Last September my flatmate, my partner and I were looking for a new place to rent. We'd spent months researching online in advance and settled on the Beckenham/Bromley corridor.
Our first two attempts to view properties with Langford Russell ended in short notice cancellations. By short notice I mean within 15 minutes of our scheduled appointments. On both occasions we were told that the landlord had either taken the property off the market, or that the property had been snapped up just minutes before. (This is something I would come to consider later, given what happened in my Langford Russell experience). We decided to give them a third and final chance, this time booking three viewings, in the hope that we would be able to view at least one of them.
The stars must have aligned for us on that day, because all three flats were available to view. Emma seemed very nice and friendly and the third property was great. The following day we put in an offer, followed by a second one of £1200pcm, which was accepted.
We paid a £400 holding deposit, which we were told would take the property off the market whilst contracts were signed.
The first alarm bells rang when the statement of account came through. Bearing in mind that the property was to be rented at £1200 per month, the costs and fees were staggering:
- Rent in advance: £1200 (fair enough)
- Deposit: £1384.62 (bearable, if a little precise)
- Agreement Fee: £120
- Check Out Fee: £132
- Reference Fee: £150
- and, the kicker(!), End of Tenancy Professional Clean: £294
Total monies due: £3280.62.
A staggering amount of money, in my eyes. I had never in my life seen an end of tenancy professional clean listed by any lettings agent. It was my understanding that the deposit covered that kind of thing, as it had for all previous flats I had rented. I have always left the properties I had rented immaculately clean and tidy, something my previous landlords could all attest to and I found it almost offensive to assume that I would leave a property in a state that required £300 of cleaning. We drafted a carefully worded e-mail to Emma at Langford Russell questioning if that was really necessary, and if the landlord would agree to waive that fee if we signed something confirming that we were happy for any cleaning fees to be removed from our deposit, if indeed they were necessary.
There was no response to the e-mail so I phoned the following day to confirm. Emma said that she would speak to the landlord.
I left the issue over the weekend, but still hadn't heard back by the following Wednesday. With time running out at our current flat, we were keen to move things along. I called and left messages, but heard no reply. I did eventually reach Emma on the 5th or 6th time of asking. I explained who I was. Emma said that she was sorry but she had just spoken to the landlord and he was taking the property off the market to let it privately to a family friend who needed it as an emergency.
This was, of course, gutting news. We were then unable to find a place before contracts were exchanged on our previous flat, meaning we had to move in with family for a couple of weeks. In the meantime we set about getting the £400 holding deposit returned. This proved difficult as Langford Russell forwarded our calls to the company who held the deposit, while that company told us that they couldn't return the money until Langford Russell had instructed them to. It took 3 to 4 weeks for the £400 to be returned.
Happily, we found a place about 6 weeks later (we found the property through a website that puts landlords and tenants in contact, saving the exorbitant fees that Langford Russell tried to charge us). It also happened to be on the same road as The Flat That Got Away. Less than 100 metres away, in fact. Having moved in we decided to walk to the local pub for a pint and some dinner, which involved walking past the Flat That Got Away. The flat that the landlord had apparently taken off the market at the last moment in a stroke of extraordinary bad luck. But wait¢â‚¬Â¦ what should we see standing brazenly outside that flat, but a sign? A sign proudly emblazoned with the words ¢â‚¬Å“Let By Langford Russell.¢â‚¬Â
The landlord story had been a lie. We'd been spun a tall tale by Emma at Langford Russell, purely because we had the temerity to question their fees. Fees that I had never seen before and doubt I will since. The £400 we had put down (and that we had to constantly fight to have returned) was supposed to have taken the property off the market. It obviously hadn't. It reminded me of the early days with Langford Russell where our appointments were cancelled at short notice. Clearly what they are doing is continuing to offer properties that are under offer to other prospective tenants, regardless of the inconvenience and anguish it might cause. All of this without the common decency to behave with a shred of integrity or honesty.
Incidentally I am still getting poorly-matched property suggestions e-mailed to me by Langford Russell, despite repeatedly asking to be removed from their mailing lists. Quite how they think I would want to give them a single penny after all of this is beyond me.
- Langford Russell charge exhorbitant fees. £3200 up front is shocking. When going direct with the landlord we paid £12 each for credit checks, and about £70 for inventory fees. That was pretty much it. Quite how LR can justify their fees is beyond me. Well, actually it isn't. They can't justify it because it is a scam.
- The holding deposit works entirely for Langford Russell and not for the customer. Don't let them tell you that the money is there to secure the property. It is for them to secure (or string along) the customer.
- These people lie. Their only aim is to squeeze maximum profit out of you. Please don't waste your time trying to reason with them or trying to understand how they think. Their lizard brains just aren't wired like the normal human brain. They are beyond help. They are beyond redemption. Beyond the realm of scientific understanding.
- Final lesson learned. Writing this all down feels good.
What agent could do to change your mind?
If they had not been lying, unhelpful cheats I would have happily recommended them.