Shameful Email Conversation Between Letting Agency and Landlord is Accidentally Forwarded to Tenant
Anyone with their fair share of living experience in an old London flat will soon have to go through the intricate process of replacing a boiler. What I didn’t realise is that this is also a great opportunity to learn more about the dodgy and murky world of London letting agencies and landlords.
A few months ago I scheduled an annual safety check with British Gas. After careful inspection of my boiler they handed me a report which basically said ‘FAILED’ on every page- continued operation of the boiler was a fire risk. I contacted the agency which is supposed to take care of maintenance in my flat and told them that the boiler would need to be replaced immediately. Of course they found every excuse to stall. Their logic was that as long as I had hot water for a quick shower it should be fine.
After many scanned legal documents, photographs of old dusty pipes, and emails of previous boiler disasters (short of telling them the boiler was about to blow up) I got the agency and landlord to accept the necessary costs for replacing and arranging the installation. Victory! I could tell that the agency and landlord weren’t used to being pushed around to get things done. And I guess they didn’t expect a tenant that could quote the statutory obligations of landlords (the important bits).
Victory day arrived and the agency emailed to let me know what time to expect the engineers. They also said that the landlord’s brother would come around to check on the work. I emailed back and asked for a number where I could contact the landlord directly (who I’ve never met and mysteriously changes his number a few times a year). There was still many outstanding issues that needed to be fixed and what better day to do this than when you have their full attention! A few minutes later I received this forwarded response (changed names except my own):
Agency: Sam, I’ve told Miguel that you’re coming to the flat today for the boiler. Best say you’re the landlord’s brother that way he won’t get into banter regarding any flat issues.
Sam: I can just tell him I barely talk to you and that Jen deals with all of these issues directly. The lease is under Jen so I can explain that she is responsible for the property and I’m just in town to help temporarily. I don’t think I have the latest key to the flat, haven’t been there in ages!
Agency: I suggest you keep it simple and stick to my script and the job only. This is what I do for a living. He’s a fussy tenant with posh complaints. Makes things easier for us.
Sam: I imagine this is about re-decoration and carpentry work? Shouldn’t be very much.
Agency: Some woodwork just needs to be re-painted. Tell Miguel I told you about this issue and nothing else. He’s wanted a lot of things fixed and replaced, do not agree, I’ve said no to his requests, saved you thousands of pounds just last year.
Sam: Ok, thanks. I’d like to keep it that way.
Agency: Brilliant. Good idea to take your camera too, take photos to say you’re reporting recent damages to landlord so he’ll feel responsible for fixing. Kitchen cupboards especially, less work for you to do.
Is it posh to want a working boiler, windows without cracks, and woodwork that isn’t rotting away? I was reading this in disbelief and then laughed a bit. For more than a year I had been struggling with a mediocre letting agency and mysterious landlord who never returned my messages. Now they had both given me another reason to feel, well victorious! In a few minutes the fake brother was going to arrive to the flat with camera in hand. The stage was set for him and I was ready to play my part.
Doorbell rings. I open the door. Introductions and small talk. Sam’s fake brother is playing his part flawlessly. He decides to go by Will, a 70 something semi-retired world traveller from Kent who apparently is much luckier than his brother Sam. He’s just returned from a trip to South America and was only in London for a short time to help his ‘not very practical’ brother. Is this who Sam really wants to be? I was amused by the effort he was putting into this! I couldn’t decide whether to stop watching or letting him live as someone else for the day. I decided to let him embarrass himself for a bit longer.
Will walks into my flat and starts inspecting the boiler installation. He makes a few remarks to the engineers and then moves towards the kitchen. I follow closely and observe as he walks around taking pictures. Here’s some of our conversation:
Me: Will, has your brother told you I’ve been trying to reach him several times this year to discuss a few issues about the flat?
Will: Sorry, I wouldn’t know anything about that. I was told that everything except the boiler was in good condition?
Me: Interesting. So the agency that your brother pays for hasn’t brought anything other than the boiler to anyone’s attention in the past 2 years?
Will: Not sure these kitchen cabinets were like this before you moved in? (Snaps a photo)
Me: Oh, so you’ve been to the flat before?
Will: (Hesitates) Well…uh..long time ago but I was told that…
Me: What about this cracked window, the cabinet under the sink, old furniture that needs replacing, and the rotting woodwork. None of that rings a bell?
Will: I’m afraid these things require the tenant to keep in working condition. My brother can’t be held responsible for neglect. (Snaps more photos)
Me: No, but you can.
Me: You can be held responsible.
Will: (fake chuckle) Oh no, no, I’m just here to see how things are going and give an update.
He continued to walk around the flat. I decided to wait until the very end to unmask this poor old fellow. As he finally walked towards the door to leave I dropped the bomb on him…
Me: Brilliant performance, Sam! Way to stick to the script. Never knew letting agencies were offering this kind of service to their landlords.
Sam stood dumbfounded. He didn’t look like the lucky semi-retired globe- trekker that I had first met, just another dodgy landlord. I shut the door.
There was only one thing left to do. I went back to my desk and typed up a short response to the letting agency to let them know I had received their forwarded conversation. “Got you! ☺”