Hold on to the good, shine a light on the bad!

I would like to share an experience that a client of mine is having with a local competitor in one of the towns in which we work. I will not name the agency but I will say they are well-established and recognisable. This experience shows that we still have a long way to go as an industry to shake off the bullish, self-interested reputation that our market place is known for – a reputation that any honourable agent abhors and spends most of their life fighting against.

I contacted an old client of mine who had listed a property for let with a competitor. I wrote to ask if we could market alongside their existing lettings agent – she was more than happy with this and gave me the go-ahead. As a courtesy, she wanted to let her existing agent know that she was going to use an additional local firm.

Miraculously, her original agent suddenly had a “tenant” going through referencing…. Yet their landlord client was not aware of this? How odd! How can an agent take a tenant’s money, (presumably telling the tenant that the house is theirs pending references) without first checking with their landlord client that this is a tenancy that she wants?

I advised my client to check the details of the tenancy – not only to ascertain if she actually wanted the tenancy that she was being railroaded into, but also to try to get some kind of idea if the “tenant” actually existed!

The reply she received was cryptic and best and obfuscatory at worst. The reply told her that due to “deposit holding regulations” the property cannot be marketed by anyone else and no other agent can have access (I know this because I was forwarded the email!) There is so much wrong with this sentence it is hard to know where to begin!
  • There are no “deposit holding regulations”. There are regulations under the “Tenant Fees Act 2019” which stipulate that no agent can take multiple holding deposits at the same time. However, this is not applicable here and does not prohibit access purely because a holding deposit has been taken. Just to be clear - I would not want to gazump a tenant found through another agency; it is not the lack of access that I object to, it is the deliberate misinformation.
  • The agent is dictating to the landlord what tenant she takes and under what circumstances! The agent is also refusing to allow a landlord access to their own property!
  • The reply was, in no way written for the benefit of the client, the Landlord. It was written with the sole purpose of either railroading their client into taking the “tenant” they had found (if this “tenant” exists) or buying themselves more time for marketing (if this “tenant” does not exist).

Purposeful misinformation or ignorance (both equally inexcusable if you are charging people for your “expertise”) and trying to bamboozle a trusting client with jargon and non-existent “laws” is a practice that belongs to mechanics and estate agents in the 1980’s! It is NOT a practice that will be tolerated in 2019 but any industry, let alone by one like ours who have to work twice as hard as most to gain trust and respect for the difficult job we do.

If you work in the industry and find yourself falling into ways similar to those mentioned above... STOP YOURSELF! It is self-serving but only in the very short term – in the long term, your clients are not stupid and sooner or later will become wise to your approach and leave your business. Over and above that… YOUR CLIENTS DESERVE BETTER!

If you have dealings with our industry (if you are a landlord, tenant, seller or buyer) please take the time to tell others if you find a good agent! I hope you can gain some comfort in the knowledge that many of us do our best by our clients and are proud to help. Most of us strive to improve and operate with honesty and integrity.

Palmer and Partners is a renowned and trusted estate agents with offices in Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Ipswich and Sudbury. Contact us regarding any query and we will endeavour to help you in any way we can.