“Students Landlords - Does this Company protec......”

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Jul 02,2019
By: 'Richard A F Hill'
Jul 02,2019
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Students Landlords - Does this Company protect your interests?

Without Prejudice
By Richard Hill - Former MD of Heritage Property

It gives me no pleasure to leave this review but I believe Leader’s student landlords need to be aware that the Company is failing to protect their interests and being completely negligent in their practices.

After the sale of my Company, Heritage Property, to Leader’s in November 2015 I left a student property under their “management” as it seemed fairer on the tenants at the time. Over the past 3 years I’ve had to deal with most management issues myself as the tenant’s found it difficult to get anything done.

In hindsight, I should have transferred the property to Grant Thoday at Handles Lettings when it came up for re-let as I have known him for many years as both my lettings manager and colleague. However, as I was busy with other things, when Leaders approached me with an offer for the property on November 30th 2018 I just felt it was easier to accept it.

After that, I received no communication about the tenancy and so last January I started to chase them to make sure that the tenancy agreement was signed and that deposit monies had been paid. (Standard practice for Heritage Property as it was!)

I contacted the letting staff several times and was given assurances at every stage that the matter was in hand. Eventually, on the 27th March, I ran out of patience as nothing had happened, so I spoke to the Lettings “Manager”, Sharon Haines, who apologised and said she would jump straight on it and get it sorted out immediately.

Sharon, the “Manager”, didn’t bother to get back to me at all but 4 days later, ironically on April 1st, I received an email from another member of staff, called Vicky, saying that the tenants had pulled out, no agreement had been signed and no deposit had been taken! Basically Leader’s had finally bothered to do something to follow it up to find out the tenants had changed their plans some time ago.

To cut a long story short I then addressed my concerns to their Area “Manager”, Stephanie Dunkley, who promptly decided to give me a lettings education and told me how new ‘Right to Rent’ checks need to be completed no more than 28 days prior to the start of the tenancy which means agreements can’t be executed and deposits can’t be taken!

I was even told I shouldn’t have assumed that Leader’s processes were the same as the one’s I had employed even though I had received zero amendments to the signed terms and conditions of business under which our agreement was determined.

There are several ways that Leader’s could have secured the tenancy in a more binding way despite their protestations that Right to Rent Checks prevented them from doing so. There was nothing to stop them taking all the deposit monies, whether on a non returnable basis or not, and nothing to stop them getting the AST signed, if not executed, subject to the checks. They could also have carried out the checks at point of reservation and again 28 days prior to tenancy. However, in my experience, most overseas students that have been given a place at Warwick University will pass a Right to Rent Check.

I was subsequently told in writing in a “Final Viewpoint” letter, following a complaint, that I had not communicated my concerns with the staff at any stage thus basically calling me a liar! They also went to lengths to explain how they would be keeping the £600 they took in admin fees to cover their costs!

At this point my property was becoming empty on June 30th 2019 and there was little chance of finding a new group of students before the start of the next academic year. In an attempt to mitigate the potential loss of rent and any perceived liabilities I thought Leader’s had incurred me, given their professional failings and basic negligence, I instructed Handles Property to let the property too. Leader’s then announced that they would not work alongside another letting agent and disinstructed themselves!

I have never seen a Company that is supposedly acting in my best interests fail to protect them at all and then be so dismissive after their obvious failings were pointed out. Landlord’s generally have a financial obligation to pay a mortgage which makes securing any tenancy correctly imperative but when you are letting a student house, nearly a year in advance of the start of the tenancy, the necessity to secure it legally is paramount.

Leader’s have failed to protect my interests, and most likely yours, if you have a student property under their “management”. It may be nothing more than dumb luck if your tenancy goes ahead this year as I can tell you they have told me that they will do nothing to give you any security until 28 days prior to the actual start date of the tenancy. And this will only be to contact the tenants that reserved the property 10 months ago, to see if they still want to proceed.

Had it not been for my understanding of lettings, it is likely that my property would have become empty on June 30th this year and I wouldn’t have found out until some point in July that the new tenancy was not proceeding.

Unfortunately I was unable to find a new group of students for this year but Handles Property, of which I have no personal interest in, did secure new tenants in a timely and professional manner.

This is a stark warning to any Student landlord’s that still have a property under management with Leader’s. They lack professionalism, fail to protect your interests and to make matters worse say you are a liar when they get found out. Amazingly and just to add insult to injury they refused to complete the checkout, as instructed, even though they have been collecting management fees for over 3 years.

My advice, so you don’t get left in this kind of predicament, if to find a new letting agent with a more professional approach to business!
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