In this guide to renting a property in London, I would like to tell you about some of the worst letting agencies I had to deal with in London: from leaving us homeless to not returning the deposit, here are some of the rental scams in London we experienced from Chase Evans and John’s & Co letting agencies in London.
The reason I’m publishing this rental scams in London post on my travel & lifestyle blog is that I also have an expat section, where I share my experience of moving to the UK, London and life in the UK in general. While it’s not directly connected to travelling, I’m sure this information would help all the potential expats as well as people already based in London and looking for a new property.
Let’s get started: rental scams in London from Chase Evans and St. John’s & Co
How to avoid getting scammed?
Let’s start with the basics. I assume most of you are here to find out what happened to us and how to avoid getting scammed in London in the future. After dealing with 5 agencies in London and renting from 3 of them, I’ve realized that there are “nice” agencies and some terrible ones. Is it possible to know in advance, which agencies are likely to scam you?
1. Check the letting agencies reviews in advance
This advice might sound like a totally obvious thing to do, but you can’t imagine how many people neglect to check the reviews if they think the agency is big, the agents look respectable and the website looks professional. All that doesn’t guarantee anything at all! Yes, they won’t steal your money and run away or disappear, but there are so many borderline illegal ways to keep your money with them.
Where to check
The simplest way is to google the name of the agency plus the word “reviews”. However, I usually check them on allagents.co.uk, Trustpilot and Google reviews. For example, Chase Evans has a whopping review rating of 1.3 or something like that.
2. Make sure that the property was taken off the market
Many people experienced the situation when they paid all the necessary fees to the agency including the fee to take the property off the market, but in the end, somebody else got the property. Ensure that when you pay the required fee, the agency really takes the property off the market.
3. Ensure that the landlord signs the contract
Now that’s the scam that happened to us with the agency called John’s & Co that mainly operated in Canary Wharf, but also has the offices all around London. We found a property 1.5 months before moving to London, liked it in the videos the agent sent us and agreed to take it off the market. 2 weeks before the moving in date, we signed the contract and even transferred the full amount of the rent for the first month plus the deposit (more than £4,500 in total). We were based in Edinburgh at that moment and were moving out of the city on the 3rd of June. The moving in date in London for this property was the 15th of July, so we decided to go on holiday to Egypt in the meantime (everything was arranged and even paid).
When we were on holiday, however, we received the notification that our contract was VOID and had to urgently call the agency. Apparently, they made us sign the contract and charged us money without making the landlord sign the contract. From what they told us, he wasn’t replying to their emails (I assume there was one email and he was left without even being followed up) and then surprisingly he informed them that he let his property to someone else. That left us homeless, with our money retained by the agency and in Egypt without a laptop or even a 3G connection.
The entire holiday was looking for properties, spending a lot of money on roaming and trying to desperately find where to live in London, which led us to another scamming agency in London – Chase Evans.
4. Make sure that your deposit is protected
According to the UK law, your deposit needs to be protected by one of the 3 deposit protection schemes. However, ask in advance, which scheme does the agency use. If it’s mydeposits – they won’t be of any help, so try to avoid working with this agency.
5. Not returning your deposit scam
Another classical London letting agencies scam is not returning or keeping a huge part of your deposit. According to the law, the agency or the landlord should return you your deposit in less than 10 days. In reality, however, you can get 30% of your deposit back in 11-12 weeks, for example, if you’re dealing with Chase Evans. They don’t reply to your emails. pretend the agents are OOO or at lunch any time of the day. We called them 15 times and sent around 10 emails – not even once the agent, who’s responsible for our property, was in the office or called us back. It’s been 3 weeks and we haven’t even been informed, how much money they are keeping from our deposit. We just got a detailed inventory report a couple of days ago and it was absolutely ridiculous – they want us to compensate for normal “wear and tear” such as minor scratches on the dining chairs, doors and so on, that naturally occur during living in a property.
Currently, the rating of Chase Evans is around 1.3 out of 5 and so many people complain about ridiculous charges, deposits not being returned and completely unprofessional service. If you check Chase Evans reviews, you’ll see, how terrible is the way the agency is handling its clients, so I would suggest you avoid it like the pest.
Bonus: End of tenancy cleaning scam
Finally, there is this end of tenancy cleaning scam I would like to tell you about. Many agencies require you to order the end of tenancy cleaning and suggest using their recommended service, which is very rarely available. If you use another service, even if you’re flat is in impeccable condition, you will still be charged about £300-400 (which will be kept from your deposit).
Hopefully, this post about rental scams in London was useful for you! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!