The dislike people feel towards letting agents is perhaps only trumped by traffic wardens. In our totally unregulated private rented market, they’re usually to get away with charging renters extortionate fees for a terrible service. Nearly everyone who rents has had at least one bad experience.
When we heard about Next Move in Stoke Newington charging £1260 just to change the name of a contract then threatening the renters with eviction when they complained, we decided enough was enough. We piled down their on Saturday with placards to demand the greedy agents give the money back.
We held a stall outside their shop at 63 Stoke Newington Church Street and talked to passing people and the hellish time they were having renting in Hackney.
Despite our protest, Next Move are still refusing the give the tenants back their money. But this isn’t the end. Why not give them a call or drop them an email explaining why you think they should give the money back? Call 020 7254 9709 or email email@example.com
Digs were invited into the shop by Next Move Director, Abdul Azad. Mr Azad claimed that he had not broken any laws and that he was within his rights to charge £300 for every change to the tenancy agreement.
Unfortunately Mr Azad is correct. His company and business practices are not the exception but the norm in London today, albeit a fairly extreme example. Due to the pressure on the housing market and the unregulated market, Landlords and agents can charge what they like. They can also insist on preposterous terms and conditions ranging from exhaustive credit checks to demanding high earning guarantors in full time employment. Agents even go so far as specifying what kind of relationships the tenants are in, e.g. couples only.
Mr Azad said that the problem was renters had all the power and landlords and agents had none. This is certainly a bold statement which shows an ignorance of the housing situation in London today and the plight of thousands of people who struggle to find a place to live and then struggle in substandard living conditions because they cannot get their landlord to repair or maintain their property.
He repeatedly claimed that his company had been misrepresented in the news article. This baffling persecution complex amongst agents and landlords is actually something we encounter all the time. They might be getting rich off the housing crisis, but it’s apparently renters who ride rough-shod over them.
Back in the real world, £1260 for changing names on a tenancy agreement is silly money. The same money would buy you 7 hours of a solicitors time, you could even get divorced for less http://www.brightonandhovelaw.co.uk/fees/ A typical UK home buyer can expect to pay their solicitors less for the purchase of a property.
Whilst Mr Azad may have been acting within the law, this does not make his business practices any less exploitative and only highlights that it is the law that needs to change. Whilst he contested that he was “just running a business” it is his choice of what sort of business he wishes to run. Renter groups are forming every week in London to demand change and redress the extreme imbalance of power between renters and agents/ landlords.
Landlords and agents often argue that renters have a ‘choice’, and can go elsewhere if they don’t like the fees. But these fees are the difference between having somewhere to live and being homeless. What kind of a choice is that? The truth is, agents and landlords are maximising personal profit at the expense of vulnerable tenants and our government is doing nothing to protect people.
Until the law offers genuine protection from exploitative agents and landlords, we will carry on organising and taking action against the worst examples of greed we come across.
If you’ve had a bad experience with an agent or landlord in Hackney, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org