Before I start this rant, I want to make clear that these views are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my University. While I’ve tried to ensure all facts are accurate, shamefully I’ve not been keeping a detailed log, so where possible please try to verify any claims with your own research, rather than just taking my at my word (i.e. please don’t try to libel me…).
I strongly advise anyone against renting from South Lettings (aka South Residential it would seem). Ever since I signed my contract with them I’ve had nothing but problems. They were incredibly slow in sending out my reference forms, in fact we only received them through email after much nagging, a couple of days before my tenancy began. Before I continue, I should note that when I first moved in to the property I was informed that the landlord was the current manager of the property, but South Lettings were taking over management of the building.
When looking around the flat I noted that there was electric heating, and I was informed that they were on a timer, upon moving in I discovered that the `timer’ was the Eco7 circuit, which turned the storage heaters on all night (off during the day), but the direct heat elements, when enabled, were on all the time (my electricity bill was £770 for 6 months, and I suspect a the heating contributed a large part towards that). To their credit when people complained about the heating, they did arrange for an electrician to come over and demo how to use it efficiently.
When I moved in to my flat (which I was told would have been professionally cleaned before I moved in) the flat was filthy. The work surfaces in the kitchen were covered with plaster dust, as were the sofas, carpets and parts of the wall. I noticed there was an uncovered socket on the wall and reported it to the agents, then 6 months later (at the end of my tenancy) it was still uncovered.
The flat I was in was quite new, and I was informed that some workmen would come in to install a closing pump on the front door (which I agreed to). Upon returning from University later that day, I came home to find my front door unlocked and the flat unoccupied (with the new pump installed). Also, while I was living at the flat, there were some damp problems in the kitchen/living room, I informed the estate agent’s and a couple of days later I came home to find an electric fan heater plugged in to my wall set on full power, blasting air at my wall. The estate agents did not ask permission to use my electricity supply, and did not even inform me that that would happen, as I don’t know exactly how long the heater was running for before I came back, I have no idea how much it cost me.
Upon moving out, I spent the day cleaning the flat to make it look presentable, ready for the next day, when I would do the checkout with the agent. During the checkout, the agent noted a couple of spots on the kitchen work surface that I was told I needed to clean, otherwise they would have charged me for hiring professional cleaners (some spots behind the oven, and just to give the fridge shelves a wipe down). I told the agent that I didn’t have any cleaning products on me, but as she told me she had another checkout to do, I’d go down to the local shops, buy some cloths etc. then come and fetch her when I was done cleaning the flat.
When leaving the flat, we agreed that I wouldn’t be charged for any cleaning or damages, but the agent noted that there would be a £35 checkout fee that I was told was in my contract. I couldn’t recall any mention of a £35 checkout fee, but I didn’t mention it at the time, assuming that I had just forgotten about it.
After getting home and re-reading my contract I saw no mention of any fees. About a week later, I signed in to the deposit protection scheme website to find that they had charged me £58. When phoning the agents, I was informed that was £35 checkout fee, plus a £15 fee for the estate agent going back to check the flat, and then VAT on top of that.
After informing them that there was no mention of a £35 fee in my contract I was told that I was in fact told about it in a letter they sent to me (presumably after I had signed the contract). I had no recollection of this letter and asked them to send me a photocopy of it showing my signed agreement. About one month later, and having still not received this letter as I was promised, I phoned them up again.
It is also interesting to note that there’s no mention of the checkout fees on their website either (see the screenshot below).
While on the phone to them, I informed them that I would not be paying the fees as they “cannot charge me random fees without informing me of them first”, to which they replied “yes we can”. After having spoken to some solicitors, I’ve confirmed that no, they can’t. I have just received a copy of the supposed letter via email, and I can confirm that I have never seen it before.
So if you want to avoid all of this hassle, I advise you against South Lettings, and South Residential, who seem to be the same company (at least they have the same director according to companies house).
The saga continues.