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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agency in ‘viewing charges’ controversy has had protests in the past

Letting Agent Today can reveal that the agency at the centre of the scandal over alleged charges for viewings has been the focus of controversy in the recent past.

Flintons is a single office agency based in London. Its website describes itself as “the London and international residential property specialist offering a full range of related services that help our clients buy, sell, let, rent and manage their homes and investments.”

Yesterday it hit the headlines when it was accused by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme of effectively charging prospective tenants hundreds of pounds to even view properties. 

Flintons itself denies the accusation that it charged for viewings - its response is published in full below. 

However, LAT has now discovered that in September the agency was the focus of a protest against its wider approach to fees.

Anonymous posters on Twitter circulated a call asking people to protest outside the agency’s office in September.

LAT has invited Flintons to put its side of the protest story but has not received a response on that specific point.  

Meanwhile there has been widespread condemnation by industry figures of Flintons for allegedly charging potential tenants hundreds of pounds for just viewing a property. 

Former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf said on Twitter that the revelation made by the BBC“highlights the need to tighten rule further - and as soon as possible.”

Victoria Whitlock, a buy to let landlord and the Evening Standard’s columnist known as The Accidental Landlord, tweeted that the matter was simply “indefensible.”

Industry trainer and consultant Mike Day, who runs Integra Property Services, also took to social media to ask: “A new low for the lettings industry?”

The Victoria Derbyshire programme claimed yesterday that Israel Kujore and his friend Harry responded to one of Flintons' adverts.

“He said they had gone to see an agent who had told them they needed to pay a deposit to see a room but that the money would be refundable … They had paid £300 each to see a property, but Israel soon realised something was wrong” said a BBC report.

Agency in ‘viewing charges’ controversy has had protests in the past

The BBC also quoted Labour’s housing spokeswoman Melanie Onn calling for the government to give greater protection to renters.

"Letting agents as well as landlords should be properly regulated" she said. "Of the 8,000 letting agents we've got around the country, only about half of those are voluntarily signed up to a code that means that they will operate to the highest professional standards. That means that half of them are not.”

However, Flintons continues to deny the allegations in full.

Flintons told Letting Agent Today: “We deny any allegation that prospective clients are asked to pay a holding deposit to be able to have a viewing. A holding deposit is only taken where a prospective client wishes to exclusively reserve a property for themselves and the property is then taken off the market and not offered to any other person.

“Whilst we have been informed of 3 instances where prospective clients had raised complaints, we provided suitable responses and believe that we demonstrated that the version of events that the complainants had provided were not entirely accurate and there was clear knowledge that any deposit taken was non-refundable. As the BBC have confirmed, all had signed holding deposit forms clearly stating that the deposit was non-refundable as it states at the beginning of the document and is clearly visible and is not something that can be missed or overlooked. It is not accepted that they were given the form after payment had been taken nor was there any assurance that the holding deposits were refundable. 

“We note that the BBC also undertook an undercover investigation where they used undercover reporters to look into our practices. They have confirmed that their undercover reporters were clearly told that any deposit would be non–refundable prior to any funds being requested when they showed an interest in a property. This we say clearly supports our position. 

“We confirm that we are an agency that assists numerous clients and the complaints raised only form a very small percentage of people who have engaged with us and the vast majority of our clients are happy with the service that we provide. Notwithstanding our position, we have reviewed our procedures and have provided further training to staff and have also now amended our holding deposit form to further highlight that the deposit is non-refundable if a prospective client changes their mind." 

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