Does anyone ever read over the Terms & Conditions? I’d say 95% of the time there’s no issue and no point – it’s simply the case that they have to mention a few legal details, but really it’s nothing to worry about.
But there’s that 5% of the time when you just start thinking and worrying that something is a little fishy in the fine print.
Consider the following two Terms/Conditions:
- ‘If, during this period, you withdraw from the proposed agreement, or your references are unsatisfactory, you will forfeit the reservation fee, which will be passed to the Landlord.’
- ‘I accept that no explanation can be given by [reference check company] should I not be approved.’
OK, I’m fine with the idea that if I break the proposed agreement – maybe I get cold feet, or find another place – then I should compensate the landlord for potential income lost by not marketing the property further.
But, if the landlord breaks the proposed agreement – maybe he decides he would rather sell, or if he thinks we are not perfect tenants – then I think I should receive my reservation fee back, at the very least.
It’s just not fair
However, the fine print gives the landlord the right, and opportunity, to break the contract and keep the reservation fee. And that smacks of every child’s favourite complaint: it’s not fair.
What’s more, it doesn’t require the reference checker to provide a reason for the disapproval, and therefore the prospective tenant has no chance to rebut the findings.
If the landlord decides, based on the evidence of the reference checker (that he has chosen), that the prospective tenant is undesirable, then it sounds to me like the landlord is breaking the proposed agreement, not the prospective tenant. And therefore the reservation fee should be returned in full.
As an added insult, the landlord makes the prospective tenant pay for the reference check.
It gets worse if you’re a cynical bastard like me and you start to wonder about how an asshole could manipulate this situation.
Consider for a minute that you’re an asshole
You tell John Tenant to pay £60 for a reference check, and another £400 as a reservation fee. You also put the points above in the fine print.
Then you tell John Tenant that his references were unsatisfactory, and you’re keeping the reservation fee. You do not have to explain any findings. For added good measure, you chastise John Tenant for wasting your valuable time.
You don’t even need to do a reference check. You just say you’re doing one, and you can pocket the £60 as well.
At least, that’s what I’d consider doing if I was an asshole.
Now, I like to think there are enough good people out there, and not enough assholes, that this isn’t allowed to happen very often. But that doesn’t make me feel any better about the wording. It’s a massive hole, it’s wrong, it opens the system up to abuse, and it should be changed.