Private Tenants Expose Letting Agents’ Scams

Haringey Private Tenants Action Group

On Saturday 14th July, Private Tenants protested outside Letting Agent Drivers & Norris in Islington’s Holloway Road, condemning them for taking £300 from tenants seeking a flat, providing nothing in return but refusing to return the payment.

The action was organised by the new group Haringey Private Tenants Action Group (HPTAG) in support of a few of their members who had been asked to pay the £300 upfront to secure a new flat. Drivers & Norris had failed to provide any service or offer of accommodation but they refused to return this fee. No tenancy agreement had been signed and no service had been provided.

HPTAG were joined by supporters who together stood outside the office with banners, megaphone and leaflets. 800 leaflets were handed out to passers-by outlining the situation and explaining D & N’s rip off fees and and calling at the same time for letting agents and landlords to remove all ‘fees’ and end to other exploitative practices.

Banners included ‘We Demand Affordable, Decent and Secure Homes For All’ and ‘End Scams by Letting Agents!’. Many of those receiving the leaflets were vocally supportive of the protest and were encouraged by protesters to take similar action themselves.

The tenants, Phil Tsappas, Kyri Tsappas and a friend who is supporting them, are still demanding their money back following the action, where requests to speak to the Lettings Manager resulted in little more than a supposed phone call to the manager who was ‘on their way to speak to them’. However, no manager turned up and there were no offers given to the tenants about arranging to speak to them about the situation. Meanwhile however, HPTAG supporters assembled in the street outside, with banners, leaflets and a megaphone providing plenty of time to explain the situation to hundreds of passersby.

Phil Tsappas, one of the tenants demanding their money back said “Councils should intervene to stop lettings agents from using these charges”, he added. “The government should make it illegal to charge applicants to whom no tenancy is offered”. “The government should ensure that more council housing is built, to stop the overheating of the rental market, and provide alternatives to private renting” he continued.

Michelle Lawson from HPTAG said: ““Private Tenants are facing more and more invented ‘fees’ from letting agents and landlords who are exploiting peoples basic right and need for a home. We call on all private tenants to get involved in local groups and take collective action to demand better rights for private tenants everywhere”.

HPTAG and their supporters plan to return to Drivers & Norris soon, and will keep returning until they get their money back along with other activities and action to improve the rights of private tenants more generally. Protestors believe that bad publicity and public opposition will force Letting Agents like Drivers & Norris to change their bad practices.

NOTES:
1.         Fees charged by the lettings agents are much higher than the actual cost. For example, FLS Tenant Referencing provides a full tenant reference to lettings agents from £19.00.
2.       Drivers & Norris run five pages of advertisements in the Tottenham Journal each week. Drivers & Norris’s website claims that they are “Renowned for having the highest standards of quality and integrity in all our property dealings, our reputation for uncompromising professionalism in everything we do is demonstrated by our local reputation and results”; and “Our Residential lettings department offers a truly professional yet personal service. We are fully compliant with all the latest legislation and send the staff on regular training courses to ensure that we are up to date. We register the tenants’ deposits under the terms of The Dispute Service (TDS) and always deal with deposits fairly.
3.        There are 21,000 households in Haringey who rent their homes from private landlords.
4.         Haringey Council’s ‘Housing Strategy 2009-2019’ promised to 1. Explore the potential of additional licensing schemes, ‘discretionary licensing’ to raise management standards in private rented accommodation and 2. Explore the potential of additional licensing schemes, ‘discretionary licensing’ to raise management standards in private rented accommodation.

(Photos: Gabrielle Bosley, Matt Salusbury)

More reporting here: Indymedia

Haringey Private Tenants Action Group
Contact: privatetenantsaction@gmail.com

Journalist Matt Salusbury – Report with photos
http://mattsalusbury.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/private-tenants-protest-letting-agents.html

The Guardian, recent article on Letting Agents and private tenants starting to take action
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/11/landlords-letting-agents-tenants-angry?newsfeed=true

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Leaftlet text handed out at the protest:

STOP SCAMS BY LETTING AGENTS!

  • This is a protest against Drivers & Norris who have provide us with no service

  • They want to keep our £300

  • We say ‘Give our money back!’

We (a few members of Haringey Private Tenants Action Grou were forced to hand over £300 cash as an upfront payment in order to secure a new flat. We have been offered no house, no flat, no service whatsoever, and yet Drivers & Norris claim our £300 is theirs to keep. This is another example of Letting Agents ripping off private tenants for their own gain.

Agency ‘fees’, reference ‘checks’, admin ‘fees’, leaving ‘fees’ are all costs that have been created over the past few years by and for Letting Agents, like Drivers and Norris, to increase their profits and exploit the basic need of tenants to find a home. We, as private tenants, will not accept this any more.

We have a right to really affordable, secure and decent housing just like anyone else.

- Our investigations show reference checks can cost agents only £19.00. Even so, prospective tenants should not be footing the cost anyway.

- The SCAM is that Letting Agents, like Drivers & Norris, have an incentive to fail applicants for a HIGH profit.

- With an over heated housing market and not enough affordable homes, they feel they can get away with these scams.

Through collective action we can change this!
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PRIVATE TENANTS TAKE ACTION

Housing is a basic necessity, like food and water, yet many landlords and letting agents forget this and treat tenants as just a source of profit rather than as human beings with rights.

By getting together with other residents facing the same problems we can take action as a group, and support one another, rather than worrying on our own.

Some of our demands to letting agents:
 - Bring rents down
- Remove all rip-off fees for prospective tenants

 - Longer and secure tenancies
 - An end to discrimination against people on benefits or DSS

Haringey Private Tenants Action Group was set up by local residents who want to take collective action to improve their housing situation. Our next meeting is Saturday 21st July, 2012 11am, Cafe Life, North London Community House, 22 Moorefield Road, London N17 6QN, near Bruce Grove Station.

Why not get involved in your local housing action group or set one up where you live?
Hackney Housing Action Group    http://hackneyhousinggroup.wordpress.com/
Haringey Private Tenants Action Group   
haringeyprivatetenants@gmail.com
Haringey Housing Action Group
   http://haringeyhousingaction.org.uk/
Brent Private Tenants Rights Group   
http://www.bptrg.org/
Islington Poverty Action Group  
http://www.ipag.org.uk/
Camden Federation of Private Tenants   
http://www.cfpt.org.uk/

July 16, 2012  Tags: ,   Posted in: LOCAL CAMPAIGNS