Posted by: Gavin Lehmann | April 23, 2009

£80? For you to click print? I’ll pass thanks

So then, estate agents, lovely bunch aren’t they? Didn’t think so either.

I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago asking me to pop into their office and sign a new tennancy agreement as my current one had expired. Nine months ago. Fair enough I thought, it is overdue “There’s an £80 fee for signing” came the voice down the phone. I told the lovely lady that I needed to speak with my partner as we were both on the contract and would both need to sign and that I’d be in touch once I’d spoken with her. Which was true, up to a point. I did need to speak to my partner, find out when she was available, but there was no way I could really be bothered to phone them back. £80 to sign what is basically a photocopy of the previous agreement? Something didn’t smell right…

I then received a call back a week later from the same lady (I’ve been told by my partner that I can’t just assume she’s a secretary despite the fact that she works in their office greeting people, making phone calls, sending emails and other general ?”organisation related stuff). She wanted to know when I’d be in to sign the new agreement “We should be able to make it in next Wednesday, is that okay?” I asked, she said that Wednesday would be fine.

“Just one thing, why do we have to pay £80?”

“It’s a legal document” came the distinctly curt and less friendly reply.

All very odd, so I decided to do some research using everyone’s favourite search engine google and discovered that under the terms of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy we were now on a rolling month-to-month periodic tenancy. It’s important to note that as a tenant (or a landlord for that matter) you are under no obligation to sign a new tenancy agreement, no matter how much huffing and puffing your estate agent may do. And they will do a lot, be prepared to stand your ground. It’s important to note however that your landlord (not the agency) can serve you a section 21, 2 months written notice at any time. But as a tenant you can then serve a 1 months written notice. More on this later.

So me and my partner popped into the agency yesterday to discuss our agreement. Armed with all my new knowledge I felt quite confident and even had the whole day to come up with some good lines to use. When we arrived there was just the lady I spoke to on the phone showing a couple some flats to rent on her PC, they were there throughout my whole debate which went something like this (please note, I’ve changed the names, protecting identities and all that):

“Hi, we’re here to discuss our tenancy agreement renewal”

“Harry?” (my friend who’s also with the same agency who they also contacted recently as their agreement is also similarly expired by about 9 months)

“No, it’s Gary”

“ok, just wait there for a seco-“

“Just one thing, I’m slightly confused over why we need to sign a new tenancy agreement”

*slightly puzzled look on her face* “Your previous contract expired last year”

“I know this, and when it expired we automatically switched to a periodic tenancy”

“But you have no contract for the flat anymore”

“Yes, we do. It’s a periodic month-to-month tenancy”


Cue five minute back and forth debate between me and the lady, who I have to say seemed to become more and more robotic clinging to what she’s been told and obviously never needing to deal with someone who knew their rights and was prepared to argue that point.

“Look, you’re either ignorant to the law or you’re lieing to me, either way it doesn’t reflect well on you”

“I’ll phone the manager, he’s the one that normally deals with the contract, I just email people.” I did feel a little mean at this point, but she was talking as if her word was the law, which clearly it is not.

“I rent too” she told me as if that would change my stance on the matter. Good I thought , perhaps you will learn something that will help you when your tenancy expires.

The manager turns up and I have the same debate with him again. I’m getting quite worked up at this point.

“But a periodic tenancy is no good for my client as you can just up and leave whenever you want” That’s  kind of the point is it not?

“Our contracts state  a periodic review of terms” I’ve checked, they don’t.

“I’ll need to phone our legal team”

“By all means go ahead” I replied with a hint of arrogance.

I then whipped out my secret weapon and played the MS card (not literally, but I do have one). I explained how I’d been diagnosed since we moved in, had two big relapses in the last year and that the building wasn’t in the slightest bit wheelchair friendly. Needless to say he soon changed his tune saying how he would speak with the landlord and explain our “unique” situation. My partner thinks his thoughts turned to the Disability Discrimination Act, which if they didn’t they certainly should have.

I have since discovered that I am covereed by the DDA and as such the landlord must make reasonable adjustment to his tenancy (i.e. You’re deaf and need a hearing dog, he would be expected to modify the agreement to allow your dog if he otherwise wouldn’t allow pets).

A quick run down of the important points:

  • You do not need to sign a new assured tenancy agreement when your current one expires
  • You automatically switch to a month-month pereodic tenancy at the end of your tenancy agreement
  • Your landlord can then serve you a two month, section 21, written notice in a periodic tenancy
  • Likewise, the tenant can serve a one months written notice
  • Only your landlord can serve your the two month notice, not the letting agency
  • Do not back down from your position
  • You are in the right, not them

In short, as long as you’re prepared to leave, dig your heels in when the letting agent bitches and moans when you refuse to sign their new, £80+ tenancy agreement. Odds are they’re charging you landlord a similar renewal fee. If you contact your letting agent in writing asking for your landlord address they must supply it. I’m not certain to the exact time frame but i believe it to be two weeks. So why not contact your landlord and cut out the middleman? He may even be willing to knock some money off your rent (Okay, probably not, but you never know if you don’t ask).

In fact, dig your heels in even if you’re not going to move. Which landlord would honestly want to lose tenants that pay the rent on time and cause him no bother? I mean, if the agency needs to find him new tenants they will charge him more money will they not? Just contact your landlord, explain your situation.

If in doubt, get in contact with either Citizen Advice Bureau or Shelter, they’re both free to use and invaluable in the help they provide.

One final point, some good line to use if they’re just starting to naff you off:

“Look *insert estate agents name here*, you’re either ignorant to the law, or you’re lieing to me, either way it doesn’t reflect well on you” (feel free to chuck in “personally or your organisation”  if they’re really annoying you)

“Are your drains blocked?”

“No, why?”

“It’s just I get this overwhelming aroma of bullshit whenever you’re talking”

Hope this helps.

G

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