A Letting Agent Is Reportedly Charging Prospective Tenants £300 Just To View Properties
By Georgia Aspinall Posted 12 days ago
A letting agency in London has been accused of charging £300 for prospective tenants to view properties, promising to refund their money and then refusing after the viewing. Shadow housing minister, Melanie Onn has now called for greater regulation to protect renters from this type of behaviour, which could potentially be unlawful.
Several clients of Flinton’s, the letting agency based in Stratford, came forward to BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, saying that they had been asked for the money after enquiring about a property, and told it would be refundable if they didn’t like it.
Israel Kujore told the BBC he had responded to one of the adverts and had a verbal agreement of the refund, paid the money but soon realised something wasn’t right and looked for reviews of the company. Finding dozens of negative reviews, he asked for his refund and was too told it was non-refundable.
‘I was seeing reviews and horror stories. I was feeling really miserable and defeated. I was really upset,’ he said, ‘£300 is half my rent gone. What can I do? I don’t have the money to sue them. I don’t have legal expertise to deal with it - I’m powerless.’
Flinton’s have denied charging for viewings, stating that they instead asked for holding deposits only when the tenant wanted to reserve the property. Saying that they issued receipts to specify the sum was non-refundable, they claim not to have taken any payment until the person confirmed they wanted to rent the property.
However, their clients say otherwise. They allege that they were only shown documents about the non-refundable sum after paying it, having previously received verbal assurance they would be refunded, and that they felt pressure to immediately pay before being given any sort of contract.
David Smith, a specialist in residential landlord and tenant law, has said that if this is found to be true, it likely breaks consumer protection regulations.
‘Asking somebody for money, without being able to see what that contract is about, to do a viewing, would quite likely to be seen by professional people in the property sector as unreasonable and unfair behaviour,’ he said, ‘It is therefore likely to be an offence under the consumer protection from unfair trading regulations.’
At the very least, the practice is considered ‘aggressive’ according to the Competition and Markets Authority. Now, Melanie Onn, shadow housing minister, has called for greater regulation to protect renters from this type of practice.
‘Letting agents as well as landlords should be properly regulated,’ she said, ‘Of the 8,000 letting agents we’ve got around the country, only about half of those are voluntarily signed up to a code that means that they will operate to the highest professional standards. That means that half of them are not.’
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