An online agency has denied a claim that it is allowing High Street agents to use its platform to avoid paying fees to Rightmove and Zoopla
A High Street agent, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted Letting Agent Today claiming that the Open Rent online platform is being ‘gamed’ by letting agents as a lower cost way of advertising on Rightmove and Zoopla.
The agent claims that because of the high fees of the two portals it has become more cost-effective for some traditional agents to list their properties via Open Rent, which then in turn lists on Rightmove and Zoopla.
The agent who contacted LAT claims this has provided substantial documentation alleging that, in a small part of London, 12 agents could be seen to have advertised as many as 877 rental properties on Open Rent - and thus, indirectly, advertised them on Rightmove and Zoopla too.
The agent alleges that this means that within the M25 area, Open Rent could be listing as many as 2,000 or more properties that are not directly from private landlords but from letting agents.
The complaint raised by the agent is that this violates the terms and conditions set out by Open Rent itself and by the two portals - and, indirectly, disadvantages other letting agents who use Rightmove and Zoopla directly by paying subscription fees.
Letting Agent Today put the claims to Open Rent and a spokesman responded: “OpenRent is a full service letting agent - you can see from our website we provide a full range of tenant find, tenancy creation and rent collection services.
“I appreciate our business model is different in some important ways from High Street letting agents - most obviously we don't have a High Street branch network - however the fundamentals are the same.
“What's being described is the equivalent of an agent walking into another agent's office with their client's properties and getting those properties advertised. As such the claims here - assuming they aren't simply an attempt to smear a competitor - are based on what seems to be some misunderstandings of the way we operate and the market in general.”
The spokesman goes on to deny the claims made and says: “We would lose money doing what's being described here. It's well known that property portal fees are expensive and so re-selling these for [the Open Rent fee of] £24 to competitor agents doesn't make financial sense at all. Like any other agent we rely on landlords using our full suite of services and that means having a direct relationship with the property owner. I would also think reputable agents wouldn't want their own clients seeing their properties being advertised by OpenRent rather than the agent they instructed?”
A Rightmove spokesperson says: “Our terms and conditions state that agents cannot re-sell Rightmove services to other agents. When an agent adds a rental listing to Rightmove they must have the direct relationship with the landlord. If any agent is found to be re-selling services we will carry out a full review of their Rightmove membership.”
And the official comment from Zoopla is: “All agents must follow our guidelines, which stipulate that they must have full consent to market a property and must not list on behalf of a third party. Agents who fail to adhere to our guidelines will face a variety of measures including the potential removal of their listing rights.”