'This is an injustice, whether lawful or not'
A RETIRED policeman is calling for raised awareness of letting agency fees after a demand for a fee to renew his tenancy.
Terry Walter moved into a "beautiful" cottage in North Road, Pentewan, in August 2011 but was shocked to receive a letter from his estate agents last month asking for a £125 fee for a new tenancy contract to stay in his property.
The 73-year-old said the letter from Miller Countrywide also stated that his rent would increase by £25 per calendar month.
The letter stated: "If you do not wish to extend your tenancy, we would kindly ask that you complete the enclosed form as soon as possible to allow time to make the required arrangements to terminate your tenancy, remarket the property and return deposits where applicable."
Mr Walter said: "My worry is that they are suggesting the only alternative for the tenant is to either comply with that or move out."
He added: "If someone were of a less robust nature than I they may feel obliged to pay the money. This is an injustice, whether it's lawful or not.
"This is what rekindles my feelings as a policeman. I can imagine some poor old lady sitting in her home, her only refuge from the rest of the world, and here are these people giving her the impression she could be moved out just like that unless she pays them a fee."
The owner of Mr Walter's property - Nick Ratcliffe, who lives in Hampshire and rents out seven properties – told the Cornish Guardian: "[Miller] never even asked me if I wanted to increase the rent."
He added: "I'm really happy with Terry living there."
Peter Gough, letting law consultant and owner of Mid-Cornwall Lettings and Estate Agents in St Blazey Gate, said although it was common practice for corporate letting agents to charge a contract renewal fee, there could be a way around it.
He said the agent usually charges about £250 to create a new agreement – half from the landlord and half from the tenant.
To try to bypass this charge, the tenant can ask the agent to ask the landlord for a Periodic Statutory Tenancy (PST) before their contract expires, he added.
Miller Countrywide said: "We always strive to provide quality customer service and were very disappointed to hear of Mr Walter's reaction to the letter.
"Since this issue was brought to our attention, we have tried to contact the tenant directly to resolve the issue but to no avail.
"However, we would like to stress that we comply with all ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) requirements and the industry standard is to ascertain the wishes of both the tenant and landlord when a tenancy is due to expire."