One thing that we're constantly being told is that renting in Reading is rubbish. Hardly a week goes by without an article appearing talking about price rises or terrible conditions, and it's what people bring up with us when we're talking to them in the street and on the doorsteps. In response to this, we've been collecting stories from renters in the area about their experiences with their letting agents. Some of them are pretty shocking. We'll be bringing a new experience to you each week. If they sound familiar or you've got a story of your own, please fill in our survey.
One person who filled in our survey anonymously had been renting with Haart, dealing with their Earley branch. Starting with the perennial issue of fees, they told us they were charged between £100 and £200 for the 'privilege' of dealing with them. They claim things did not get any better. In their own words, "terrible communication and support throughout the tenancy. They did not repair items when we reported them and tried to charge us in damages for issues with the property that had been reported." So, allegedly they were charged hundreds of pounds for signing a couple of documents, then Haart failed to carry out obligations a letting agent should be carrying out. They then tried to charge them again when they left.
But it didn't stop there. They say after they left, Haart "lied to us and other's representing us when we tried to get a reference, resulting in a period of homelessness for 2 individuals." So not only had Haart made living in the property difficult, they apparently then made two people homeless.
In our survey, we ask everyone to rate their letting agents from 0 (really bad) to 5 (really good). Needless to say this person rated Haart a 0. We also ask everyone to suggest ways things could be improved for renters. This person focussed on the issues they'd experienced, so said there needs to be an improved service from the Earley branch of Haart and a requirement that contacts are logged and actioned.
We see these types of complaints about letting agents all the time - from extortionate fees, to terrible service, to lying and cheating. We find that the only way we as renters and local residents can actually make changes for the better is if we stand together and demand improvements. We've seen recently the government voting down the requirement that rented homes should be fit for human habitation, so no help's going to come from there. The local council can enforce standards and ensure improvements are being made, but with their budgets being cut drastically they have neither the time nor the inclination to take progressive steps (especially when they are constantly having to fight the fires caused by these massive cuts). So we're going to have to do this ourselves. Join ACORN and get involved in making these improvements.
If this story seems familiar, or you'd like to have your say about your experiences please take a minute to fill in our survey. If you want to help out ACORN members taking a stand against exploitation like this, please join, or find us on facebook and twitter.