This agent is not a part of any scheme and thus you cannot go to anyone for dispute resolution.This agent forfeited my 300£ holding fees. I had confirmed news from other agents that viewings are still going on despite me having paid holding for a property. Another agent clearly had told that this property is not meant for tenants with kids.I was asked to go through referencing for a six month breakage clause i had asked for. The agent did a referencing for 12 months and the report mentioned to get a guarantor for me.However, i was never asked for one, no options given and my fees forfeited. This agent is not a part of any scheme, used to be a part of Ombudsman lettings but still circulating his pamphlets using their name.
Sequence of Events
1. On 29th May, I went on findaproperty.com and sent relevant contact details to several agents for contacting me for suitable rental properties. Please find confirmation mails from findaproperty attached. Both Bairstow eves and Cray and Norton were sent a mail for this property by the website.
2. On 31st May, I got a call from Lauren from Cray and Norton about Elgin Road property and asked me if I would be interested in viewing it. I confirmed to view it on the same date along with another property they had for viewing in South Croydon.
3. I reached there on time at 5:15 p.m. and had a close look at the property and was happy with it.
4. In the car on our way to South Croydon property, I asked all details regarding the process of this since I was new to the country. I clearly communicated my term status and asked the process for a six month breakage clause.
5. I did not like the South Croydon property and there itself I told Lauren that I like the Elgin road property and would like to go ahead with the tenancy process with this. This is after I asked her if the landlord is willing to have 700£ per month as rent instead of the 725£ that Lauren had communicated to me earlier. She communicated to me in positive.
6. I went to the Cray and Norton Office with her directly from there around 6:25 p.m and the process of filling the receipt and paying holding deposit completed very quickly within 3-5 minutes. I signed the document without even reading it as I trusted the agents the way I trust everyone. Even though I would have read the clause that holding fee is forfeited if referencing fails, I would have signed. This is because I had told every fact, I work for a very big and established firm and have no credit history here and have an immaculate status back home. It was not even once mentioned to me verbally that the holding fee is non refundable. I was told then that I would get an online form and just put details of my HR. Wife's referencing is not a problem because anyway she is still in India and will not work here / is your dependent, but nonetheless get details filled for both. I had no idea what referencing means; Lauren just told me to fill online forms and just put HR names there.
7. On the 2nd of June, I received a call from Marcus from Bairstow eves to know if I was interested in another property. I said thanks, I have paid holding fee and am no more interested. We had spoken on phone on about two properties and hence when he asked me where I got it, I said Flag G 25 Elgin road. He expressed disbelief and said this cannot be possible because I have some viewings lined up there today evening and Cray and Norton too is still doing viewings there. I was shocked to learn this and immediately called up Lauren. She said she believed Hannah had spoken to the landlord and this should not happen. She said she will call me back but said not to listen to another agent because he may be trying to scare me in going for his property.
8. I got the referencing on line forms on 1st June late in the day and filled them as soon as possible on 1st June Evening.
9. On 3rd June I received a message in my mailbox and voicemail from Chelsea from FCC Paragon that she needs my assignment or contract document. This is because my HR representative Laura Everitt was away and did not respond to her referencing request. I immediately sent her a scanned copy of my assignment document enclosed herewith.
10. Concerned still with what Marcus had said, I visited Cray and Norton office along with a friend on 4th June and spoke to Lauren. The director interrupted our discussion and said he cannot control it if other agents are still doing viewings, but he is not. He said I can be the tenant of the flat if my referencing does not fail.
11. On 5th June, I called Lauren to again understand if there were any updates on referencing and my tenancy and she said she did not have any.
12. On 6th June, Lauren called me and informed me that my referencing had failed because the document that I had shared shows my end date in UK as January 2012. When asked about my holding she said to refer the signed document which clearly mentions that it is non refundable. On expressing my disappointment, she said please make a complaint with the Director and she cannot do anything in it. I kept on calling for giving me options but every time I got the same answer.
13. On 8th June, I got a call from Chrissie from Streets Ahead to enquire about another property. Again, I had been talking to her and also had done a viewing on Ashburton road with her which I did not like. On knowing about my Holding fee for the Elgin road flat, she too was in disbelief because she said this landlady does not want children in her property. She also helped me by telling that if the landlord has turned down tenancy, the agent should refund the holding fee.
14. I talked to my HR and informed this to her, she was back in office. She asked Chelsea on mail if she needed anything from her on 6th June. On this, Chelsea contacted her and got the relevant phone number in our organization which does referncing. She sent me the authorization form which was sent to her by my company and I sent the authorization form to my company to release my personal data to Chelsea. Thus now, official process was done to send referencing from my Company on 8th June.
15. I enquired a couple of times in the week on phone about the re referencing but never got any response from both Lauren and Hannah, apart from asking me to talk to the director after he returns from vacation
16. I again visited the agent's office on 11th where I spoke to Hannah as rest were off that day. I requested her to refund money or else give me any other options or search another property for me. Again I got the same answer that I should make a complaint only to the director. Here I kept a business card, noted email addresses of the manager Kevin and the director Darren.
17. Sent a complaint to all in Cray and Norton guys on 14th June and received the final viewpoint from Darren as seen in the mail communication attached.
To recap, following paragraphs summarize what I want to say again-
I had clearly stated that I want to go with six month breakage contract before giving holding fee after viewing this property. I had even discussed six month breakage clause with Lauren - the representative of the agent. The agent said after referencing that the landlord has turned down your tenancy because my stay in UK is till Jan 2012 and forfeited my 300£ holding fee.
Couple of other agents who were in touch with me regarding my search expressed disbelief on hearing that I had given holding fee for this property. Marcus from Bairstow Eves said, his agency and even Cray and Norton are still doing viewings for this property. Also he along with Chrissie from Streets Ahead clearly
mentioned that this property is not intended for tenants with Children, so it's not possible to take holding from you for this property. When I told this to the agent, Hannah, another representative from Cray and Norton said that these are typical games agents play and do not trust what 'other' agents say.
The HR representative of my company was out of office and even before taking a reference from her, referencing for me was done only on basis of an internal assignment memo of my company which was asked to me. I was only sharing a document (Foreign Assignment Memorandum) which enforced the things I had already told them with complete honesty, had told upfront my type of Company travel policy type, my current official term, visa validity, my prospective stay, my family visa status and information on them. I am so new to the country that I do not have any credit history too.
I got the referencing report on 28th June when I asked for it. However it clearly advices the tenant to produce a guarantor, however I was never asked to produce one but my tenancy was rejected straightaway without giving me any options and for no fault of mine. In the first place, the agent shouldn't have taken holding from me since I had very very clearly communicated that I have a 2 year old kid and that I need a six month breakage and if they knew landlord is not OK with this. In any case I did not turn back on anything I had communicated and since the landlord turned down my tenancy, I should get my money back.
When I thought what has happened is really unfair to me and I asked for my rights, the Director clearly mentioned in his communication that his company is not a part of any Ombudsman Scheme and I can go to Citizens advice or Legal advice. However two days later, I received a pamphlet from the agent for advertising his agency, which clearly mentions that this company is covered under the scheme. Ombudsman later informed me after receiving my complaint that the agent is no more their member and this will be taken up separately with the membership department but they can't help me with this complaint and I should go to ARLA.