The Guardian has accused a branch of Winkworth letting agency in south London of “grubby overcharging” for allegedly asking a new tenant joining three others on an existing tenancy to pay a fee of £835.38p.
The Guardian article - which starts with the words “Shame on Winkworth” says three existing tenants sought to themselves find a replacement for a flatmate who left.
The article claims that it addition to the charge the Herne Hill franchise of Winkworth “wanted a total of £1,670.76 as it also formalised a tenant swap last year, despite that tenant already paying a £90 reference fee.”
The newspaper says “Winkworth picked on the wrong person when it tried to charge Will Carter such an outrageous set of fees” because Carter - described as a young lawyer - who to the branch which the next day changed its requirements.
The newspaper’s Patrick Collison writes: ”It admitted to an ‘unfortunate oversight’ in how its fees were displayed, and that ‘we are currently in the process of reviewing our fee charges but our decision has not been finalised yet’. It said it would cut the fee to £210 in total. Winkworth’s head office said it is conducting an investigation, saying ‘we expect all of our offices to charge fees that are reasonable and consistent’, while admitting that the Herne Hill branch’s fee ‘is not in line with other local offices’ rates for the same work’.”
The article goes on to link the original demand to the government’s consultation on banning letting agents’ fees levied on tenants.
The Guardian printed only some of Winkworth’s comments in its story - here is the agency’s full response, given to Letting Agent Today yesterday:
“We have recently been alerted to the issue concerning Herne Hill, and we will be conducting an investigation with the office to ascertain whether an error has been made. We will ensure that their fees going forward are fair and reasonable based on the work that is involved, and that any errors will be corrected. As we are a franchise, freedom is given to the offices to set their individual fees; however, we expect all of our offices to charge fees that are reasonable and consistent, but at the same time recognise the amount of administration work involved. As a brand, we support the Fair Fees Forum and do not condone fees that are above the market rate. The average admin fees across the Winkworth network are slightly less than the general market rate, and having reviewed a number of offices in the area, we have identified that this charge is not in line with other local offices’ rates for the same work”.
The agency also added that The Guardian implied that the service the tenants needed was just a name change on their contract - however, Winkworth says more work was required to check and register a new tenant.
You can see the full article here.