Landlords protest over 'stealth' charges imposed by agency chain
Friday 11th May 2012
A large lettings chain has strongly denied trying to impose ‘stealth’ charges on its landlords after having had to make refunds to some, and has also denied dragging its heels over passing on rental payments to landlords.
Sequence Lettings, which is part of Connells, has also refuted claims that it failed to communicate with its landlords over changes to its systems.
But one London landlord said that after Sequence imposed ‘stealth’ changes, it had to back down after angry protests from himself and others.
The landlord, who was at pains to express satisfaction with his local lettings service from Sequence, criticised Sequence Lettings’ head office.
He said: “During April, landlords with property managed by the company received a simple statement of income and expenditure for each property covering the previous tax year. Initially we welcomed it as an unexpected but useful addition to the service provided, but there proved to be a sting in the tail.
“Landlords found that £66 (£55 plus VAT) per property had been deducted from their next rental statement. As there had been no consultation on the provision of the statement, still less on the charge for it, there was a considerable outburst of anger from many clients.
“Clients who challenge the deduction will receive a refund – but will not be sent a statement in future years!
“The attempt to extract these extra charges follows hard on the heels of a switch from printed to emailed monthly rental statements only two months ago, again without consultation or notification.”
The landlord claimed that the company has also been challenged to justify the time taken to pass on rental receipts to landlords, following the introduction of ‘Faster Payments’ in the banking system.
He said: “Concern has been expressed that rental payments may spend less time in the banking system but more time in the Sequence bank account.”
A spokesperson for Sequence Lettings said: “Sequence Lettings would like to apologise for any miscommunication or misunderstanding regarding our services to landlords.
“We constantly strive to provide a high standard of service to our customers and take any dissatisfaction very seriously. The income and expenditure statement, and charges relating to this service, have been outlined in our Terms of Business for over a year.
“The report is designed to assist our clients with the completion of their tax return, but we acknowledge that some landlords may not wish to receive it. In those instances we have refunded the charges and we will not issue a report at the end of the next tax year.
“The switch to electronic rather than paper monthly rental statements was preceded by a communication to all customers and we have been happy to reinstate paper statements when requested.
“With regard to our payments processing, Sequence reviews its client account on a daily basis for cleared funds and makes daily payment runs to landlords via BACS. This is a frequently used method of payment across the industry and in no way do we profiteer from this.”
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