Estate agent hit with £42m legal bill for charging £616 for light fitting
The law firm, Leigh Day, is making an example of Foxtons estate agents on behalf of landlords, after they (allegedly) charged a landlord £616 to change a light fitting. If that is true, then chances are, they've been overcharging others, which means there's a lot of compensation to be awarded, which could end up totalling £42million.
The law firm claim that Foxtons have been "charging landlords hidden commissions of as much as 33% of a contractor’s fee for work done on their properties such as repairs, maintenance, electrical safety checks, inventory checks, etc, without obtaining the fully informed consent of landlords."
They also claim that the "estate agent has engaged contractors who charge as much as 2-3 times the market rate in breach of their duty to try to get a good deal for landlords," and that they have charged tenants "various fees that Foxtons does not tell landlords about."
Dr Chris Townley, who is a law lecturer at King’s College London, signed up with Foxtons so he could let his property in 2011, and after being charged £616 for a single light fitting, decided to investigate. Foxtons confessed that they'd added an extra £137.50 onto the billing and, with other sly additions, added a 50% mark-up to the original work charges.
In a statement Foxtons said: "We are incredibly disappointed to hear when any customer is dissatisfied with the service they have received, however, as a legal dispute we are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this case. We are satisfied though that our fees are clearly laid out within our terms and conditions and that approvals are obtained from our landlords before works commence on their property."
What's so funny here, is that Foxtons have tried it on with Dr Chris Townley, who just so happened to have previously worked as a Principal Case Officer at the Office of Fair Trading.
What a massive, massive clanger.
Chris Haan, a solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: "We consider that Foxtons has a potential conflict of interest in that the more expensive the contractor is, the more Foxtons makes in hidden commissions. We believe these charges to landlords are unlawful as they are not sufficiently disclosed, so the landlords cannot give fully informed consent to them. This is against industry codes of practice."
"These kinds of practices may be widespread in the lettings industry and it needs to stop. We are taking this case on no win no fee with the aim of securing a refund from Foxtons for all affected landlords."
If you're a landlord who thinks they've been had by Foxtons, fill in Leigh Day's form, here. Or, if you prefer, you can ring them at 0800 689 3289.