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Agent wants significant rent without contract


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I have got involved in a dispute between a prospective tenant (PT) and agent, and would appreciate impartial advice.

 

Bear with me, later episodes get rather fruity. This is part 1!

 

PT put down 2 months' rent and fees on a property on the basis that it would be available in 5 days time and on the basis that 6 months rent would be paid in advance. This offer was made to secure property as PT was worried about housing benefit requirements.

 

Having put down the money, agent provided a sheet of A4 as the receipt which listed the fees and said they were non-refundable. Prior to that, no paperwork had been issued.

 

On day 4, agent phoned PT demanding that advance payment of the rent be made forthwith otherwise agent was ready to cancel the deal. PT said he was waiting for a contract. On day 5 PT visited the flat and found workmen were still in it and it was not ready.

 

Over the next week or so there was a ding-dong between PT saying he would not pay out further money without a contract, and agent saying that contract would not be produced till 5 days after money received. The property was visited on occasions and still the work was not completed.

 

Agent did produce a sample contract which contained a number of "school-boy" errors, such as "with" being written instead of "without" so making one of the terms mean the opposite of what it was supposed to mean. Agent did not appreciate the errors being pointed out "I'm sorry I'm too busy to spend all this time on one tenancy".

 

After PT had already put down money, I researched the agent. The agent is un-regulated. The agent is run by one woman. In the past 5 years she has run 4 separate businesses all with similar names. Three have been dissolved, and the current one is marked on Companies House as potentially to be dissolved due to lack of accounts filed.

 

On the other hand, PT and I managed to speak to the agent's workmen who confirmed that agent was genuinely working for a landlord and had been for some time. So this suggested some level of legitimacy.

 

First question: was PT right to demand a contract prior to paying even more rent?

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yes do NOT hand over any money ( unless refundable ) until you have had a chance to read and then sign the contract, ( common sense really )

 

You would think so wouldn't you!

 

In addition to the agent's uncertain business history, we noticed on the agent's website a list of phone numbers for other branches of the agent in Bristol, Oxford, London and Manchester.

 

Three of the numbers went to answer-machine, the fourth was no longer connected. No internet search brought up any reference of these agencies in property websites, directories, or company searches.

 

Part 2 is going to have to wait, because we are about to send a demand to the agent...

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  • 3 months later...

This saga is still going on.

 

In part one, agent took an immediate 2 month down-payment of rent following an agreement to pay 6 months up front. Then refused to issue a contract until after a further 4 months rent was paid.

 

She claimed that she had to follow her procedures. We (I and my relative who is the prospective tenant) pointed out (to no avail) that no agent we'd spoken to had such procedures.

 

Eventually, we got in contact with the landlord, as we'd met the LL son who lived upstairs from the flat. The landlord was quite happy to agree to ask agent to issue the contract without the advance rent.

 

At this point the agent went ballistic, sending us an email quoting the benefit of her procedures:

 

...our proceedures which never fail to save is from criminal and fraudulent misleading behaviour which is displayed vividly in your conduct

 

Your display of total psychotic and frankly disgusting behaviour will now

serve to validate our decision [to withdraw from the agreement]

 

Even after this, we went back to the landlord. He said he wasn't interested in any rent in advance, which kind of got around this woman agent's "proceedures". He was happy to ask her to proceed with the agreement on that basis.

 

But it was too late. She refused to deal with us, and LL did not appear to want to overrule her!

 

She agreed to refund the advance minus the admin fees. Of course we don't think we should pay any fees.

 

After a month no money was forthcoming. On being reminded, she claimed to have sent a cheque. She said she'd send another. After another month and another missing cheque, we threatened to call landlord. We also spoke to the police, and surprisingly they recommended we report it as a crime, stating the lengths that she'd gone to avoid payment were evidence of criminal intent.

 

Finally a cheque for the advance payments minus £697 in admin fees. Including a cancellation fee of £300.

 

Could anyone explain what admin is involved in cancelling a deal on a flat that isn't ready for occupation, and where throughout the advert on Rightmove has never been shown as "Let Agreed"?

 

Episode 3 will start shortly.

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