Am I within my rights to withhold estate agent fees due to their negligence?

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    Am I within my rights to withhold estate agent fees due to their negligence?

    The estate agent lost all my keys to the back garden. I've since taken two quotes and paid a reputable locksmith to replace entirely new lock system (e.g high security grill locks on ground floor garden flat).

    I never signed a contract with the estate agent but owe them 840 pounds for tenant introductory services. I deducted the amount that I had to pay the locksmith (708 pounds) and as a gesture of good will, I paid the remainder of the fee (i.e. 114 GBP) to the estate agency.

    Am I within my rights to pay partial payment of fees based on the cost of replacing all locks/keys? These locks are not simple 20 pound locks because it is a ground floor flat. Special keys also had to be cut.

    How did the estate agent loose my keys? I appointed a reputable company to do a check-in inventory. The clerk was instructed by the estate agency regarding where and when he could pick up the keys. However, the agency failed to inform the clerk when or how the keys should be dropped off. The clerk dropped off the keys through the letter box after completing the check in inventory over the bank holiday. The bunch of keys was large and can’t be dropped without making a notable sound. I’ve used the inventory company for years and never had a problem. The estate agent on the other had has made several errors and mistakes in the past.

    I have written confirmation that the estate agent would safeguard the keys. I have email communication between myself and the estate agent which demonstrated their confusion about what keys they had and where those keys were located ( they have several offices in this location). There has been weak assurance of key management during that safe guarding period and the agents are expecting me to bear the cost, taking no responsibility.

    Does anyone have legal knowledge on this topic to tell me whether I am within my rights to charge the estate agent the cost of replacing locks and keys?

    #2
    There is no right of offset in UK law, so you can't simply deduct an amount owed to you from an amount owed by you without the agreement of the other party.
    If the letting agent doesn't agree with the cost or their liability, they can sue you for the loss.

    As the loss is in tort, the issue is do they owe a duty of care (probably), did they breach it (debatable) and was your loss reasonably forseeable (debatable).

    Essentially it would come down to whether the estate agent was actually negligent or just unlucky (sometimes stuff just "happens") and, if so, whether the costs followed inevitably and whether they could have known that (which will depend on what they were told about the keys and their difference from "normal" keys).

    If it helps, I'd probably have done the same thing - theory and practice not always being identical.
    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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      #3
      My understanding is that there is no right of offset in English civil law, so, whilst you may be seek compensation, the estate agent could start action for non-payment if you withheld the payment.

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        #4
        I would have done the same. Wait and see what happens!
        Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity, A modest manatee, that's me

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          #5
          Originally posted by DP10 View Post
          The estate agent lost all my keys to the back garden.
          Why did agent have all the keys?
          Why did you not retain copies?

          It seems to me that you were negligent and this contributed to the cost of rectifying the situation.

          Originally posted by DP10 View Post
          I've since taken two quotes and paid a reputable locksmith to replace entirely new lock system (e.g high security grill locks on ground floor garden flat).
          If it was the garden keys that were lost, why did you replace all locks?

          Were the replacements like-for-like?

          Originally posted by DP10 View Post
          The clerk dropped off the keys through the letter box after completing the check in inventory over the bank holiday.
          You know this how?

          Originally posted by DP10 View Post
          The bunch of keys was large and can’t be dropped without making a notable sound.
          What is the relevance of this?

          Originally posted by DP10 View Post
          The estate agent on the other had has made several errors and mistakes in the past.
          And you still use them ...

          Comment


            #6


            JP Keates: Thank you! If they can technically sue in light of UK Law and the incident is in tort, then perhaps I should rethink. I did request a call but I've not heard back from them. Perhaps I should initiate a call and come to an agreement where it's split 50:50? Perhaps I should wait a little longer?

            Out of interest JP Keates, the fact that I didn't sign any contract with them... does this still make me liable for paying them for intro services? I didn't mind paying them, even though I found the tenant and did all the follow up work, they simply arranges 4 viewings ( and then lost my original set of keys). As I said, it was a headache to arrange viewings from overseas, so even if I didn't sign any contract with them, I would have paid them in full ( if they hadn't bene reckless about the management of keys).


            BTW: When I said all locks, I meant to the back garden and one back window only. It's irrelevant whether the keys were like for like : the original had been lost and an entirely new lock system needed to put in place.


            Why did the agent have all keys? The agent had a copy of the landlord keys ( to the front door to conduct viewings but not the back garden). The agent agreed to safeguard the keys as the outgoing tenant had left behind the full set including backgarden keys. There is an independent inventory which confirms this. The agent agreed to pick up all back door keys once he finished the viewing that day. There is email confirmation that he successfully took all keys and handed them to the agent office ( less the one he retained to conduct viewings for the front door).

            Thank you all very much, this is very helpful.


            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by DP10 View Post
              Out of interest JP Keates, the fact that I didn't sign any contract with them... does this still make me liable for paying them for intro services? I didn't mind paying them, even though I found the tenant and did all the follow up work, they simply arranges 4 viewings ( and then lost my original set of keys). As I said, it was a headache to arrange viewings from overseas, so even if I didn't sign any contract with them, I would have paid them in full ( if they hadn't bene reckless about the management of keys).
              I think there was definitely a contract, signing it isn't essential (unless there is a written contract with terms that say that it isn't valid until signed).

              You obviously have some kind of agreement, because the agent did things that show that they believed that you had retained their services to do something (they've advertised your property, conducted viewings and billed you a fee that you agree with), you have acted in such a way that confirms that was the case (you gave them keys and accepted the tenant that they found at a rent that you must agree with).

              How much work there was isn't relevant. The fewer viewings might indicate higher quality work rather than lack of effort required.
              When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
              Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

              Comment


                #8
                Thank you JPKeates. This is what I thought as well. In any case, it's irrelevant to the primary contention. I've decided to call the agents this morning and talk it through since my gut tells me they may preparing an notice of some kind and I'd like to avert further action. Many thanks.

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