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'This is an injustice, whether lawful or not'

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: June 29, 2012

LETTINGS LETTER: Terry Walter outside his home in Pentewan.

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A RETIRED policeman is calling for raised awareness of letting agency fees after a demand for a fee to renew his tenancy.

Terry Walter moved into a "beautiful" cottage in North Road, Pentewan, in August 2011 but was shocked to receive a letter from his estate agents last month asking for a £125 fee for a new tenancy contract to stay in his property.

The 73-year-old said the letter from Miller Countrywide also stated that his rent would increase by £25 per calendar month.

The letter stated: "If you do not wish to extend your tenancy, we would kindly ask that you complete the enclosed form as soon as possible to allow time to make the required arrangements to terminate your tenancy, remarket the property and return deposits where applicable."

Mr Walter said: "My worry is that they are suggesting the only alternative for the tenant is to either comply with that or move out."

He added: "If someone were of a less robust nature than I they may feel obliged to pay the money. This is an injustice, whether it's lawful or not.

"This is what rekindles my feelings as a policeman. I can imagine some poor old lady sitting in her home, her only refuge from the rest of the world, and here are these people giving her the impression she could be moved out just like that unless she pays them a fee."

The owner of Mr Walter's property - Nick Ratcliffe, who lives in Hampshire and rents out seven properties – told the Cornish Guardian: "[Miller] never even asked me if I wanted to increase the rent."

He added: "I'm really happy with Terry living there."

Peter Gough, letting law consultant and owner of Mid-Cornwall Lettings and Estate Agents in St Blazey Gate, said although it was common practice for corporate letting agents to charge a contract renewal fee, there could be a way around it.

He said the agent usually charges about £250 to create a new agreement – half from the landlord and half from the tenant.

To try to bypass this charge, the tenant can ask the agent to ask the landlord for a Periodic Statutory Tenancy (PST) before their contract expires, he added.

Miller Countrywide said: "We always strive to provide quality customer service and were very disappointed to hear of Mr Walter's reaction to the letter.

"Since this issue was brought to our attention, we have tried to contact the tenant directly to resolve the issue but to no avail.

"However, we would like to stress that we comply with all ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) requirements and the industry standard is to ascertain the wishes of both the tenant and landlord when a tenancy is due to expire."

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  • HAPPY23  |  July 03 2012, 5:31PM

    I just wanted to say my experience with Millers has always been a pleasure and joy - I have rented through them twice since relocating to Cornwall and have found them very helpful in all matters - I think the article is a little extreme to be honest and I dont think it is fair on Millers - there are a lot of agents in Cornwall in my experience whereby I have been treated really badly Millers have always been helpful when I have extended - they have a good team that answer all my questions and direct me where I need to go. I would definately use and recommend Millers for renting out my properties and as a tenant.

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  • cheekyman_jr  |  July 02 2012, 9:13AM

    Miller treated me the same, but wanted much more to renew the contract, so I moved out and made sure that the owner was able to rent it directly to a local couple who I knew who were also in the same situation. Because of no fees going to Miller, the owner also put the rent down by £100 per month. As for Miller's service at the time of renting, well, let's just say that we'd spent 5 months living in a house without heating...

  • anonymously3  |  July 01 2012, 7:13PM

    letting agencies tend to prefer all tennants to remain on a 6 month AST (assured shorthold tennancy where you are tied in for 6 months) rather that it go on to a rolling one on a month by month basis, so they can guarantee their income. They don't like having people on their books who are on the statutory periodic tenancy because then they can't be sure beyond a month, but surely is that what it should be anyway, just tied in for the first 6 months so that not too much of landlord's money is wasted on contracts etc, by high turnover of tennants? I too am a landlord, and have never charged tennants for contracts, nor renewed them after 6 months, as surely that is a priveledge (to have a statutory periodic tenancy) that the tennant deserves after 6 months of having no choice at all. I give them the choice. And, I foot the bill for contracts, which are just a document you can download from the web and print off anyway - from reputable sites. Are we not humans any more, any of us?

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  • josdave  |  July 01 2012, 2:03PM

    As if the letting agencies don'e get enough with their commission fpr doing very little they now have a clause whereby they can add to it. The trouble with small print is that it is often difficult to understand and this is what causes the problems.

  • kevin21212121  |  June 30 2012, 9:13PM

    Once the fixed term of an assured shorthold tenancy ends, it automatically lapses into a statutory periodic tenancy, i.e. one that runs from month to month, and can be ended by either the tenant or the landlord at very short notice. Granting a new tenancy guarantees the tenant another fixed term in the property (for example, 6 months), so some tenants like the peace of mind this gives them. But the £125 fee means that the tenant is effectively paying £20 a month for this peace of mind. And using this as an opportunity to increase the rent, without consultation with the tenant or, apparently, the landlord, is just plain wrong.

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  • kimmyp  |  June 29 2012, 4:40PM

    The lesson here would be read contracts and lease agreements before you sign them. We fell for this one when we rented a house in hampshire, it was our fault we didn't read through properly, we moved out.

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