Remember when Beau Bridges says “My word is stronger than oak,” in Jerry Maguire and it turns out to be a horrendous lie? I kind of know how Jerry felt now after being subjected to quite possibly some of the worst customer service at the hands of letting agents in this city.
My lease is about to end, so I’m in the market for something bigger. I’m in need of a spare room so I can bounce a tennis ball Steve McQueen style against the wall whilst I think how best to structure rants like this. So, naturally you’d assume if you want something bigger and better and are prepared to pay an equally bigger price, that agencies in this new city centre of swanky apartments would be going all out to snap your hand off right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
The amount of chasing you have to do with these people is unreal. It’s like you are trying to put a hard sell on them. Take yesterday, as one all too typical example. We had time off work, so booked a few viewings (a chore in itself). We get a call an hour and a half before one viewing – a delightfully vague chap who says the builders still have the keys and he’s no timeframe as to when he’ll get them back.
Here’s where that ‘stronger than oak’ thing comes in. He said in no uncertain terms “No matter what, either way I will contact you regarding a viewing as soon as I get them back.” An hour and a half after said viewing was meant to take place – still no word.
So we phone again.
Curiously vague chap answers the phone and this time is delightfully unhelpful and ignorant. We politely point out the error of his ways, which he disregards with a gruff ‘okay’ as if he’s took offence. The offer of a reschedule isn’t forthcoming. Again it’s down to us to do the legwork and push him on it.
And, having dealt with most of the city’s biggest agencies, I can confirm this is no isolated example. They seem to adopt the mindset of ‘You want to live in the city, we’ve got the city properties, bow humbly down in our presence please’.
No doubt the increased demand for rented accommodation across the country has ushered them into self erected ivory towers from where they can call the shots and leave the rest of us floundering. If you aren’t prepared to be subject to short notice cancellations, re-arrangements or downright ignorance then forget about it. Forget, too, that you also have a job, and commitments to juggle.
Another trick employed by these agencies is the Jedi mind trick (last film reference in this I promise). You spot a problem in the apartment you’re viewing, they do their hardest to cloud your judgement and make out it’s no big deal.
Case in point: After hurrying to get to another viewing yesterday, the agent turned up late. Eventually we were joined by the site caretaker who had come to investigate ‘a minor problem’ (which, to our admittedly untrained eyes looked to be quite a major one, given a wall was hanging off next to the shower due to a leak).
Once inside, we noticed an ominous claret stain next to the toilet. This was promptly stood on by the agent once they’d noticed where our eyes were trained. On walking into the spare bedroom, we spotted another. This one was what you’d expect to find if you left a prisoner in a cell without a toilet, or a dog alone for any length of time during the day. Finally breaking at the sight of this we enquired if the carpets would be re-laid. We were told we could ask the landlord, but that he’d probably (like the computer) say no.
In other words, “Yes you can move in, but we just want your cash. Service is extra. You’ll have to fight to make it habitable yourselves – nowt to do with us.”
So that’d include a new sink to replace the stained old chipped one, asking for a repaint on all the filthy and flaking walls, and shifting out the remnants of the previous tenant then? And this is your attempt at getting me to move? Don’t give up the evening job. Most agencies take the first month’s rent from the owner, for their hard work, and then an ongoing percentage if they’re managing the lease. Makes you wonder what they spend that on. It’s not customer service training, that’s for sure.
I’m not expecting Annette Bening’s eager-to-please realty agent from American Beauty (okay that is the last film reference – my word is as flimsy as theirs it would seem) but if large portions of my monthly salary is passing through their hands each month, I expect a service and assurances regarding the roof they’ve painfully and lovingly put over my head.
Is the city’s rental market so over-subscribed that those of us who want to move into the centre have to endure such a soul destroying ‘take it or leave it’ attitude from our letting agencies? All we want to do is move in, contribute to our urban economy, and occupy all those ‘prestigious’ apartments that remain unsold – like, for example, all but 17 of the 123 apartments Beetham’s West Tower in Old Hall Street. You know, the one that’s now in the hands of the administrators…Still, maybe they’ll work a little harder to get it off their books than our city’s letting agencies.
A SevenStreets contributor