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High street letting agents slammed for ‘unethical practices’

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Letting agents have been accused of willingly allowing gazumping in the private rental sector.

A survey of more than 700 renters by online agent LetBritain found that 40% of UK tenants believe gazumping is a common practice when it comes to renting a property.

No specific examples were given but a spokesman said respondents believed the way the industry operates – with agents accused of misleading tenants over the availability of properties and favouring some tenants over others – allowed gazumping to happen.

Tenants were responding to a series of pretty weighted statements about high street agents and had to state whether they strongly or somewhat agree, neither agree or disagree, or strongly or somewhat disagree.

The gazumping question asked respondents to respond to the statement: “I feel the process of securing a rental property is unethical, enabling people to gazump other prospective tenants at the last minute.”

Overall, 40% either strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement. Another 41% had no opinion and 19% somewhat or strongly disagreed.

Broken down by region, the highest proportion of respondents likely to strongly agree were in London at 27%, and 18% in the capital said they would somewhat agree. A third of respondents in the North-West of England said they would somewhat agree.

Respondents in the East of England were more likely to somewhat or strongly disagree.

EYE canvassed the views of high street lettings agents to see how prevalent, if at all, gazumping has become.

Aaron Cambden, owner of Fairview Estates in Nottingham, said: “We do witness attempts at gazumping from time to time, but not very often.

“Last week a customer offered an extra £75 on top of the advertised rent, but this could not be accepted due to the property being owned by a housing association.

“As an agency working on the fairest approach of first come, first served, gazumping is something that we try to avoid. However, due to the nature of the work, we must pass all offers that we receive on to the landlord and the final decision ultimately belongs to them.”

However, agents in London, where the survey suggests gazumping could be more prevalent, seem to contradict the findings.

David Mills of JLL’s lettings department in Chelsea, said: “Gazumping is rare in prime central London lettings in my experience. There is plenty of supply, the use of reputable agents and high net worth clients probably makes it less common in central London.”

Richie Tramontana of Red Property Partnership also said it’s not something he has seen, adding: “Once a holding deposit is paid and contracts signed, it’s very rare that gazumping happens in lettings.”

The LetBritain poll also looked at how fit for purpose the actual rental system is, with 37% saying it cannot cater for the demand and speed of the market while the same number said they have been misled by an estate agent regarding the competition they faced from other renters.

A third claimed they have lost out on a property because the estate agent had preferred relations with another prospective tenant.

The table below shows the statements included in the survey and breaks down the responses by age and the UK, London and Scotland.

Statement

All

18-34

35-54

55+

London

Scotland

I feel I have been misled by an estate agent with regards to the competition I faced in securing a rental property

37%

49%

29%

19%

61%

45%

I feel I have been advertised rental properties online that are knowingly unavailable

38%

45%

35%

24%

57%

35%

I feel I have lost out on a rental property due to the estate agent having preferred relationships with other prospective tenants which override a fair waiting list

31%

39%

26%

17%

51%

29%

I feel the process of securing a rental property is unethical, enabling people to gazump other prospective tenants at the last minute

40%

42%

40%

34%

45%

39%

As a landlord/tenant, I do not feel the rental system is fit for purpose in light of the speed and demand within the market

37%

43%

34%

28%

50%

29%

Fareed Nabir, chief executive of LetBritain, said: “It is obvious that renters up and down the country feel let down by their estate agent.

“From luring them in with properties that aren’t available to misleading potential tenants about the competition they face, the country’s rental population is suffering at the hands of questionable practices.

“Clearly a faster, fairer and more transparent system is required to alleviate the time and stress involved in securing a rental property.”

  • Marc Shoffman has been shortlisted in this year’s Property Press Awards. Everyone at EYE congratulates him

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Source:: High street letting agents slammed for ‘unethical practices’