Here is a question to the blog clinic from Rebecca who is a landlord.
Our tenant left our property with notice earlier this year having stayed since 2012. We employed a management agency to manage the tenancy.
Whilst the tenant has always been erratic with her payments (Xmas periods in particular) she has always paid up.
This year was slightly different in that our managing agents were taken over about four months ago by another local agency. At around the same time, the tenant missed the first payment. The agency did not notify me – I found out by looking at our bank statement. They promised to investigate.
Two months ago the tenant gave notice. I asked the agency to make sure she paid up before vacating. No payment was made, and the tenant left owing 3 months rent. The security deposit is likely to be mainly used on cleaning and damage, and would not cover the arrears anyway.
My question is what recourse, if any, do I have against the managing agents if they fail to recover the arrears? They have a forwarding address for the tenant, but do not seem to have recognised the intensive management required – from a distance (we are currently working abroad), our tenancy seems to have fallen in a crack during the agency handover.
Whenever you have a dispute with your letting agents you need to look first at your agency agreement, to see what they have actually contracted to do. In this case, the agents are new, but they will bound by the agreement you signed with the old agents as they have taken over their business.
There is also the general obligations that agents have under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to perform their duties with ‘reasonable care and skill’.
It does sound as if the service provided by the second agents is not as good as the service provided by your original agents.
However, on the other hand, it’s not really the agent’s fault if the tenant leaves owing rent. You say that you asked them to ‘make sure she paid up before vacating’ but all the agents can do is make demand and chase her up. If they failed to do this then this is poor service but the agents will not, for example, become liable for the unpaid rent themselves.
Under contract law, the remedy for a breach of contract is to put the wronged party in the position they would have been in had the contract been performed as it should. Would the tenant have paid the rent if the agents had chased her up? It’s hard to say.
It may be worth bringing a complaint against the agent for poor service to their Property Redress Scheme. However, before doing so take a look at the agency agreement – so when you write up your complaint you will be able to refer to specific obligations in the agency agreement which the agents have failed to perform.