A landlord who has found himself in the middle of a legal tussle with Foxtons estate agents over a £616 bill to repair a light fitting claims he has been inundated with messages of support.
Dr Chris Townley, academic at King’s College London, claims many fellow landlords have contacted him to express their concerns over how estate agents conduct their business. As a result, he is campaigning for the letting industry to become clearer for property owners and tenants alike.
An angry Dr Townley stated that, ‘this behaviour is wrong, morally and legally. Foxtons has never apologised properly, they do not even think they have done anything wrong. I’m happy to carry on fighting and I hope it pushes them to change their behavior.’
The cause of Dr Townley’s anger centres on a dispute over a £616 charge to fix a light fitting in a three-bedroom house that he let out in the Forest Hill area of the capital in 2013. After being unaware of the cost charge until recently going through paperwork, Dr Townley then contacted the company that had carried out the job.
It was discovered that the subcontractor had charged just £412.50 to carry out the work, but Foxtons had added 33% in commission. Solicitors working on behalf of Dr Townley have started legal action against Foxtons, citing that the, ‘hidden commission’ was not included in the landlord’s contract.
Peace of mind
Dr Townley paid Foxtons 17% plus VAT on rent of £1,400 per month for two years. He decided to let his property through an agent to achieve peace of mind, as the house was his family home and he was to be spending time abroad.
‘I keep wondering what I could have done better to have stopped this happening to me,’ Dr Townley said. ‘When you go through an agent, you trust that they’re acting on your behalf. It seems stupid to have paid £600 to repair a light, but I thought they were replacing two lights and trusted the agency.’
It is estimated that thousands more landlords could be entitled to compensation from Foxtons, with the legal firm suggesting that the final cost could rise to as much as £42m.
Dr Townley said that while the whole episode has put him off renting a property, he believes that there are many estate agencies that provide a quality service.
In a statement Foxtons said:
‘We are incredibly disappointed to hear when any customer is dissatisfied with the service they have received, however, as a legal dispute we are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this case. We are satisfied though that our fees are clearly laid out within our terms and conditions and that approvals are obtained from our landlords before works commence on their property.’
‘As part of our managed service to our landlords we arrange for maintenance works to be carried out on their behalf from a panel of carefully vetted and trusted contractors. Due to the volume of work we provide we are able to achieve discounted rates offering competitive value with the benefit of efficiency, availability and quality of work that many landlords would not be able to achieve on their own.’