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Controversial Pay Per Viewing service open to some landlords

A controversial PropTech service that proposes agents charge prospective tenants £30 or more simply to view a property on the market, says it may in some circumstances be open to dealing directly with professional landlords.

ViewRabbit, which launched at the weekend, has been founded by ex-Savills and ex-Romans agent Michael Riley. This platform charges would-be buyers or sellers £30 - potentially more - if they want a guaranteed viewing that will not be cancelled. 

ViewRabbit takes a cut before passing the remaining income to the agency.  There are no set-up charges and viewers who complete the rental get their booking fee refunded - all other viewers do not get a refund. 

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After an agent signs up - upon invitation from ViewRabbit - the first 30 days’ income goes to charity; thereafter the revenue goes to the platform and the agent.

Michael Riley has told Landlord Today: "We welcome approaches from professional / portfolio landlords, the Build to Rent and Student accommodation sectors. 

“In essence, we want companies who respect their consumer, who take the service they offer to tenants seriously and see feedback as a mechanism for improving their offering.”

ViewRabbit, the launch of which was covered in The Times and Estate Agent Today over the weekend, has had a mixed-to-critical response from agents. 

Although some welcome the attempt to monetise the time spent by agents on showing prospective tenants a property, many have expressed fears that such a charge may contravene the Tenant Fees Act, and may be seen as profiteering by letting agents - for example, they may show 10 or 20 tenants a property, charging £30 a time, yet inevitably only one goes on to sign a contract and have their £30 reimbursed. 

 

 

As it stands, ViewRabbit majors in dealing with agents; while it is interested in speaking with professional landlords and companies, it appears uninterested in dealing directly with small scale buy to let landlords who make up the bulk of the lettings sector.

With regard to ViewRabbit’s fees charged by letting agents to view a landlord’s property to let, Riley tells Landlord Today: “It is up to the agent to discuss with the landlord directly.”

You can see the new website here.

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  • Franklin I

    Oh well, so much for the Tenant's Fee Act 2019.

    Viewing 5 properties, would cost the average tenant £150.

    The Tenant Fees Act bans most letting fees and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England.

    Estate agent's charge these fees to Tenant's and the LL's pay the penalty for the agent's greed at a later date!



  • John  Adams

    As a buyer I'll knock them off my offers, but will insist on seeing proof of any other offers as set out in law. But where ever possible I simply won't deal with such Agents. If you do view such a property, take a good hour or two, drive the agents nuts. And if the property is not exactly as described demand money back if need be small claims for False Description, they won't want to keep having claims to deal with. Stupid money grabbers.

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    I'd rather show the tenants round myself than have the agent charge them for doing this. I have yet to convince myself that agents offer anything that justifies their fees.

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    I think it depends on the agent you use, there was a time when I self managed all mine, that's down to 3 now, I've used the same local, independent agent now for 20 yrs it works well for me, they get me good tenants, I still meet all my tenants, they have my contact details and are free to contact me directly at any time.

     
  • icon

    I say there should be a charge that is refunded once they have viewed. That way messers will be charged genuine wont be.
    The ‘Proptech’ won’t be interested in offering that facility

  • Matthew Payne

    Great idea other than its illegal, aside from other issues it would face.

    Page 19 of the HMG Tenant Fees Act Guidance docs for Landlords and Agents starts:

    "PROHIBITED PAYMENTS
    What payments are not permitted under the ban?
    VIEWING FEES
    Q. Can I ask a tenant to pay a fee to view a property?
    No. You cannot charge for this as viewing a property is part of the process
    connected with granting a tenancy. "

    It doesn't make any distinction between a tenant that takes the property and the ones that don't so I cannot see their refund tactic is the simple answer to circumnavigating the legislation designed to put cash back into tenants pockets and this certainly doesn't do that. I am sure it won't be long before it is tested.

    Franklin I

    💯 Matthew Payne

     
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    While I agree with you re the legal aspect, if you refunded the tenant who eventually rented the property, you would not be charging a tenant a fee. The others who paid to view are not tenants so you have not broken the rules.
    Is this logic sound?

     
  • Matthew Payne

    We will find out Leon, that's what I meant about it will be tested. What I do know though is lawmakers like people to engage with the spirit of the purpose of the legislation and exploited loopholes are usually closed very quickly. The TFA was about making it more affordable for people to rent, I can't see a technicality like that being allowed to be used, and I am not sure it works either. Most viewers will be existing tenants of other properties, so technically 80% ish of viewers will fall under the definition anyway. Either way I cannot see viewing charges for tenants lasting more than 5 minutes even if they get away with it for a few weeks whilst it is being brought to the attention of Mr Jenricks department.

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    " if you refunded the tenant who eventually rented the property, you would not be charging a tenant a fee".

    This (from Leon) is clearly wrong. A fee is still a fee, whether you premise it on the 'promise' of a refund or not.

     
  • icon

    I fail to see how loading LL’s with Statutory requirements and rules plus prevent him from passing on the costs makes renting more affordable, it has to have a knock affect on the rent or forced out of business, although the latter, if that is the intention its working very well, so they can go and view the high rise Flats from big Institutions that charge significantly higher rent than us.

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    The kind of people that will live in boxes in the sky are not my kind of tenants

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