Estate agents nationwide are “burning the pockets of landlords by creepily adding costs to maintenance invoices” without the bill-payer knowing, according to a property entrepreneur.
Will Davies, who heads property maintenance and refurbishment company aspect.co.uk, claims London-based agents are routinely increasing landlords’ bills by requiring a commission on maintenance work that they book in through their property management service.
He said: “Basically some letting agents milk their clients by charging them a fee to manage the property and then they take an additional commission from the maintenance companies they use so their clients end up paying more than they should be on top of the charges they are already paying for the service.”
Agents are supposed to mention these ‘extras’ in their Terms of Business but, if they do, Davies says they are usually tucked away in the small print and their landlords have no idea that it is happening.
According to Davies, any agent who does this and does not make this clear to their clients is in breach of industry codes and the proposed guidelines from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). He claims that making a ‘secret profit’ has always been contrary to Common Law principals but the industry has been slow to expose its own and jeopardise this lucrative source of cash.
He said: “Many letting agents are also a member of a recognised ombudsman scheme but this only provides a system of redress after things have gone wrong for individual clients who complain. It does not make its members be up-front about these charges in the first place or have any powers of enforcement.”
One agent, Featherstone Leigh, has started to tell its clients that it doesn’t do it.
Joanna Hamilton, its director, said: “Historically this has been a nice little earner for many of our competitors but the industry needs to move out of the dark ages and treat consumers fairly – there should be no room for these sort of practices.
“Landlords, many of which do not live in the area rely on their agent to look after their best interests and it is a great shame that many Agents – even those with reputable names, consider this ‘little bonus’ to be legitimate.”