The Observer newspaper has published a story alleging that a London lettings agency “pressured” prospective tenants into accepting accommodation without viewing it.
The story begins with a case study, Alex Cannan, moving to London for work.
Having thought he found a room to rent for £145 a week on Spareroom.com - with an advertisement from what appeared to be an individual called Sara - when Cannan applied he found himself dealing with a letting agency, Citiside.
Having been told the room was available to view, Cannan arrived at the agency to be informed that the room had already been let. However, the newspaper alleges he was told of a similar room that came with a regular cleaning service.
“I was told it was not available for viewing and that if I asked them to reserve it before I made a decision I would have to pay a £500 holding deposit, which was non-refundable after three days. Foolishly, I was pressured into taking it based on the photos. When I moved in I found the room was filthy and covered in black mould, and the cleaning rota had not been updated for three weeks” Cannan is quoted as saying.
He alleges that since then he has written to Citiside seeking to cancel his contract but has been told by the firm to hire a lawyer if he wished to proceed with the cancellation.
The newspaper then alleges that “numerous prospective tenants claim to have been lured to Citiside’s offices by seductive ads of rooms that turned out not to be available, then pressured into accepting an alternative without viewing it.” This allegation is based on online reviews read by the newspaper’s reporter, Anna Tims.
“Reviewers make allegations of poorly maintained accommodation and Citiside’s refusal to return their deposit when they complain. Since many responded to ads on third-party websites in the names of individuals, they were not forewarned by the estate agent’s dismal online reputation” she writes.
The agency is a member of The Property Ombudsman which has told the newspaper it has received complaints about the agency, resolved on a case-by-case basis.
Tims writes that when the Observer rang Citiside for a comment, the agent hung up and two emails have been ignored.
Letting Agent Today has also contacted Citiside seeking its side of the story.
You can see the full Observer story here.