It has been discovered that the agency at the focus of a scandal on alleged charges for viewing property has been at the centre of even more controversy recently. The London-based single office agency, Flintons, hit the headlines this week when it was accused by the BBC of effectively charging hundreds of pounds to prospective tenants to view properties. Flintons denied the accusations. They describe themselves as an international and London residential property specialist, offering a range of related services, which help people to manage, rent, let, sell and buy investments and homes.
However, it has now been revealed that in September this year, the agency was the target of a protest against its use of fees. Using social media platform, Twitter, anonymous posters circulated a call to action for people to protest outside Flintons’ office the same month. Meanwhile, there has been further condemnation of the agency by industry experts for allegedly charging hundreds of pounds just for viewing one property. Jeremy Leaf, former RICS residential chairman, claimed that the revelation highlighted by the BBC demonstrates the need to further tighten rules, as soon as possible. Victoria Whitlock, a columnist for the Evening Standard and buy to let landlord, labelled the matter as simply indefensible.
Mike Day, consultant and industry trainer, who also runs property firm, Integra Property Services, called the scandal a potential new low for the rental industry. The Victoria Derbyshire programme on the BBC, which aired the revelations, claimed that in the investigation, Israel Kujore and a friend, Harry, responded to one of the adverts posted by Flintons.
Mr Kujore explained that they had gone to visit an agent who informed them that they must pay a deposit in order to view a room, but that this money would be refunded. They had to pay a fee of £300 each to view the property, but he soon realised that something was wrong, a report from the BBC explained. In their report, they also quoted a speech from Melanie Onn, the housing spokeswoman for Labour, urging the Government to give increased protection to renters.
Ms Onn has emphasised that landlords as well as letting agents must be properly regulated. She claims that of the approximate 8,000 letting agents across the country, only around half voluntarily committed to a code, which ensures that they operate at the highest professional standards.
However, Flintons continue to deny the allegations made against them. They claim that they only request holding deposits when a prospective client wishes to reserve a property exclusively, which means the property is not offered to anyone else and is taken off the market. They were also aware of three instances where potential clients raised complaints. Flintons believe that they responded suitably to the complaints, and demonstrated that the recollection of events which lead to the complaints were not completely accurate, with a clear understanding that any deposit which was taken by the company was non-refundable.
They believe that the BBC understands that each party signed a holding deposit form which clearly stated that the deposits taken were non-refundable. This is apparently stated at the beginning of the document.
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