Property firm fined for charging tenant too much to leave

Portico Property Limited has been fined for requiring a tenant to pay £195 to leave the joint tenancy on a flat.

The government says such charges shouldn’t exceed £50. If agents like Portico want to charge more they need to property evidence the costs involved.

The tenant challenged the £195 fee in June 2021, and escalated the issue to the Property Ombudsman Scheme.

After that Portico reduced the fee to £50 as a “gesture of goodwill”.

Councillor Darren Merrill, Southwark council’s cabinet member for a safer, cleaner borough, said: “It is disappointing that we had to take action in this case, as the guidance to agents is quite clear. Thankfully, this tenant knew their rights and refused to pay the banned £195 fee. However, it should never have been presented in the first instance.

“We are committed to improving standards in Southwark’s private rented sector. I am pleased that thanks to the work of our trading standards team, this company has been punished for breaching a law that is intended to protect tenants.”

Portico has 15 branches across London, in Acton, Battersea, Bethnal Green, Bloomsbury, Camden, Chigwell, Clapham, Dulwich, Forest Gate and Fulham.

The agent has been acquired by Leaders Romans Group since it made the ill-advised charge, in October 2021.


Comments 2

  1. I foresee this case backfiring on tenants. If £50 is now to seen as the standard, no matter what work is involved, or what sort of property is involved then landlords and agents will not let tenants vary a tenancy or leave early. Even if a higher fee is justifiable the risk for the agent or landlord is that the tenant “agrees” to pay the fee, accepts the variation or early cancellation and then turns round and demands the fee (or the excess over £50) be returned. If it is not they make an official complaint.

    The landlord or agent is then on a hiding to nothing. Spend hours of non-chargeable time to justify the fee. If you win you will not be compensated for the additional time. If you lose you are doubly out of pocket and moreover guilty of taking a prohibited payment so you are then liable for a fine (and directors of a corporate landlord are separately liable) of up to £5000 for a first offence and £30,000 for a subsequent one.

    Even worse, wily tenants may point out to the landlord/agent the above and “suggest” that the entire fee be returned, perhaps with a sweetener on top.

    Be warned, unless you are prepared to assist the tenant for £50 or less you should expect a world of pain if you try to be fairly compensated for your work.

  2. Simply do not do anything you do not have to. If a tenant locks themselves out or looses a key let them contact the locksmith and replace the locks and ensure they comply with the tenancy agreement and provide the landlord with copies of the keys. That will cost them substantially more than £50.00. I guess £50 set by the government would possible buy a bottle of wine for one of their illegal parties during covid? Better than spending hours for virtually no return.

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