Getting my properties back from letting agent (so I can self manage)

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  • Getting my properties back from letting agent (so I can self manage)

    I have a number of properties and I'm fed up with having to put up with estate agents. My tenants are also fed up of dealing with them, and contact me directly (long story, but this is the net result).

    I am now in the hapless situation of paying the estate agents 10% for the privilege of doing nothing more than collecting rent. I do everything else myself.

    The tenancies are all AST, and they have all gone periodic, because I didn't want to sign a contract that binds me any longer to the wretched agents. My only worry (I heard through the grapevine many moons ago), is that the agent can come after me for "lost earnings" because they found me the tenant and therefore they are "entitled" to collect rent.

    The tenants have been in the properties for roughly around three to four years in all cases, and the agents have earned a fair bit of money for doing bugerall over the last couple of years or so.

    My questions therefore are:

    1. Do the agents have any legal redress if I "take the properties back"? Specifically, can they can back to me for "lost earnings"?
    2. What is the best way to get the properties back?

    I have spoken to some of the tenants, and they are content in dealing directly with me, and would like to stay on. What is the best way to proceed?

    Thanks

  • jpucng62
    replied
    I would start by telling the agent you want to self manage and ask them how to cancel your contract with them. They may be happy for you to go or have a notice period. Because they are a business they will be less personally involved and may not put up a fight. If they will not let you go easily then you need to look for terms in the contracts between you & them (NOT the AST between you & your tenants) that they have broken. If they are not keeping to their own terms & conditions they cannot force you to. Write to them detailing how they have broken the contact & advising them that you consider it void. Give them a months notice & advise them to not contact your tenants (they may threaten them with eviction for not paying). Get your tenants to pay the rent to your & remind them that their contract is between them & you - not the agent so eviction threats are nonsense. Be prepared for threats and angry letters but as long as you have proof of them breaking their contract & you are behaving properly they should have no recourse & will let you go when it starts costing them money with no income coming in. Good luck.

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  • tatemono
    replied
    Even if there was the kind of list you're after, it's highly unlikely that the fact they have such a clause would be listed and, in any case, there's no telling if the info is out of date anyway as letting agents are free to change their contracts at any time.

    the list of agents you seek is easily obtained by sending the same email (copy and paste or bcc) to all the agents you'd consider using asking for a copy of their management contract.

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  • mariner
    replied
    Sounds like OP signed a Terms of Business Contract with Agent, without reading/fully understanding it.
    WIthout sight of it. I suggest the OP needs to consult a locally experienced Solicitor on best way to cancel/withdraw.

    Leave a comment:


  • kennyj52
    replied
    Thanks https://forums.landlordzone.co.uk/member/68426-tatemono At the time, I was more concerned about getting the property let quickly rather than anything else, but I'm wiser now. It would be good to have a list of agents that don't use the "lock-in" clause. Perhaps there is a "best-buy lettings agent" register somewhere? Having said that, I was reasonably happy with lettings agency I used for my first let, but for the second let, they've been a complete disaster, possibly down to staff changes in the meantime.

    Leave a comment:


  • tatemono
    replied
    kennyj52 why would you use an agent that locks you in to such terms if you don't want the battle?

    We recently appointed another letting agent and got terms from five to look over. Of these, only one had such a clause. I told them that unless they removed it, we wouldn't be able to accept their terms and would find another agent. They told me it was non-negotiable. We went with another agent. None of the agents we've ever used have such a clause, and there's enough out there to choose from without having to be bound by such ridiculous clauses.

    So, if you are shopping around, make sure you a) read all 30 pages and b) that nowhere does it contain clauses like this where you have to basically bribe the agent to go away.

    Leave a comment:


  • kennyj52
    replied
    All the lettings agents I have ever used have had clauses in their standard terms and conditions to lock you in with them until the tenant moves out. You would have to battle hard with them to get these clauses removed when all you're trying to do is rent out your property at the least inconvenience to yourself. In the past, with good tenants whom I have a good relationship with and want to keep, I've simply informed the agents that the tenancy is ending and that I don't want to re-let. But only if the tenants are prepared to go along with this subterfuge and pay the rent to me directly. As an incentive, their rent can be reduced out of the commission saved. I know that strictly speaking this is illegal, but if an agent has already had the benefit of several years commission for doing very little, then pragmatically, I don't think they would be that concerned to the extent of conducting some sort of investigation to catch you out. It helps too if the agent doesn't hold the deposit, but if necessary, they can always be instructed to return it to the tenants. Sorry, but I have little sympathy for letting agents.

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  • MdeB
    replied
    Originally posted by TakashiJo View Post
    I have one last question however, is the contract still valid, now that the tenancies have "gone periodic"? i.e. I have not renewed the contracts since they expired. So it's not clear to me how this affects things.
    The agent is still collecting rents tor you, so you have some form of contract with them.
    It is likely that the contract contains terms that it continues until terminated by either party in accordance with terms stated in the contract.

    Leave a comment:


  • jpkeates
    replied
    For the avoidance of doubt, the agreement you need to look at isn't the AST (which is between you and the tenant, even if it mentions the agent), it's the agreement between you and the agent.

    Leave a comment:


  • TakashiJo
    replied
    Thanks for all the input so far. I guess, I'll have to go up into the attic this weekend, and dust off the cobwebs from the AST and study the portions relating to contract termination.

    I have one last question however, is the contract still valid, now that the tenancies have "gone periodic"? i.e. I have not renewed the contracts since they expired. So it's not clear to me how this affects things.

    Leave a comment:


  • jpkeates
    replied
    Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
    A lot of unfair contract term legislation only applies to a consumers, and, as landlord you are not a consumer. Businesses ate assumed to go into contracts with their eyes open.
    I think some landlords will be consumers in their dealings with letting agents.
    But, with a number of properties, it is less likely to be the case.

    But, if the agreement was signed when a landlord was just setting out, they may have been a consumer then.
    And the contemporary consumer protections may have applied.

    Leave a comment:


  • jpkeates
    replied
    Originally posted by TakashiJo View Post
    It's a thirty or so pages long document. Is there something in particular (or a particular section), that I should be looking for? I don't recall seeing anything regarding "entitlement to commissions".

    More to the point, even in the event that such wording or clause exists, I'm interested in the legality (i.e. "enforcability") of any such "entitlements". I have had a fellow landlord tell me that there have been changes in the law regarding Estate agents - they can no longer claim to be entitled to commissions after the AST has run its course naturally - i.e. has come to the end of it's term.

    This is really what I'm seeking to gain clarification on.
    Your "fellow landlord" is not correct.
    There have been some cases that have clarified what letting agents terms are fair and which may not be.

    You need to read the document to see what happens if you want to end it, and then see if the terms are such that similar terms have been found to be unfair and then win that debate with the letting agent.
    It would be a poor agent who's agreement allowed you to simply walk away without notice or some kind of compensation.

    Your letting agent will also have copies of documentation you may need and will, probably, control details of any tenancy deposits.
    So there are practical issues to be sorted.

    Leave a comment:


  • leaseholder64
    replied
    Any contact that doesn't take the full commission up front is likely to have some clause about cancellation.

    Contracts may also have anti-poaching clauses, that prevent you from reletting to tenants previously introduced by the agent within a certain time period.

    A lot of unfair contract term legislation only applies to a consumers, and, as landlord you are not a consumer. Businesses ate assumed to go into contracts with their eyes open.

    Did you really accept a thirty page document designed to benefit, primarily, the agent, without reading and understanding it?

    Leave a comment:


  • MisterB
    replied
    if there is something in the contract could that be overcome by 'evicting' the tenants and then reletting to them. might need a bit of jiggery pokery including deed of surrender by the tenants ???

    Leave a comment:


  • TakashiJo
    replied
    Originally posted by Jon66 View Post
    What does your contract say?
    It's a thirty or so pages long document. Is there something in particular (or a particular section), that I should be looking for? I don't recall seeing anything regarding "entitlement to commissions".

    More to the point, even in the event that such wording or clause exists, I'm interested in the legality (i.e. "enforcability") of any such "entitlements". I have had a fellow landlord tell me that there have been changes in the law regarding Estate agents - they can no longer claim to be entitled to commissions after the AST has run its course naturally - i.e. has come to the end of it's term.

    This is really what I'm seeking to gain clarification on.
    Last edited by TakashiJo; 04-01-2019, 07:43 AM. Reason: Further information added

    Leave a comment:

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