Renting Stories: "Over the last 2 months I probably dealt with about 20 different agencies"
Having just spent 2 months searching hard for a flat to rent, I have a lot to share about what is wrong with the private rented housing market.
What has annoyed me more than anything is the total inconsistency between different letting agents about the process for getting a flat. I dealt with private landlords too, who were equally frustrating, but it’s the letting agents who are supposed to be offering a professional service.
Over the last 2 months I probably dealt with about 20 different agencies. Most ask you if you are a ‘professional’ in full-time work before offering a viewing, but then most will only do viewings and appointments during daytime working hours! This means you either have to take time off work for lots of viewings, most of which will be unsuccessful, or try and arrange them in lunch breaks where you dash around town. With a partner or flatmates this becomes even trickier. With inflexible work or an unsympathetic boss you’re not going to get very far.
Some of the agencies who think they’re more respectable do individual viewings, which are great but rare. Others do very open viewings, where you can be crammed into a flat with a dozen other people. Others put a limit of the number of spaces for viewings, so you’ve got no chance if you’ve not one of the first 3 people to phone up.
Then there is complete inconsistency about trying to take the flat if you want it. Some will take your basic details and say the landlord will make a choice, but this seems entirely arbitrary as the only notable detail they have is your occupation. Some pretend that it’s not ‘first come first served’ but really it is, and some are completely open about it and actually want to see you sprint to the other side of town to hand in a crumpled form.
Many want proof of income, a credit reference, proof of address, proof of ID and guarantors (for all tenants) provided at this manic stage too. None of this makes for good decision-making or a proper assessment of the property you’re going to spend a great deal of your income on.
So in addition to tackling rent increases and greater lease security, but can we also make the basic process just a bit clearer and less cut-throat? I’d like to see the new Code of Practice for Letting Agents set out a much clearer process that all agencies sign up to, and I think they should offer a range of viewing times to suit those in work. These may seem petty, but they will make a big difference to a lot of desperate people.