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shavedchimp

Unpaid Old Tenancy Fees to Letting Agent

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I have recently received a wadge of old invoices/demands for unpaid tenancy fees from my letting agent. Some of them go back to 2011.

I didn't get round to paying them at the time - I thought why should you get £100 for changing one sentence in a letter or contract? They didn't chase me properly until now.

Someone must have instructed the staff to call in unpaid debts.

Legal action is threatened if I don't pay within 7 days.

Is legal action likely for a debt of about £250?

Since the Tenant Fees Act of June 2019 was introduced - do you think a letting agent has the grounds to chase unpaid monies from before this date?

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Technically the tenant fees act only applies to existing tenancies from next June so in theory yes an agent could still charge nonsense fees to their current tenants until next year.

i don’t know about the legal basis of these fees but I very much doubt they would have much of a claim over anything but the most recent years fees if they failed to claim past fees but renewed the tenancy regardless.  I highly doubt they could win any court action as they already have generous legal powers, such as S21, which they’ve failed to use. 

Personally I’d call their bluff and ignore it. Their desperate behaviour to check for any old income they might be able to get their hands on in is very interesting though. Updates please 😀

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Had another letter today, slightly more threatening. Mentions legal proceedings if payment not made within 7 days. Mentions interest and costs and my credit rating being affected.

Slightly ominous. Will they really pursue it?

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Will there be paperwork to prove that you agreed to these charges? 

I don't mean your tenancy agreement that may list the general charges but actual agreement to say they you agree to pay for all these specific ones at the time.  If the agent imposed something on you without your consent i.e. a new agreement when you would have been happy with a rolling one.

I'm guessing that they intend to take you to the small claims court or hand over to a debt collection agency. 

6 years is the normal cut off point so they may be too late for some. 

They will need to prove in court that the debt is valid. The onus is on them. If you do want to reply you could ask them for proof.

Edited by Flopsy

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Normally Tenancy fees are there to cover the paperwork of getting a new lease giving you security of tenure for another year.

Did you get that paperwork?

If you did, and if they also have paperwork showing you agreed to extend the tenancy then you might be due to pay.

If they didnt and you just reverted to a statutory periodic tenancy then I don't think they have a leg to stand on.

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The truth, as we know on this forum, is that the fees are a form of extortion, which the change in the law duly recognises.  Up until the change in the law, the normal process would have been -  apply pressure to renew the contract, then the tenant pays the fees in order to get the new contract.  Your LA has got it the wrong way around.  Once the contract has been issued, even with unpaid fees, then the LA has lost their leverage, at least for the length of the new contract.

At the very least, make them work for the money.

Ask them for a complete breakdown of everything that you owe and all the supporting documentation relating to the fees.  Ask them to justify exactly why they chose to issue new contracts, when the law doesn’t require it and never has.  There was never a need for a new contract, even when the rent had changed.  If they have issued new contracts issued while already in arrears for fees, ask them to fully explain why. 

Appear to be reasonable and explain you are happy to pay up once you have  a full explanation of all of the above.  Should you go to court, you will need to be asking all these questions anyway.  And they can’t, or at least shouldn’t, take you to court until they have properly explained to you why you owe them the money.   

A small claim like this isn’t worth the effort of a small business or a debt collection agency, especially because tenancy law is more complicated than a simple contract.  My bet is, if you put enough obstacles in their way, they will give up.

 

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On 10/10/2019 at 16:18, shavedchimp said:

Had another letter today, slightly more threatening. Mentions legal proceedings if payment not made within 7 days. Mentions interest and costs and my credit rating being affected.

Slightly ominous. Will they really pursue it?

How can your credit rating be affected if the debt is not regulated under the consumer credit act? I suppose they're referring to a county court judgement, which would go on your file I guess. And interest? Sounds a bit dodgy to me, like they're making it up as they go along.

Also, did they include VAT in the fees? 
https://propertyindustryeye.com/many-agents-breaking-rules-vat/

Edited by spacedin

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Latest is the following reply from letting agent:

"Unless the tenancy goes periodic, the new tenancy agreement will be required. It has not been agreed that there will be a periodic tenancy here, and you have signed the relevant documents needed to proceed with the renewal.

It is written into the tenancy agreement that fees will be due when renewing the agreement."

How can this be challenged?

 

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On 16/10/2019 at 10:04, shavedchimp said:

Latest is the following reply from letting agent:

"Unless the tenancy goes periodic, the new tenancy agreement will be required. It has not been agreed that there will be a periodic tenancy here, and you have signed the relevant documents needed to proceed with the renewal.

It is written into the tenancy agreement that fees will be due when renewing the agreement."

How can this be challenged?

 

I'm not sure but call me pedantic but that first part of the first sentence doesn't make sense. There's never an 'agreement' for a tenancy to go periodic. It just goes periodic and then if they want to kick the tenant out it's obvously much easier. You actually have a right to a periodic tenancy in this sense. There's nothing in statute that says you have to agree to a new term. 

It's interesting how some agents must be trying to call peoples bluff, in the knowledge that the landlord probably wouldn't evict the tenant in this scenario. Have you spoken to the landlord? You can search the land registry to find him but you will have to pay a couple of quid for this. 

If you get hold of his address you could also get his number through the BT Phone book if it's not ex-directory and he still lives wherever it is.  Probably wouldn't make that much difference anyway but would be funny if the landlord sided with you.
"

5. Renewal fees: a fee to renew a tenancy agreement

This is a hugely controversial issue – and agents charge this sort of fee not only to tenants but to landlords too.

So far as tenants are concerned, the threat behind this fee is that if the tenants fail to pay it – the tenants will not be allowed to stay on in the property.

There are two issues with this:

  • The tenants are entitled to stay on anyway under a periodic tenancy (which will be subject to the same terms and conditions as the preceding fixed term tenancy agreement) – this is something which happens automatically (under s5 of the Housing Act 1988), with no need for any special paperwork
  • It is the landlord who would bring any claim to evict the tenants, not the agents.  I suspect that few landlords will want to evict good tenants simply because they baulk at paying £300 to the letting agent.  Agents are not entitled to evict tenants without the knowledge or concurrence of the landlord."
    https://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2016/07/07/letting-agent-fees-illegal/
Edited by spacedin

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