Is our agent a bit rubbish, or should we be making more COVID allowances?

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    Is our agent a bit rubbish, or should we be making more COVID allowances?

    We're accidental first-time landlords, having moved overseas for work. We appointed an agent to fully manage and let the house (based on recommendations locally and interviewing a few). We're pretty unimpressed so far, and keen to know if we should be putting our foot down on some of these issues. The tenants were overseas themselves, and viewed the property on video as they were unable to travel to property hunt. We think the agent might have misrepresented what is a fairly average 3 bed family house in a not very fancy suburb as some sort of high-spec affair, given how demanding they are being. We don't feel the agent is managing them well at all. Some examples:

    - The house was let furnished/unfurnished. We said we were happy to remove some items, but if this happened after our belongings had gone into storage/shipped, this would need to be on the basis that some items remained on the property. A large shed was not part of the let and available for this. 2 days before we left we did a detailed furniture inventory for the tenants, who then came back saying what they wanted to keep. All good, we arranged to get rid of some older items altgether (sofa, chairs etc) and agreed with the agent they would dismantle and store other items. On arriving at the property the tenants then decided they didn't like some of the items they had asked to be left (although they had seen photos) and demanded we removed them. Instead of managing this with the tenants, the agent kept asking us what we wanted to do, and then acted like they were doing us a big favour by not charging us for the removal. Our take on this was that it was their job to manage the negotiations with the tenant on this, and if they haven't communicated properly they need to sort it out or the tenant does if they've just decided they don't like the look of something. They threw a wobbler about things like coat hooks (drilled in) being up.

    - The tenants asked that the bedrooms were painted a neutral colour as part of the letting negotiations. We (in writing) said to the agent that we were happy for them to paint, but at their own expense as the rooms were quite freshly decorated. This was not passed on, and the next thing the tenants had demanded bespoke Farrow and Ball colours at our expense and the agents agreed. We settled on us paying for a trade paint and them paying any extra, but I don't think, again, 'flexible furlough' should be our issue here, and we've incurred costs as a result.

    - We're now having an issue over the inventory/cleaning report. We employed our usual cleaner to do a deep clean after we left. We're perfectly prepared that she might have missed some areas, obviously we can't tell from here. But the agent is now saying we need to pay £200 for a 'deep clean of 2 rooms', including areas such as the oven that were marked in clean condition on the cleaning report, and that the tenants have signed. One of those rooms is the bathroom which is 2 and a bit meters by nearly 2 meters (tiny!) and they're saying the floor is dirty (it's not, it's limescale staining on black tiles and won't be removed). The other room is the kitchen, the only cleaning fault identified was a 'smudge on the fridge drawer' and a kitchen cupboard that needed a wipe. We've agreed to pay for a window cleaner but are querying why we're paying to clean stuff again that the cleaning report says is fine. £250 quid is the going rate locally for an end of tenancy deep clean for a house of our size, so this also seems really expensive, especially as I assume the inventory won't be changed to reflect this now.

    -They also stuffed up with the electric certificate- we had recent paperwork from electrical works that we sent off to them and they said was fine. 2 days before the tenancy started they obviously looked at it again and saw it wasn't, got an electrician in to do the check and lo and behold £500 or works needed that of course they could *just* fit in the next day before move-in. Again, prepared that the works needed to be done, but this left no time to get an alternative quote from another trade as this seems steep for the scope of work. We definitely should have been more on top of the requirements here but it feels like they've taken advantage.

    The tenants also seem to have some significant problems with basic adulting- I don't really expect to be contacted on the arrangements for the bins (available on the council website) or for getting parking permits (also on the council website, in fact they asked multiple times about parking 'not being included in the tenancy' when it's a London street with permit parking). They couldn't work the boiler (brand new, manual left), didn't contact the council (or I suspect any utilities) to say they'd moved in. We left a manual on all of this anyway with the agent.

    It basically feels like they're working for the tenant instead of us, and keep saying 'this will make everything go smoothly'- but it feels more like they have an annoyed tenant who has found the house isn't what they expected having not viewed in person, and they're pushing it on to us rather than taking responsibility for their own negotiations at the outset. To be clear, everything is in good repair, paint job is good, the house is secure, new boiler, newish kitchen, new roof etc. It's not a bad house! We don't have emotional investment in them living there at all, we want it to be a home. The communication between staff and the handover from lettings to management just seems awful, they keep blaming Covid on all counts. We've written to them saying they need to step up and actively manage the tenant rather than pushing all the tiny queries on to us, and set some boundaries early. Is that overly harsh, is this in the bounds of normal for a new tenancy (I mean we've been/are tenants and it's not for us, but maybe some people)? The managing agent does keep saying 'it's been a difficult start' and judging by the tone of some of the tenant comms they're not easy to deal with either. We want to be good landlords, we don't need to make a profit here particularly and will keep on top of all the maintenance as needed.

    I guess I'm looking for tips on how to manage the agent better and how to set clear boundaries so they don't take the mick in future. We don't want to be a pushover. I don't think we can really change agent this early in the tenancy.

    Phew. That was long. Thanks.

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