By Belinda Maude
Thirty students in Brighton have spoken out about the shoddy treatment they have received from estate agents in the city.
The reputations of Brighton estate agents are disintegrating due to the undesirable behaviour many have experienced, claim the angry young people.
According to a recent poll by Ipsos MORI, only 24% said they would trust estate agents to tell the truth.
This is far from encouraging seeing as these are the individuals responsible for providing us with a roof over our heads, but unfortunately not everyone considers the position of the letting agents.
One student, Vivian Cohen, 25, went to great lengths to get the Environmental Health Office involved regarding a shared property she was renting.
The cooker included in the property was an obvious health hazard as the students were able to look through the induction coils into the mechanics; therefore if hot liquid was to be spilt a fire would be unavoidable.
The Environment Health Office was called when her estate agents refused to replace the cooker.
The group also discovered that water was seeping through the walls due to a leak, their letting agent would not take responsibility for the issue and the Environmental Health Office had no entitlement to fix the problem so it continued to occur for the duration of the tenancy.
Another student, Sam Irvine, 21, looked at a four bedroom house in early January with a group of friends. The house was in a poor state but they were assured that by September the house would be completely refurbished.
On arriving in Brighton in mid-September they were told that the house wasn’t ready for them to move in as renovations hadn’t begun yet. When the next proposed move-in day came around, the relevant letting agent associate wasn’t available.
The office closed for the day and the boys still had no-where to live. When they were finally allowed into their new home they discovered that no renovations had been done. The house was in an awful condition with numerous safety hazards, the property was dank, dirty and far from what was promised to them.
Negotiations with the estate agents are still continuing causing the students preventable strain as the university term begins.
Much of the confusion among the young tenants stems from why the estate agents agree to let properties in such awful conditions if they know it will cause them grief.
“They can’t expect not to receive complaints if they knowingly let the properties in a bad state,” explains Guy Green, 21, “it’s not our fault we can’t afford the higher end properties, but we expect some sort of understanding from the people who are in charge of the mistakes.”
Due to incidents such as these it seems to have become the general consensus among students in Brighton that they will be treated poorly which mars the reputations of other companies. Many estate agents feel that this creates a negative relationship with student tenants from the outset.
G4Lets, an independent student letting agent in Brighton have experienced this issue. They commented, “Sadly, some students come to us with the attitude that they will be ripped off before we are even able to form a relationship with them.
“We generally have a very good relationship with our students and it is in our interest to have happy tenants so we receive repeat business.”
Often the complaints that the letting agents receive are regarding issues that aren’t their responsibility, even if the property is under full management. The letting agents don’t own the properties they let and therefore any decisions are ultimately up to the landlord.
Brighton Accommodation Agency, which offers services in letting, sales, and deals with students, has found that this, among other factors can cause a difficult relationship with tenants. “Often we feel that the requests from the tenants are valid however if the landlord doesn’t agree, we have no right to rectify the property.
“Students don’t understand the position we are in but we try to help as much as we can.”
In some circumstances students are able to form a pleasant working relationship with their estate agents, Natalie Walker, 19, moved into her property in August. “So far our letting agent has been extremely helpful; they have put us in touch with all the right people and continue to be pleasant and understanding.”
However, in many cases, the adverse experiences seem to outweigh the positive which often leads to students finding an alternative option.
Sam Gardom, 27, purposefully found rented accommodation using a private landlord after having previous difficulties with estate agents. “I find that agencies make life too difficult with their fixed term contracts, extensive and expensive credit and background checks and propensity to not return your deposits for ridiculous reasons I have always found it better to deal personally with landlords.”
The use of private landlords may begin to be a more frequent occurrence if certain letting agents continue to stain the reputations of those who genuinely care for their tenants. It is clear that some companies have a severe lack of customer service and it is this kind of behaviour that needs to be rectified if students are to begin trusting these agencies again.