When Agents Don’t Act in Their Clients’ Interests…
True Landlord Story:
I had the Beckenham / Bromley Kent office of Edward Ashdale Estate Agents represent me from October 31, 2014 till September 30, 2016 while I rented my suite in Beckenham, Kent while working abroad. I’m still working abroad now and will return to London later this year. The agent promptly found and referenced me a tenant, Charlie, whom and whose parents I met before renting him the suite. I had RGI, references, everything in place. Charlie paid rent until February 2016, then stopped paying, so I evicted him and he left on April 29, 2016. He left the suite in a far worse state than he had found it on commencement of tenancy, knew that full well, and was at least fair enough to admit it, thus messaged me that he didn’t expect the deposit back, which I didn’t expect to give him back – and didn’t. I instructed Edward Ashdale to send their [independent] inventory clerk to do me a checkout report on Charlie’s departure. I corresponded with the clerk and gave her detailed instructions on what to check, to take copious photos, and email me everything. She did. From the report and photos I learnt exactly how much lower the standard at which Charlie had left the suite was compared to the standard at which I’d rented it to him, and I told the agent that I point blank refused out of principle to pay for cleaning someone else’s dirt, and was happy to leave the suite empty till I’d return to England, as I – realistically – didn’t expect that anyone would rent a suite in sleepy Beckenham for less than a year.
On April 27 – 2 days before Charlie left – the agent’s part-time team member Dawn who dealt with my case emailed me that the branch director Sam’s cousin Jay was interested in renting my suite and would stay for as long as I wished. Dawn said that Jay would be happy to take the suite as was, assured me they’d clearly tell Jay that I’d need the suite back later in the year, that Jay’s mother would clean the suite, and that Jay would even make a minor repair in it and decorate it, which sounded way too good to be true and I didn’t pay much attention to. When I worked abroad between December 2010 and November 2012, I’d experienced a horror tenant story, thus was several times bitten and several [times] more cautious by now, and had adopted the self-protective coping strategy of always expecting – and preparing for – the worst-case scenario and all eventualities. Sam, the director of Edward Ashdale’s Beckenham branch, knew well about my horror tenant history, and had encouraged me to “shed all the negativity of the previous tenants [tenants = the one from 2010-12 + Charlie] and try starting with a clean sheet”. I wasn’t desperate for a tenant and would have happily left the place empty til I’d return, but thought “perhaps he’s right – hell, let’s give it a chance”. The only snag I immediately saw was that since Jay was Sam’s alleged cousin, there could always arise the possibility that Sam would act more in Jay’s interest than in mine, because blood is thicker than water.
But I went for it, thinking no risk, no gain. Dawn emailed me on May 3 that Jay would be happy to move in immediately and wanted to take the keys that afternoon. I didn’t approve of him taking the keys that afternoon, I only sent her my tenancy agreement on May 4 and asked her to forward it signed asap. On May 9 – already 6 days later – Dawn emailed that “Jay seems to have no problem with access”, but they seemed to have all problems with giving me access to the signed tenancy agreement, because I chased and chased them all for it until I finally got it on May 17- of course wrapped in a thick layer of the agents’ excuses, which just made me laugh and more distrustful of all of them – Jay and the agents altogether! When I’d pointed out the matter of referencing Jay on May 4, Dawn responded : “Sam wasn’t going to reference him – he said he will be his “reference” and can assure you he will be a good tenant! :o) I didn’t like this response at all, but time flew and the chasing correspondence between me and the agents from May 3 to 17 had indicated to me that if they stalled and prevaricated so much on other points and if it took them 11 whole days to deliver the signed agreement, it’d take them never to credibly reference Jay – and they all knew full well that from 3,000 miles away I couldn’t do jack about it. So I left referencing be, because a) I’m 3,000 miles away and the agents have the keys to my suite, b) my mistrust in the agents’ honesty was rapidly growing by now, c) Jay was already living in my suite anyway, and d) Jay paid even his first rent late, thus I intuitively knew there’d be no hope in hell that he’d pay for referencing.
On May 10 I also asked when Jay’d pay the security deposit. Dawn confirmed on May 10 that Jay would pay the deposit, but left the communication artfully vague about WHEN he’d pay it. Not artfully enough for me, because I saw right through it and started going after the deposit hard. On May 7 Dawn emailed me: I hope you don’t mind, but I changed the start date to 7thMay, given the cleaning/arranging they have had to do. I later told her that she should have asked my permission to change the date in MY tenancy agreement and not have presented that she did it as a ready thing. Now along with chasing Jay’s security deposit I was chasing the amended 1st page of my tenancy agreement for Jay to sign. I had finally received this page signed on whopping July 11! On June 20 my anger at Jay’s and the agents’ inefficiency was beginning to boil and I mailed Dawn suggesting a Skype conference among me, Dawn, Sam, and Jay to clarify all the matters that were standing unanswered from May 3 til June 20 despite me chasing them all concurrently several times. We had a Skype call on June 28, but, not surprisingly, Jay wasn’t present, because the agents’ excuse promptly presented already on June 20 was that Jay was working long hours… On June 17 Dawn emailed me that Jay mentioned that he incurred costs to remove your belongings from the flat (to enable him to fit his belongings in). I’ve asked him to forward me the invoice for consideration. I responded that he was beginning to take the p***, because he had signed taking the suite in the condition in which it was and condition 26 of the tenancy agreement stated that he wouldn’t remove anything of mine without my permission. The next day Dawn emailed that Jay would cover the cost of removing my belongings from the suite. Funny how they immediately retracted their attempt, hmmm?
Jay’s security deposit still haden’t been paid, so on June 21 I imposed a deadline of July 16 – pay the deposit or you’ll be evicted. On June 28 I had a Skype call with Sam and Dawn and promises were flying high. On July 16 the security deposit still wasn’t paid, and I was chasing his rent which he was about to pay late for the 3rd of the 3 times that it was due so far. July’s – and June’s and May’s rent was always paid late, but always eventually in full.
On Saturday August 5 I found an email and photos from the neighbour who lives in the suite directly above mine. He described that Jay had been partying loudly til the small hours of weekend mornings several times over the past month, but the neighbour didn’t wanna worry me, so had let it go on for the month – until on the night of Friday August 4 the last straw broke the camel’s back when Jay had brought about 10 people into my 1-bedroom suite around 2am, partied loudly, work him and the whole building up, alcohol was flying high, and a knifing attack had developed among Jay’s guests. The fighters took the knifing attack out of my suite into the common elements and destroyed some landscaping under my window, plus stained the carpet in our common elements, which my second neighbour had to laboriously clean up the morning after. I instructed my neighbour to go complain directly to Sam the agent and write a letter to Jay, which he all did and reported to me. Of course, Sam of Edward Ashdale’s didn’t want anything to do with this, so did his best to brush my neighbour off with some pathetic remark of the type ‘you need to keep a noise diary and complain to the council’… I promptly evicted Jay and he marched out of my suite on August 22, of course, owing rent for August, and more, as you’ll learn in the next paragraph.
From August 22 till now my suite has been empty. I employed my trusted inventory clerk to do an inventory check and report on the state of the suite after Jay. The clerk’s busy schedule allowed Sep 13 as the earliest date, but since the suite had been empty since August 22 and the agents had both sets of keys, I knew that nothing would change in the suite since Jay had left. I didn’t tell the agents that my clerk had a set of keys and my clerk delivered the report + photos on Sep 13. From this material I learnt that Jay had not only left the suite in a terribly messy state, but had also left behind large items that required me paying for the disposal of, and stolen several of my possessions which had been listed on my inventory.
Readers, I’m not looking for your advice, nor sympathy, nor “you should’ve done this’n’that”. I’m sharing this story for you and as many others as possible to know that Edward Ashdale [of which the Ashdale looks similarly to the word As***le when you look at it in passing their office in a moving vehicle, and THAT name would be far more appropriate for them] is to be avoided like a plague, because this agent indeed – as my immensely keen intuition had indicated early on – will not act in his clients’ best interests, thus doesn’t deserve to stay in business in today’s world! What amazes me is this Sam’s business acumen – his realty has 2 offices and his Beckenham / Bromley office alone competes against at least 12 other realties in Beckenham and x more in Bromley, of which some are branches of national giants of thousands of branches across the country! Well, Britain is leaving the EU and wants to show the world how Great it will be going it solo, so hey, agents, perform so that people don’t have to hate you! You already are one of the most, if not THE most, hated professions in England, so don’t wonder why that is when some of you are not acting in your clients’ best interests! I’ve no worries about all the heroes of my story being paid back by karma what they deserve for all their bad deeds against me, while I with clean conscience will continue to go onwards and upwards in life and one day laugh last. May my story serve as learning for both its readers and agents.