Here is a question to the blog clinic from Andrew who is a tenant:
I rented a new place on September 1 through a letting agent. The landlord had his own agreement which does not mention the letting agent’s company.
However he was not present at the time the agreement was signed and gave the authority to the letting agent to sign on his behalf.
The first month’s rent and deposit also went directly into the agent’s account. In addition it was agreed that the next rent payment would also go to the agent and the following ones to the landlord directly. The landlord did not dispute any of these at the time.
In the last week, the landlord has been upset with the agent. He says that “due to poor service” from the agent he wants me to cancel the standing order made on the signing date and remit the next payment directly to him instead.
According to him, the rent agreement does not mention the agent and therefore I should be good on the contract only with him in the mind.
The letting agent on the other hand is pressing me to keep the mandate on because according to them the landlord is walking away from the agreement he has with them and it would be wrong on my part to cancel any standing order without a good reason.
Both of them are conveniently “telling” me what to do but they are not ready to write a transparent advice with everyone copied at the same place, and writing independently to me with these conflicting advices intead.
Please suggest what the right course of action is. Thanks.
This is a situation where a bit of agency law comes in handy. The agent – landlord – tenant is an agency situation where the agent is employed by the landlord (known in agency law as the principal) to find a tenant for his property (in agency law the tenant is the ‘third party’).
The agent is authorised to make the contract on the landlord / principal’s behalf. So as far as the third party (or YOU) are concerned, signing the tenancy with, and indeed paying the rent to, the agent is the same as paying it direct to the landlord.
The terms of any contract or agreement between the agent and the principal are not your concern. Thats between them.
However if the landlord actually informs you that the agency agreement is at an end and that rent should be paid by you direct to him, then strictly speaking that is what you should do. If this puts that landlord in breach of his agency agreement, well thats between him and the agent.
However if you are worried about this, one solution is to pay the rent into a separate bank account, tell the landlord and agent that you have done this, and that you will pay the money out once they have sorted things out and you have written confirmation as to who the money should be paid to.
At the very least you should get written confirmation from the landlord regarding his request to you to change the arrangements set up by the agent and pay direct to him. But don’t pay the money over to the agent in the meantime, wait until you are sure what you have to do.