How to change letting agent from Carson & Company Residential Lettings and Countrywide Residential Lettings to any other agent, A cautionary tale for Landlords and Tenants.
The following page gives an account of what happened when my landlord decided to change letting agent from Carson and Company Residential Lettings at their Farnham branch to another lettings agent. It should be noted that up to this point, Carson and Company had been officious to the point of rudeness in all communications and charge the tenant £45 every year for renewing an existing agreement, over and above monies collected from the landlord. They also held a substantial deposit without offering interest on this, it being apparently "too complex" to do so. We shall see shortly how it turned out to be very complex indeed to even return this deposit to me, or to hand it directly to the new agent.
19th December 2006: I receive a letter from Michelle Russell at Carsons Lettings in Cheam indicating that my landlord wishes to end my tenancy and requires vacant posession of the property after 20th March 2006. This date is in error, but it obviously means 2007. Let's not quibble. It's clear that I need to find somewhere to live and make preparations to move. I immediately write to Carsons acknowledging receipt of their letter and enquiring if they have any similar property for sale. There's no reply and meanwhile, we have the Christmas break.
26th December 2006: I look around estate agents in Farnborough town and start to organise a mortgage, but while doing so, and by complete chance I meet my landlord and his Mum in WH Smiths. This meeting is chance indeed, as my landlord was merely visiting the UK, normally being resident and working in the USA. During our conversation, I learn that far from wanting to have the property back, he is merely trying to move agents, being rather dissatisfied with the performance of Carsons for the amount of money charged. He is at a complete loss as to why Carsons have asked me to move out, and his intentions were made very clear to the company during more than one phone conversation. I am understandably upset at the misinformation and the incorrect demand to quit the property from Carsons.
10th January 2007: I call Michelle Russell in Cheam. I informed her of the fact that, actually, my landlord did not require me to leave the property and that he was just swapping agents. She says that all she received was a notice to end the tenancy and that she would make enquiries with the Farnham branch.
11th January 2007: Vicky Senior, Lettings Administrator from Carsons sends me another letter concerning me moving out and organising an inventory check out by PG Property Services on 23rd March. They inform me that my deposit will be returned via cheque, and make it clear that missing the appointment, having items out of their original positions or failing to cancel my direct debits will incur extra charges. Failure to adhere to my obligations may result in a delay in returning my deposit! There is no contact address or phone number on this letter. I assume that this letter was sent before my conversation on the 10th, so I'm not overly concerned.
15th January 2007: On the phone again. Michelle at Carsons has tried to contact my landlord as she was under the impression that the request had been made to terminate my tenancy. I explain yet again that this is not the case and that all my landlord is trying to do is to sever his connection with Carsons once and for all, and that he has had several phone conversations with the company to this effect. Michelle says that she will inform me when there is any news.
16th January 2007: No news from yesterday. I endeavour to contact Vicky Senior on the phone and speak to Michelle at Farnham. Michelle sounds quite enthusiastic about sorting this out and says that she will try to speak to my landlord and promises to call back. No call is forthcoming.
22nd January 2007: I post a letter to Carsons agreeing to the check-out inventory date but indicating that surely, it is something of a waste of time given that the deposit cheque needs to go directly to the new agent. I also point out the impossibility of putting everything back and fulfilling the requirements as I will still be living in the property.
At some point I discuss the pointless inventory check out on the phone but I'm assured that this has to go ahead for some purely beauraucratic reason, just to make sure everything is done properly.
2nd March 2007: I speak to my new letting agent and drop by with the old Carsons agreement and inventory.
12th March 2007: I reply to an email from my landlord to recheck our new tenancy start dates. He has been in contact with Carsons on several occasions and it becomes clear that his intentions to them were always entirely clear, and that he has been talking to a certain Chris Murray at the Farnham Branch. It seems that although I am fully up to date with my rent to SRL/Carsons, he is owed last month's money.
23rd March 2007: 10:00, the time for the check-out inventory. I wait. At 10:25 I call Vicky Senior in Cheam and Carsons Farnham branch enquiring as the the whereabouts of my checkout clerk. I receive a phone call back from Farnham saying that he had left a voicemail with PG Property Services. At 16:00 I call again to be told that "The appointment had been cancelled because I would be remaining in the property" I made it clear that I had not been informed about the cancellation and that I had already sent correspondance requesting the direct transfer of the deposit. I further informed them what a shower of incompetents I considered them to be and that after my experience with them lately, the thought of buying a property from them would be ludicrous.
26th March 2007: I send the following
Henry J. Walmsley
Monday 26th March 2007
2nd Floor Anne Boleyn House,
50 The Borough,
Dear Carson's Lettings,
Since late last year I have been in communication by telephone and by letter to your various offices about the transfer of the management of the tenancy at the above property to a different agent, at the request of my landlord. I have two complaints to make and further issues to be resolved.
1) I was sent an end of tenancy statement requiring me to move out, in quite clear terms. This letter stated that my landlord wanted to end the tenancy and to take possesion of the property. This would be entirely fair and reasonable were this not, by accident or intent, completely incorrect. Upon receiving this letter I made plans to start moving and only by a complete chance meeting with my landlord did I discover that he had no intention of moving me out whatsoever. Carsons were fully aware of this having discussed this fact with my landlord at some length. Starting the procedure of finding a new residence wasted probably two full days of my time, and I'm sure you can appreciate that I am highly annoyed at this poor communication, which a more cynical individual might assume to be deliberate misinformation.
2) Upon clarifying this situation I still had an agreed meeting for a check-out inventory which I was told would be going ahead as planned. I wrote suggesting that this check-out was not really necessary but confirmed that I would be in attendance at the agreed time and date to go through the procedure, on the understanding that a full inventory would not be possible. Having taken the time out for a pointless inventory check-out, and having made substantial effort to try to avoid this waste of time, I was very disappointed to be left waiting at home on Friday morning last with no sign of anyone in attendance. One of the staff at the Farnham office checked with PG Property Services and did call me back shortly afterwards to tell me that he had left a voicemail with them, but there was no more communication. Upon calling again later in the afternoon I was told that the meeting had been cancelled as I would still be continuing in the property. I have been led to believe that when cancelling a meeting between two people it is customary to inform both of them. Please take note of this, as if any more of my time is wasted again in the future I will be sending you an invoice for my time, with the same promptness as you would if I failed to attend.
This is particularly annoying after seven years of officious, hectoring letters from your company indicating the importance of attending property checks and threatening charges for non-attendance.
I'm informed that in order to transfer my deposit to the new agent or my landlord you will need my written permission. This is explicitly stated in my last letter. Being asked for it once more suggests further general confusion and poor communication between your offices. If this has not already been dealt with please send my deposit cheque directly to me. I will tolerate no delay in this process.
On a final note, I can only assume that you are aware that tenants usually become homebuyers. Your general treatment of tenants should reliably ensure that very few of them would ever involve you in a house purchase or sale, and that will certainly be true in this particular case.
Henry J. Walmsley.
Do you think that my permission and request to hand over the deposit was made clearly enough here? I do. Chris Murray at the Farnham office thought not though, as we shall see. Note that this letter was cc'ed to both offices.
30th March 2007: I phone my new letting agent to see if my deposit cheque has arrived. No, it has not. Let's call Carsons at Farnham. I speak to Chris Murray who reads my last letter. No apology is forthcoming, instead he asks for written permission from me yet again which I fax to him directly.
4th April 2007: My new letting agent calls to say that they have got the first rent payment but are still waiting for the deposit.
23rd April 2007: I speak to my new letting agent and arrange to do one of the regular property checks. They point out that they have still not received the deposit cheque.
2nd May 2007: My new letting agent
kindly lets me know that they still don't have the deposit. My
landlord has been chasing it and also rent owed to him and some
other "magic deposit" that Carsons take from the landlord, and
by this stage my landlord is threatening Carsons with the county
court. It's time for some more intensive phone action.
So I speak congenially to Chris Murray who says that he will talk to Cheam again and call me back this day. I also get on the phone to Cheam, and eventually speak to a lady in accounts who looks for the file. She says that there has been no paperwork through from Farnham regarding this, but she will call me back immediately upon clarifying the matter. Shortly afterwards I receive a call from an accounts lady saying that she has spoken to Chris Murray but they still haven't had any paperwork. I request the name of the managing director of the organisation in Cheam, Countrywide Residential Lettings and that is John Hards.
Later I get a call from Andrea Silby. She has had a call from Chris Murray saying that the paperwork will "all be sorted out."
That afternoon Chris Murray calls me back to say that he had re-issued the relevant email to get their accounts to make the transfer (email? I thought it was paperwork?) He said that he would be keeping a check on it and seeing that it got through to the new agent. He also said that our conversation this week was the first that he had heard about it. Chris Murray of Carson and Company in Farnham, you fail to realise that I've been in direct conversation with my landlord who has spoken with you and emailed you on several occasions over the last few months and weeks. Chris Murray of Carson and Company, Farnham, UK, you seem to have an amazingly poor memory which is puzzling for a lettings manager.
3rd May 2007: An afternoon phone call
to Countrywide Residential Lettings in Cheam. I speak to an
Indian lady to check on progress who insists that "There is no
balance on the account." She will check with Pat and call me
back. I call back 2 hours later and go on hold. I am put through
to admin; This is the wrong department and no they can't put me
through, I'll have to dial in again. I dial in again and ask to
be put through to the correct department this time please and am
then informed by the receptionist that it's my fault, please ask
for the correct department in future. After a discussion about
how exactly I am supposed to understand the intricate nature of
the organisation and making by displeasure at being ticked off
for this like a naughty schoolboy quite plain, we once more get
through to the incomparable Pat. Pat's manager at CRL in cheam
is Sue Bridle. Pat has good news for me, she says. "We can put
your cheque through at the end of the month." I ask Pat how
exactly she comes to describe this as good news. I state that
the end of the month is completely unnacceptable and am told
that nothing else can be done about it right at the moment
because, "The System Is Down." I tell Pat that my enquiry is
going elsewhere for the moment.
Onto Christopher Murray at Farnham again. Oddly, Chris hasn't heard anything about the system being down. How odd. Maybe Pat was mistaken in some way. Chris finds the comment about not being able to make the transfer until the end of the month "astounding" and I make it clear to Chris that I am in complete agreement on this particular point.
4th May 2007: I speak to Karen, Pat's deputy. Karen says that she will deal with this and send the new agent a cheque today. Karen says that alll the paperwork is available.
9th May 2007: The agent has the cheque AND some money that was owed to my landlord. Success. Finally.
I may be adding a little more detail to the above story if I find more records of correspondance. I have my own suspicions about the motives of the various Carson & Company, PG Property Services, and Countrywide Residential Lettings offices in the above debacle. Every action seems to result in deposit cheques and rent being held onto by the company for as long as possible, especially if the landlord decides to go elsewhere for a lettings management service. And to be as charitable as possible, lettings managers and people at all levels in the organisation seem to have very poor memories. I will let the reader judge, and I recommend considering your options carefully when choosing a lettings or estate agent.