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Is it really worth joining a well-known estate agent and paying their membership fee? Or do these big estate agents catering to students have too many houses to control? Are private landlords better? And why do they treat us like children? One student shared with us a collection of short tales about some bad experiences with one of the biggest estate agencies in Exeter (said estate agency shall remain unnamed) which may well make you reconsider your plans for the next year!

“Last year, I lived in a house managed by a big estate agent, and we ended up moving house because of them. Not only was the “membership” fee ridiculous, but their services were appalling. In the first week that we were there, our electricity went out (due to a faulty kettle), our fire alarm kept buzzing every 20 seconds (which took a few days for them to come out and fix), our TV signal wasn’t working and worst of all, one of my housemates had mites in her room.

The worst thing was how long they took to deal with these issues. The TV signal wasn’t sorted until a month into living there (and although this wasn’t a priority, we had to consistently chase them about it). And when we told them about the mites, they didn’t believe us. It got so bad that we even rang pest control, but then the estate agency eventually got their act together, filled in the walls and cleaned out the room. When we arrived, it looked like no one had cleaned the house in months, which quite frankly is not acceptable.”

We may be students, but we are human beings too. My question is; where does that membership fee even go?

“Due to a sudden change of plans, I had only one month to organise my housing arrangements. Aware of the time constraints, I was prompt in finding a house and contacting the estate agency to sort out contracts. They made multiple mistakes in the proposed contract, including tenancy and rent payment dates, which I enquired about but was told those mistakes were indeed ‘correct’. After I’d signed my contract and moved in, I found out that they had apparently miscalculated my first month’s rent as £200 less than it ought to have been. They treated the miscalculation as just a case of ‘bad maths’ but really, it was a legal issue.

They were notoriously bad at replying to emails, which made it very difficult for someone like me, who was overseas, to contact them. One of my emails was only replied to 10 days after I’d sent it, regarding an issue with the contract which needed to be resolved quickly. When I did call them, the estate agents were often blunt, unhelpful and seemed uninformed about my move into the property, which was only 1-2 weeks away at the time.”

My experience with them has just been a whirlpool of issues, one after another, mainly caused by their inefficiency and sloppy work.

“I’ve never experienced such condescension and rudeness from a company in my life. These estate agents repeatedly treated me and my housemates as if we were children, purely because we are at university, and despite the fact that we pay extortionate prices for a frankly, run-down house.

Initially, we experienced many problems with the house, including with the electricity, and were left to wait for extensive periods of time with no update on the situation. When we contacted the landlord directly, we were told this was incorrect despite not being given any sense that we would have a solution. When ringing their office, we were passed from person to person, never dealing with the actual managing agent, who spoke to us with a sense of disdain unprofessional for her role.

In terms of safety, we were sent incorrect details of the property in the initial emails, and this was never rectified by the company. Whenever we expressed feelings of uncertainty about who had access to the property and general procedure, we were treated with condescension.

We were given useless housing terms in an attempt to dissuade us from contesting any decision made by the estate agent.”

“Every experience that the members of our household have had the delight of having with the agent has been shot through with disdain. Every complaint that we have logged – and emailed, and called about – has been conveniently lost in transit. We are as accustomed to their silence as they are to the sounds of our voices reeling off our names, addresses and what we are chasing up for the fourth time, without any real hope of a coherent answer.

Any concerns – which in anyone’s estimation are legitimate and dyed with a definite urgency – are buried under jargon and legal terminology that ‘absolve’ responsibility for the worries we still harbour without any other agency to turn to. It should be sufficient to communicate with us, the tenants, who live in the reality and with the problems that mysteriously fall under the amnesia of letting agents when we prod and poke for answers. I don’t know if it is a generational issue – students are still incapable, students are irresponsible – but whilst we are capable, and responsible enough, to pay for the house, apparently not capable enough to hold any importance in the eyes of our letting agents.”

We hope these accounts will give an insight into the nature of the estate agent-student relationship in Exeter. Be sure to ask around before making a decision on a house, and good luck with your future student housing endeavours!

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