Last week, I looked at a ‘Beautifully presented, newly refurbished, modernised home’. It lived up to the blurb in a way not many things ever do. It was indeed beautiful. It was well presented, and newly refurbished. Its brand new kitchen and bathroom, oak laminate, and white-painted smooth unmarked walls set pictures of Home Beautiful and Good Housekeeping magazine floating peacefully through my head, as cellos played and gauzy white nets fluttered in a gentle breeze. I could see modern sleek furniture in the ‘spacious’ living room. The front room, with its closed off fireplace, was already my new study. In my private little dream, I saw the beds placed just so, in each of the three double (mould-free) bedrooms. It was, in short, a dream home. And the rent, at £875 a month, was average and just within budget.
The agency fees, however, were not. As anyone in the private rental sector knows, as a tenant, you are expected to hand over a deposit (normally one month’s rent, plus another hundred. In this case, the deposit would be £975). You are also expected to pay a month’s rent in advance, which is all fine and dandy. All letting agents have ‘admin fees’. Normally, these will range between £125 – £175 per tenant. So, for myself and my husband, this would generally work out around £300, and include an inventory, tenancy agreement, and a handover of keys.
I used to work in a letting agency. The tenancy agreement is a word.doc; a bog standard bit of wording with a ‘fill in the blanks’ for address and names. Takes 5 minutes. I could run one up on this computer, right now, and it would be as legally binding as any given to me by an agent, so long as it was signed. But, of course, the agents need their income, so they charge. Kudos to them, but it’s extortion, right?
However, the agent I met with last week, to view the whitewashed paradise of this terraced house? They wanted a little bit more than the costs stated above. Take a deep breath, and hug your wallets close. Ready?
- Rent £875.00
- Security £975.00
- T/agreement £300.00
- References £225.00
- Admin £150.00
- Check-in £120.00
- Guarantor chk £100.00
- Pet Clause £75.00
A grand total of £2,820.00, to save you adding it up. £970.00 in fees alone. But it gets better. They required a ‘Good Faith’ payment of £500.00 to hold the property while they did credit checks. Checks I informed them I would not pass. My credit is shot to all buggery, and I have more chance of accidentally discovering a way to teleport humanity through black holes, defeat the Borg, and live without religion, than I have of passing anything like a credit check. This is why I have a guarantor.
The £500.00 is non-refundable, if the credit check is failed. So they get five-hundred quid, and I get to still be imminently homeless. That’s nice, isn’t it? (They said, when I kicked up a bit of a stink over this, that they would of course refund me, because I had been so open and honest with them. I asked for that in writing…the fact I do not have that house to move into gives you their answer.)
Now, you would at this point be forgiven for thinking this was one of those backstreet agents, like the abortionists and money-lenders of old. You know they’re there, but good people don’t have no truck with them. But it wasn’t. It’s a massive High Street chain, with offices all over the South of England. The smaller backstreet guys are generally more honest, in the case of lettings. They have more to lose, if people complain. Their reputation is all they really have, so they make themselves good enough that people want to do business with them.
Shelter, the homeless charity, have also noted the unfairness of these fees. They have a petition to sign, if you want to click this link and head on over to their page.
Disheartened, unable to pay nearly £1000.00 in agents fees, I walked out of the beautiful house that may have been a home, and went back to pounding the streets. My home is out there, I have no doubt, but I can’t justify paying all the money I have in the world, donated by people who are kind enough to help me, to a Highwayman of the Modern Era. The difference between these agents and Dick Turpin is, simply, they are breaking no law. Everything else, though? There’s not much between them. You have to ‘Stand and Deliver’, or you will be on the streets. There is no choice, but to pay, if you want a roof over your head and a life worth living.
So, it’s back to scouring the web, the papers, and the streets for me, and I’ll continue to believe there is something better around the corner.
Kathleen Kerridge is a Fantasy Fiction Writer. Her books can be found on Amazon here. Or here, if you are not in the UK.
There is now a Go Fund Me page, a friend set up, to help me cover the cost of moving. I am, as always, overwhelmed by the generosity of people.