Can a contract really not bind the letting agent to any responsibilities?

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    Can a contract really not bind the letting agent to any responsibilities?

    I am sorry that this thread will doubtless cover ground in others. I am also embarrassed to admit the situation I am in.
    I would appreciate any help or even a pointer to good legal advice.

    I contracted with a local letting agent to manage my property. I recall noticing that the written contract did not seem to bind them to anything, only me. I asked the owner of the local office what they provided, and was pointed to the brochure, most of which is pretty generic.

    She had my absolute trust and I signed it. Through no fault of hers, she had to give up the business. She had assured me she was backed by a large franchise, and it seems I must now be contracted to them.

    The standard of care has gone down dramatically. My tenants tell me they tried to report a problem earlier this year and could get no response, and that problem has led me to have to rebuild a wall.

    I asked for an inspection to happen, and it took 4 weeks and repeated phone calls & emails to get it done - which is when I found out about the wall.

    Most recently, I contacted them 2 weeks ago to point out the gas inspection was due. They said they would arrange it. I spoke to the plumbers last night and it has not even been requested let alone carried out, which puts me in breach of the law. Having read over the contract, it looks like I agreed to be reponsible to arrange these gas inspections, but in the past they always did it for me (though I always had to remind them). Their brochure says they would do it, even if the bare contract suggests otherwise.

    I want to move on and leave them, but they are insisting they will improve their service and want to apply a large penalty fee. The contract states the tenant belongs to them and if I want to "take over the tenant", I have to pay the fee.

    However, what I really want is an agent who does the job I pay for. I work full time and my model was always based on an agent doing the routine things and my only getting involved in exceptions. (Due to the hassle of trying to move I will probably at least give them the benefit of the doubt for a few more months.)



    I am wondering:

    a) Can there really be such a thing as a contract that commits one party to nothing? I thought there was some law that prevented that. Otherwise in spite of everything they are (not) doing, I can't claim breach of contract.

    b) Would the brochure and verbal indication by the original business owner be considered part of the contract?

    c) No-one from the letting agent has signed the copy of the contract I possess. And there are no witnesses to it. Could this invalidate the contract?

    d) I keep seeing a 'legal advice' button on this website, with an offer of a legal once-over for £50. Has anyone tried this service, and could tell me if it is any good? I would value getting some initial advice before making a big outlay.

    e) Anyone know of any other useful service? I thought of joining the NLA, which I might do anyway, and I believe they offer legal help?

    f) Finally, are there no generic laws that might apply here, such as a duty of care? Is everything really down to the contract?

    Thanks for listening, and especially if you can help. This has been an expensive lesson for me.

    #2
    I have no real answer to your question, but I would draw your attention to schedule 2 of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Reulations which gives examples of unfair terms, it may be of use.
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1...chedule/2/made

    Comment


      #3
      It is for this reason that I manage my properties myself despite living overseas. If you have a good plumber, electrician and handyman you can sort out most things with a phone call. I keep my properties in tip top condition and inspect them once a year usually when tenants change. I have a good relationship with my tenants and they call or e-mail me and I get on it asap. That saves having to chase up a useless mananging agent.

      Comment


        #4
        bbva, out of interest, how do you cope with the 'address in england or wales' requirement?

        As a tenant, I'd never rent from an overseas landlord who didn't use an agent - not because the agent offers any practical benefit, but as security against HMRC liabilities.

        Comment


          #5
          a) Can there really be such a thing as a contract that commits one party to nothing? I thought there was some law that prevented that. Otherwise in spite of everything they are (not) doing, I can't claim breach of contract.

          No. Each side must provide some consideration. This is usually (but need not be) money by one party and goods or services by the other. In the absence of consideration by one party there is no contract. If a contract with a letting agent does not provide for some sort of a service to be carried out then it is no contract at all.

          b) Would the brochure and verbal indication by the original business owner be considered part of the contract?

          Possibly, if not probably. Consumer law more or less takes it for granted that whilst people will read promotional literature (it is after all designed to be read) they will rarely get past the first page of a legal document (not generally easy going even if written in plain language). This is why we have the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations and other protections for consumers. In any event any contract is liable to be rectified if it can be shown that it did not reflect the true intentions of the parties

          c) No-one from the letting agent has signed the copy of the contract I possess. And there are no witnesses to it. Could this invalidate the contract?

          No. They provided a document for you to sign. Whether you or they signed it or not, if the service was provided then there is of necessity a contract and, absent any agreement to the contrary, the terms of the contract (i.e. the bargain) are as set out in the document - subject of course to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations etc.

          d) I keep seeing a 'legal advice' button on this website, with an offer of a legal once-over for £50. Has anyone tried this service, and could tell me if it is any good? I would value getting some initial advice before making a big outlay.

          Pass.

          e) Anyone know of any other useful service? I thought of joining the NLA, which I might do anyway, and I believe they offer legal help?

          Pass.

          f) Finally, are there no generic laws that might apply here, such as a duty of care? Is everything really down to the contract?

          As suggested above, the agents really have to provide at least a basic service, otherwise what are they being paid for? The "large penalty fee" is probably not payable.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Val_b
            e) Anyone know of any other useful service? I thought of joining the NLA, which I might do anyway, and I believe they offer legal help?
            Try the RLA as well as they offer a lot for your money. They are in direct competition with NLA so you pay your money and take your choice.
            The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Snorkerz View Post
              bbva, out of interest, how do you cope with the 'address in england or wales' requirement?

              As a tenant, I'd never rent from an overseas landlord who didn't use an agent - not because the agent offers any practical benefit, but as security against HMRC liabilities.
              I use a letting agent for finding a tenant. This is not possible to do when living overseas. I use their address as my UK address. Any letting agent will deduct tax unless you have an NRL-1.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by bbva View Post
                I use a letting agent for finding a tenant. This is not possible to do when living overseas. I use their address as my UK address. Any letting agent will deduct tax unless you have an NRL-1.
                You might find that many, many agents haven't got a clue about the NRL1 form and therefore do not deduct any tax from rental income. Also they don't realise if they collect the rent they are lawfully liable to pay the tax in the absence of the tenant registering with the relevant HMRC dept.
                The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Title removed

                  I had a very bad experience with {Mod - name removed}. As a prospective tenant, I was not fully informed of all the details of the property. When I went in to discuss this with {Mod - name removed}, she was SO rude to me. She called me names and even entered into a screaming and name-calling match with my prospective co-tenant. She insisted she told us the tenancy duration before we paid the holding fee. She mentioned that she told my prospective co-tenant about this some days later AFTER we had paid the holding fee. She called me a liar, irrational and also accused me of being patronising while I tried to explain myself. They were also rude to our guarantors on the phone when the guarantors called in to ensure confidentiality of their personal information. I am greatly greatly distressed by the rude and unprofessional manner in which we were treated when we went into their office to discuss with them.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Molly - forum rules - no naming names etc. Please remove names & identifiers..

                    (Oh & welcome to LLZ...)
                    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Sorry to hear your problems - I am not sure why you posted this, is there some advice we can give you?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Molly you will probably have to go through the County Court and reclaim your money via MCOL.
                        The advice I give should not be construed as a definitive answer, and is without prejudice or liability. You are advised to consult a specialist solicitor or other person of equal legal standing.

                        Comment

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