In the last few weeks I have spoken to around 40 London estate agents, looking for a flat in the lowest rent bands of any area or one band above, the second lowest. I have asked to see flats which had no smell, no damp-like or damp smell, and only one flat I was shown did not. In many cases agents at least were honest enough to not show me flats which had damp and not show me flats at all as a result, whilst others showed me all they had and it had damp. The kind of things they have said to me when I have insisted on not seeing a flat unless they have seen it themselves and can verify that it really has no smell and is a perfectly healthy flat, include the statement "I have 6 other people seeing it tomorrow, all desperate to live near Shepherd's bush, and it'll go quickly". The Guardian has begun reporting on the illnesses, such as diabetes and digestive problems and gum problems which are obviously associated with this kind of housing if you live in these sorts of flats for decades. Today in most parts of London not a single agent I speak to will do anything but lie to me, dodge questions, palm off whatever they can on me or, if they realise they can't get away with it, simply offer me nothing.
Thrust of argument: <<
A YouGov and Shelter poll, found that 39 per cent of London's private renters have experienced damp or mould in their homes in 2016, while 26 per cent experienced poor insulation or excess cold.
That's from a government report, that's the word of British government. Check the link in the references below.
Direction of resistance / implied resistance: I am trying to find flats in Corbyn's area instead.
Removal of resistance: It is my belief that considerably less problems and considerably more honesty will be found there.
Unification: It is not a naive theory, it's clearly a very likely case, and so I shall give it a go. I'm not saying that in those north London spots there won't be bad housing, just that the agents will probably be more responsible and most of them will not be overpricing stuff which is habitable and rolling out crap to the bulk of low income tenants.
Either way, it's disgusting what goes on in places like Kingston upon Thames, Wimbledon, Putney, Clapham, Battersea, Lambeth and so many other places I have been to where the properties shown to me are not fit for human habitation, where estate agents don't think twice about making me spend money and hours of time going to see things which are substandard, where the honest agents explain to me that the general rule among those annoying me is to play a "numbers game", to throw enough mud against the wall so that some of it sticks, to send half a dozen or a dozen people to a flat half an hour from Shepherd's Bush or Ealing a day even if that flat has problems like extreme noise, damp, pigeon shit outside (and associated smells), etc - because in those dozen, at least one is desperate enough to take it. The time of the others which is wasted matters not to these agents or their callous immoral masters.
Let's jump to some notes I have already made, relating to the dodgy and underhand and fucked up people calling themselves estate agents I have dealt with so far this year:
"you should see that flat tomorrow, rather than waiting for me to confirm that it has no damp smell first, because i have 6 other people seeing it and they are all desperate to live near shepherd's bush" - she had never been in the flat and could not confirm that it doesn't have any smell (which every single other flat i've seen but one has had). her manager, who has been, could only say this on the matter: "none of the previous tenants has complained" (of course ALL of those previous tenants decided to move out, none of them is still living there).
"i have another flat, in putney, of the same price and size but it DOES have damp; however the landlord will get people to fix that problem, while you're living there"
(my associate: "who would live in a flat like that?"
agent: "lots of people. we'll give them a low rent and make it worth their while")
the same person as the first example:
friday: "i'll have pictures for the flat on monday"
monday: "these pictures are great. are they recent?"
"um. no. let me check. um. about 2 years old"
And for now let's close with this horror - there was a flat in Richmond, absolutely beautiful in the picture of the interior, perfect. Bright, perfectly clean looking. And I made it clear that I thought that was excellent and that's why I wanted it. When I got there - dark and grotty - the pictures were not representative at all - they must have been even more than 2 years old, those ones must have been maybe 5 years old.
Estate agents should not be allowed by law to show photos of flats which are more than 90 days old.
What's more stunning is that in all cases I went out of my way to emphasise to agents that the single most important aspect was this 'high spec' nature of interior I required, but they often knowingly sent me to places falling far beneath that standard, allowing me to believe that they WERE that standard - for two reasons. One, it is still possible that I may have agreed to take it, so they were trying to force me to take what I don't really want. And two - the more people are seeing it the more they can say to everyone else "I have six other people who want to see this (crappy health-destroying life-span-shortening disgusting) flat and one of them will easily take it soon, so I suggest you basically hurry up and give me your money before someone takes away this "opportunity" from you and I can get paid my blood money in exchange for harming you and others, for I am a sick fuckhead."
What irritates me most, like one youngish female estate agent in Barnes, is when the mention of damp by me is treated as a 'tin foil hat' statement, and they even speak back of 'damp' in a voice which denotes that they are mocking me and that flats do not have damp.
To that agent I say - read the government doc. 39% of London's housing is known to have had damp and mould problems. No doubt it extends beyond what is surveyed and known. And that's just the private housing. Across all London housing the figure must be more than half, clearly, perhaps a lot more than half. So when you pretend you are helping people find housing, shelter, a home - you are not. You are harming them, you are nasty little fuckheads and you deserve no mercy from TVhobo. Sooner or later I will name every agency guilty of these crimes. BUCK UP YOU NASTY LITTLE SHITS.
Just now, agent in Clapham:
Paraphrase of agent: "There is a difference between mould and damp. Is it okay if it's mould but not damp? Mould is often caused by tenants, not by the flat."
precise words to follow: "If I show you flats where there is mould caused by the tenants, lack of ventilation, not the property's fault, where there is no damp, only mould, will that be okay?"
"Well I can tell you right now that I don't have anything for you."
I then asked to speak to her manager, she refused to give me the manager's name and hung up. I told her I was publishing this and told her to get her manager to read it. She claimed that I was breaking the law by writing it. I told her that since I have not named her she is quite wrong, there is no question that the legality of my words here are sound. The fact that agents try to brow beat you like that is also quite dark.
All three quotes shown above are from agents who on their site claim to work with or be policed by "TPOS". See link below. I will approach TPOS and ask them why so many agents they allegedly police behave in the above manner. The competency of TPOS is clearly not at a level society should be satisfied with.
I have now used TPOS's contact form to direct them to this page you are now reading, reader. This is their automated reply:
Thank you for contacting The Property Ombudsman (TPO). This message is an acknowledgement of receipt to your email. Once we have had the opportunity to look through your paperwork we will write to you again to advise of the next steps.
Please note that by submitting this e-mail you have consented to TPO exchanging information with other relevant parties about your complaint, if required in order to deal with your complaint effectively.
The Property Ombudsman provides a free, fair and independent service for dealing with unresolved disputes made against Registered Firms. The Ombudsman is impartial and is not a regulator of the estate agency industry or a consumer guardian.
Thank you for your patience.
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk
The information in this email is confidential and is intended solely for the addressee. Access, copying or re-use of information in it by anyone else is unauthorised. Any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of TPO Limited. If you are not the intended recipient please contact [..etc..]
The Property Ombudsman Limited, Registered in England No: 3339975
Registered Office – Milford House, 43 - 55 Milford Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2BP
I will inform you, reader, of any reply they give, or if they do not reply within a reasonable period.
We must ask this - in the event of a major property market crash, to what extent is the apparent failure of organisations like TPOS responsible, and what should future governments do to reform the industry and those who claim to provide quality control and accountability to the industry? If I continue gathering data like this, of agents who dodge questions about damp, who mistreat prospective tenants who insist on not having their time and money wasted or on not being put into flats which may harm their health, which smell less than acceptable, how many of those agents I will be able to easily quote here also claim to be policed by TPOS and other such organisations?
Update: see version history for time delay. As yet still not a single word of reply from TPOS since their autoreply. Apparently they don't realise that not replying to TVhobo when it makes a completely open public request from them could be seen as entirely undemocratic and negligent. They are supposed to be accountable to you and I, the public, and our governments.
New update (see version history for datestamp) - I have phoned them. The lady at the other end told me that they do have a 5 day response time, so they may have more time to respond to me. Nonetheless she took my name and I gave her my email address so that they can identify my communication to them from their contact form and get back to me. I have told them I will publish any/all responses from them to me at my discretion, for your benefit, readers.
Update: now there has been a response. And I have responded to it. Both, below:
On 07 February 2020 at 16:26 ***** wrote:
Dear Mr Pirani
Thank you for your enquiry received on 4 February 2020.
I note that you have raised concerns regarding agents who are registered with The Property Ombudsman (TPO) and how they are communicating with you and the condition of the properties they are offering you on your website.
Firstly, it may be useful to explain that TPO is an independent redress scheme, we provide consumers with free fair and impartial redress for service complaints. We do not act a regulator and our role is not to police the property industry. This is not within the Ombudsman Terms of Reference, I have attached a copy for your information.
Currently there is not a regulator in the property industry but you can refer general complaints about agent(s) to the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team, via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. They may be able to conduct an investigation into one or more agents regarding their business practice and could take punitive action.
If there is a service complaint you would like TPO to consider about a specific agent you will need to exhaust that agents internal complaints process first. You can then forward copies of your complaints correspondence to us and we may then be able to review you complaint or provide you with further guidance. I have attached a copy of our Consumer Guide which gives guidance on what to expect from the agents complaints process and how we review complaints
If we review your complaint and it is supported then TPO can instruct agents to pay you compensation for aggravation distress, inconvenience or proven financial loss.
If you require further guidance on how to raise a complaint against a specific agent please do no hesitate to contact us again.
Initial Enquires Team Leader
The information in this email is confidential and is intended solely for the addressee. Access, copying or re-use of information in it by anyone else is unauthorised. Views or opinions expressed in this email do not necessarily represent those of The Property Ombudsman Limited.
If you are not the intended recipient please contact *******
The Property Ombudsman Limited, Registered in England No: 3339975 Registered Office – Milford House, 43 - 55 Milford Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1 2BP
Thank you for your reply. Unless you express an objection to my doing so I will publish your reply on the same web page as where I have "raised my concerns". To clarify I am not interested in spending time and money "exhausting" the "complaints processes" of all of these and any other agents I find behaving in the manner described. Why I have written to you is to inform you that clearly there is some indication that perhaps your organisation is failing in its work, if we judge by the number of cases already found of behaviour such as that described, by institutions you apparently would redress problems within, under certain circumstances. I note your statement that you are not here to police the property industry and your statement that you do not act as a regulator. I have no further need to contact you as I do not intend to follow up any such complaint although I will record as many instances of such organisations as I find, and will continue to wonder why it is that there are such instances. I presume there is nothing more for you to say, therefore, and will refer the matter to those who are here to redress any failures on the part of organisations like yours to work in such a way as to make agencies such as those cited think twice about behaving in the ways I have described. I will of course also publish this reply of mine along with your reply. In future I will refer this matter directly to members of parliament, regarding the agencies in their constituencies, where and when such agents give me reason to do so. I am saying, if it is REALLY unclear to you and you're not as intellectually dishonest as you appear, that I don't think you're doing your job properly, that if you were there wouldn't be so much of what I have found, and therefore I am not asking you to do it on my behalf as you appear incompetent and potentially corrupt. I am saying that I think members of parliament need to look at why these failures are there and ask about your role in preventing or failing to prevent such failures. There is no need to reply to me as what I am saying indicates that I do not, at this stage, given your reply, consider that you are capable of addressing this concern. Members of parliament will need to. This reply, and yours, is being added to my site right now; in the event that you have any objection to this let me know or I will assume that that is the end of the matter. I will remove your name and contact details from the extract.