and you are in charge.

wowfudge Wed 29-Oct-14 11:34:46

Hi - charging �60 for a new AST, yes although all they need to do is speak to the LL and you to check you agree, change the dates on the document they already have and get you to sign it - they can sign as the LL's agents, so not worth �60, but that seems to be pretty much the going rate.

Charging �75 for your AST becoming a periodic tenancy - so just rolling on the terms on the original AST - I'd be telling them to do one as they will be doing absolutely nothing to justify a charge: there is nothing to sign, no paperwork to prepare, it just happens. You should have spoken to them at the time you received the list of charges though to make it clear you believed that was an unfair charge.

The reason they have written to you more than two months before the original 6 month AST expires is so that they could give you the two months notice they are required to give you to quit at the end of the 6 month term if you weren't staying. Because you haven't replied they are putting some pressure on because they want to know whether you are staying or not.

By law you can stay for the full six months and if they want you out they must give you two months' notice, whatever the AST states.

If you haven't had reasonable notice of the inspection (usually at least 24 hours notice), then don't let them in. The concept of 'quiet enjoyment' exists and they cannot demand to come in just because they want to. Your DH shoudn't have caved in, but should have sent her away with a flea in her ear as you haven't had the requisite notice.

Re: the cracked window. Did you not pursue this with the agent at the time the builder came to look or since? The builder may have invoiced for work he hasn't done or may claim you wouldn't give him access to do the work. More likely the quote was for an amount the LL is reluctant to pay so it's just been left. If you haven't complained then there's no impetus to fix it.

If I were you, I would speak to the agent on the phone - or let them ring you - I certainly wouldn't go to their office, and tell them you are undecided at the moment. Way too pushy.

I'm a LL btw.

DayLillie Wed 29-Oct-14 11:35:26

Surely they should be charging the landlord for lease extention, not the tenent?

wowfudge Wed 29-Oct-14 11:38:58

You would think so DayLillie, but I found out the agents I used originally charge the tenant - I think a lot of LLs would be more likely to tell them to get lost, especially if they are managing the place for them and charging a fee. It's exploitative because I imagine a lot of tenants think they will be out of a home if they object.

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 12:07:16

Thank you for all your responses. I really appreciate learning a thing or two. I should have been more proactive about this and pointed out to them that I didn't agree with the charges. Ditto about the window crack, but as I was already certain I would want to try and move before the lease was up, thought I'd never need to come to this.

But the agents' actions this month have caused me to start worrying about not having acted sooner about the window and the charges. Is it too late for me to do anything now? I'll still continue viewing properties to see if there's anything suitable.

By the way I notice some other agents have even higher application fees than this one. . Saw a property listed by William H Brown and they are charging £96 per applicant, £210 tenancy agreement, and £90 renewal/extension fee. That seems even more than our current agent. If that is standard nowadays (we stayed at our previous property for 7 years so maybe I'm not so up to date about how charges have changed over time)... I guess maybe our current one isn't that bad... just not the worst of the lot! We paid £276 in total for application and referencing fee for this current agent and were not charged extra for drafting the tenancy agreement.

PigletJohn Wed 29-Oct-14 12:08:36

Anyway, you can say "I have no current plans to move"

Maybe, at some indeterminate date in the future, you will find a new home, and make plans.

PigletJohn Wed 29-Oct-14 12:11:41

And the agents don't give you notice that they are going to make an inspection.

They make a request for an appointment to inspect, which you are entitled to reject, or accept if you wish.

You are perfectly entitled to reply "thank you for your request for an appointment, however that is not a convenient date for me. I can offer Thursday 13th at 2pm"

DayLillie Wed 29-Oct-14 12:35:57

It is a long time since I rented and I am quite shocked at these charges. They are part of the service that they are providing the landlord (and charging for, out of the rent collected) as their agents. Still, I suppose EAs are not fleecing enough people on the housebuying front at the moment and making up for it by exploiting tenants. sad They are not allowed to charge housebuyers anything - I expect there is a loophole in renting somewhere.

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 12:36:02

The thing is I did not receive a request to inspect. It would be a different matter if I did, but I didn't.

HaveToWearHeels Wed 29-Oct-14 13:50:32

The agent we use, contacts the tenant a month before the end of the contract to see if they wish to sign a new one. We however would have already told the tenant to contact us directly, they can either choose to go on a periodic tenancy or if they want security sign another annual one with us directly (no fee).

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 13:55:17

I just called the agent. I explained about the surprise inspection. He insisted the letter of notice had been sent a few weeks ago. I said I would not have let her in if I was the one answering the door. He said okay, he would not have a problem with it if I did that. (?)

I asked him how long do we have to make the decision to leave the property or stay. I said after the surprise inspection today, I feel like I'm being pressured to make a decision so soon. He says he's not pressurizing us. It's just that they normally do things this way and that it would allow them time to put the property on the market if we let them know whether we are staying or going.

I asked about the £75 extension fee for the 6 mths lease to be converted to a monthly rolling extract. I said could he waive it because there is no need to charge that, plus none of my previous landlords ever charged that. He said no he is not waiving it because we "agreed" to it in the beginning and these charges are just the way they operate. He also mentioned something about a change in the law recently and about how deposits have to be protected now and how that relates to all these charges.

I didn't agree to the charges, but okay.. it was a frantic move. We had to move out of our previous property quickly. When my husband viewed the current property, signed papers and put down the deposit initially, we were not told about the fees at all. After we got the keys to the house, they gave DH this folder containing all of their charges, which listed this, as well as a £35 termination fee. We did not say anything about it because we already moved in. We don't know if we had protested about the charges, and if the agents didn't relent, if we'd have to then find another house to move to again and lose the deposit and all. What could we have done, realistically?

I asked the agent about the cracked window and told him the builder came out to see it but nothing's been done. He then said he cannot comment on that on the phone with me as I called him out of the blue and said he would have to speak to the landlord about it. I said, so are you telling me the landlord knows about it but has done nothing about it, or... he cut me off there and said he is not going to try and lay the blame on anyone. I said I just don't want to be held responsible for that. He said okay I won't.

Anyway I just had a look through the tenancy agreement and it says in there the agent or landlord can come into the property any time during the day in the last 2 months of the tenancy for viewings. It doesn't say they have to give notice... so do they have to?

I tried calling Shelter but their lines are busy. I've only had a chance to look at their website and it doesn't answer all my questions...

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 13:57:17

So we will be charged £35 for terminating our tenancy whether we move or not at the end of 6 months. First agent I've met who does that too. hmm

Panicmode1 Wed 29-Oct-14 14:01:26

If you have signed an AST then you do NOT need to extend the lease - an AST gives a tenant 6 months term certain, after which the lease continues, with the landlord having to give 2 months notice and the tenant, one. You do not need to alter it in any way. Poor agents supplement their fees by getting tenants to do this, but it isn't necessary.

Most leases will require 24 hours notice of an inspection to be given to a tenant - unless in an emergency, ie burst pipe or something. The landlord or his agents cannot force you to let them in. You should have a 'quiet enjoyment' clause in the lease which allows you to live in the house without being hassled by the landlord or the agents. Tell them you will let them know about your plans at your convenience, and not theirs.

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 14:05:18

How would I go about allowing the AST to continue on a monthly rolling contract without having to pay the fee with this agent? Do I simply tell them I am allowing the contract to roll on but I am refusing to pay the fees? Can they make me move out then?

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 14:06:19

And what should I do if they knock on my door wanting me to let them in for a viewing without notifying in advance? I know I can refuse a surprise inspection, but a viewing?

PigletJohn Wed 29-Oct-14 14:08:45

tell them to piss off.

Panicmode1 Wed 29-Oct-14 14:12:08

Tell them in law you have an AST which rolls on whether you pay or not. If they turn up unannounced to do a viewing, you could do as Piglet John advises, or say that it's not convenient now, but they can come between x and y time, or even let them do an open day so you only have to tidy up once.

grocklebox Wed 29-Oct-14 14:19:32

It doesn't matter what the agreement says, they absolutely cannot come in when they want, end of tenancy or not. The only time they can enter without your express permission is for an emergency such as gas leak, burst water etc. You do not have to let them in at any other time, unless you want to.

kettleoffish Wed 29-Oct-14 14:25:20

Okay so I can actually refuse to pay the fee for the tenancy to go to a monthly contract. Is there a legal thing somewhere I can show the agent to prove my point, so it's not just my words against his? Or is this one of those things like a business agreement where if I don't like it, then I must leave?

HaveToWearHeels Wed 29-Oct-14 14:28:18

At the end of your 6 month AST it automatically goes to a periodic tenancy, you do not need to do anything, although a word to agent that you intend to stay would be polite. If the LL wants you to move out at the end of the AST, he needs to give you two months notice on the day rent it due, thus the notice period expiring the day you rent is due in two months time.

With regard to allowing viewings, he can put what ever he wants in the agreement, however it is not enforceable by law. He is not allowed to enter the property (even with notice) without your permission, unless it is an emergency. If he uses keys to gain entry while you are out (even with notice) he has broken the law and a call to the police would be in order.

The agent is talking absolute shit about charging you to go to a periodic tenancy because this relates to the fee for your deposit protection. Yes, your deposit needs to be protected but this is a one off fee (that either is passed on to the tenant or not, personally we don't) which would have been paid at the beginning of the tenancy. Your deposit sits there until you leave the property, a new fee is not payable with each new tenancy period !

HaveToWearHeels Wed 29-Oct-14 14:30:36

kettle the LL can not make you leave at the end of the 6 months unless he gives you 2 months notice at the end of the fourth month, thus your tenancy and the notice period expiring on the same day.

HaveToWearHeels Wed 29-Oct-14 14:32:26

Coconutty Wed 29-Oct-14 14:37:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HaveToWearHeels Wed 29-Oct-14 14:40:45

from Citizens Advice Website, draw your attention to the bold type

The tenancy began on or after 28 February 1997

Any new tenancy created on or after this date is automatically an assured shorthold tenancy, unless:-

it was created following a contract made before 28 February 1997; or
your landlord serves a notice on you stating that the tenancy is not to be an assured shorthold tenancy; or
there is a clause in the tenancy agreement stating that it is not to be an assured shorthold tenancy; or
the tenancy is one created by the death of a former protected tenant; or
the tenancy was previously a secure tenancy and became an assured tenancy; or
you are an occupier with basic protection (see under heading Occupiers with basic protection).

The list of exceptions is not exhaustive. Only the most important exceptions are given.

If the tenancy is not an assured shorthold tenancy for one of the reasons given above, it will be an assured tenancy. You will have the same rights as other assured tenants whose tenancy began before 28 February 1997 but after 15 January 1989.

Assured shorthold tenancies created on or after 28 February 1997 do not have to have a fixed term period at the beginning of the tenancy, although your landlord may give a fixed term if they want. If no fixed term is agreed, the tenancy will be what is called a periodic tenancy. No written agreement or notice is needed to create an assured shorthold tenancy on or after 28 February 1997. An oral agreement is sufficient.

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