“ Residential lettings agency. „
Saw this review and other ones. I think you are too polite. They should be prosecuted. They run some sort of cleaning scam. They wait till you leave and then say that that the place is dirty and charge you for one of their cleaners to go iun and clean for a load of money. You are not the first. Stick it to them if you can.
In my opinion Alex Clark Lettings are not fit to call themselves a Lettings agency. The staff are not trained properly. I knew more about the processes than the staff did and I have never worked in the lettings agency business. They don't acknowledge or reply to most emails. They don't return phone calls, even when they have said face to face that they will call you. They accuse you of dishonesty by saying your documents might be invalid (with nothing to back this up!). They do not follow even their own procedures set out on their website. You never see a director. They sit in their ivory towers raking in the cash, while low paid workers fumble around because they have had no training. Their one "senior staff" was more interested in hugging her colleagues goodbye than attending to my business. They are also rude to their clients. They will waste your time and money. Avoid at all costs. If you have to deal with them, keep records of everything and if they mess you around as they did me, make a complaint to the Property Ombudsman. It probably won't get you anywhere, but you get the pleasure of knowing that they will get investigated. Although, in my opinion, The Property Ombudsman has been set up by the agents to make it look like they are regulated. Appalling company. I would be ashamed to put my name to such a poorly run business.
In this review I will be posting evidence to my claims, I feel I need to do this because of Alex Clark's unprofessional attitude, greed and their deceitful nature.
I will post links to screen shots.
I will include some (not all...there are bloody tons) emails I have sent to them including my sent list.
and also some other information.
I do have voice recordings of phone calls and meetings but have yet to find a medium in which I can post them.
I will apologize for any grammatical or spelling errors, in advance as my anger an frustration is blinding me currently.
Alex Clark started of all nice and accommodating, they were patient and courteous in their sales talks and apartment viewings, their office looks nice, clean and professional, they only seem to hire women which struck me as strange but nothing bad, I kinda hoped they would spend less on their HQ and more on customer service....because then Problems started from the move in date.
On viewing the property we had told them one of the conditions of signing a tenancy is that a full inspection would be done and all problems would be solved, for example the rot in the bathroom.
When the inspection was done we quickly found out not even a quarter of the problems outlined were taken in to account. We decided to give Alex Clark a little leeway when they responded with "We have written down all the problems you've been having and will have them rectified Quickly".
Before I continue I will list the problems we had been having.
Door's (pre replacement): they weren't a large problem, in fact only 2 doors didn't function properly which in light is good considering Alex Clark's low standards.
The Stairway: Eternally a problem, from day one of our tenancy the stairs by the fire door leaked down to the front door(high street door). We were told that the fault was from broken roofing tiles on the top floor, if this was the case we would have experienced leakages from outside our front door in the main bedroom, the living room and hallway (we did experience leakages in the hallway from a blocked drain...this problem was never fixed). we brought this up multiple times and was not fixed until I suffered an injury which in fact ended my line of work permanently, this also ended my future career options and lead to an incredibly serious set of ligament tears which still effect me almost 3 years later.
It was not fixed until more than 10 complaints (and have their existence denied) had been made and an injury solicitor had been contacted. we thought we'd be nice and stop the action.....I wish I had now continued.
The Bathroom: Broken toilet seat and flush, during most of the entire tenancy we had to manually flush the toilet, the walls, tiling, window sill, and window frame all showed signs of rot and damp. and paint was peeling away.
The corridors : Holes in wall's gradually appeared and got worse from bad plastering work done pre-tenancy, the floor's were uneven with some connectors cracked and broken, 2 fire alarms were loose and eventually fell off!! (bad considering the oven constantly shorted out presenting a fire hazard), there was an occasional leakage by the utility cupboard from broken roof tiles and blocked drainpipes (the marks from the leakages were there pre-tenancy suggesting problems before we moved in)
The living room: The floor bowed and the flooring was loose, there were holes in the wall's, brackets for curtains, fireplace, shades and door were all broken or loose.
The Windows: The Windows were a massive problem, there was damp on almost all windows, most windows were falling apart, the windows were always unsafe, wobbly and breaking apart....dangerous considering we were on the 5th floor.
we were broken in to twice via one of the windows. This was brought to Alex Clark's attention both times and nothing was done apart from a repair of a window pane, they even at one point tried to charge us for the window repair after trying to blame us for breaking the window despite 2 police forensics reports and constant corroboration!!! BLOODY RIDICULOUS!!
Kitchen: Cabinet doors and drawers were all mostly broken, the oven would short out the entire house occasionally, the drainage for the sink often leaked, and the paint was patchy and peeling in some parts we were even told we could have white goods including a fridge and it was missing when we got there !
None of the problems in the kitchen were ever fixed.
all of these problems were brought up before during and now after our tenancy. we had to fix most of these problems ourself and then when they finally sent repairmen in (for mostly unnecessary repairs) THEY MADE EVEN MORE PROBLEMS !! which had to be fixed again by us, one of which was some one they hired for the painting, he asked strange questions all day asked us when we would be out and then on that night we were burgled ! ALEX CLARK OR THE COMPANY THEY USED HIRED A CRIMINAL TO PAINT OUR DOORS !!! IT RESULTED IN OUR HOUSE GETTING ROBBED !!!
...now problem 2: contacting Alex Clark
We have sent them many emails during our time, here is my sent list from the small amount of emails post tenancy without a response I decided to print screen this photo when my guarantor was contacted. he had been told there had been no reply from us as tenants.
As you can see there are 4 emails within 4 days to the correct email address (I know this as they have responded from that one before) Alex Clark had told my guarantor the last I had contacted them was march....these are from April... roughly 30 days before they contacted my guarantor!!!
My email list is full of examples like these with a total of over 42 emails sent to over 3 different email addresses with only 4 responses that I can find.
They finally responded o more recent emails with catty responses "I must object to you stating on numerous occasions that you do not receive replies to your emails." as you can see ....Blatent lies. not a world of an apology either !!! In defense they also said "All your emails and my replies are recorded on our computer system"
I do not like to be made to out to be a lier.
Not all of our emails could have disappeared, during and after our tenancy we have had an uncountable amount of missing emails, missing mail, missing voice messages ect.
During our tenancy there was a point in which we came in to the Alex Clark offices and upon being asked (in a less than polite manner) "who have you spoken to about this problem before" there was not one person in a room of at least 10 people who we hadn't previously spoken to.
When talking face to face with representatives of Alex Clark on 3 separate occasions we listed problems with the property, signed and dated each declaration and heard nothing after. when questioned they insisted meetings never happened.
Ok....so the date came when our 12 month contract was up FINALLY!!!!
letters started to arrive after insisting we pay them a ridiculous sum for dilatations to the property here is the letter they sent....please note a CD with pictures was never sent and they have still not contacted us with regards to the deposit.
we now have to pay the sum of £899 for repairs that were mostly the fault of their shoddy builders or faults that were present before our tenancy !!
We not just repainted to their standards but fixed most of the problems the last tenants and the "builders" caused.
what makes EVEN LESS SENSE is that we owe them £899 for repairs even after our deposit of over £900 has disappeared and no...I was not contacted by the deposit protection scheme.
THIS IS ILLEGAL !!!
LAST BUT NOT FUCKING LEAST, they have forced and forced stress upon us and our guarantor this has lead me to want to pay instead of follow through with court proceedings!! I am now paying through the nose just for a quiet life!!
I am however while paying currently building a court case with not just us as tenants but 2 other Alex Clark tenants and possibly another 2, this is for effect while I pay....keep them off my back so I can concentrate on the upcoming law battle. I'm sure with everything they've put us through we'll win and it will cost their business more than if they did things properly...
I also have information that Alex Clark is currently presenting franchising opportunity's, maybe they should be concentrating getting the simple shit before they try to branch out.
I feel sorry for any tenant and any landlord that has or will deal with Alex Clark.
We have also had problems in contacting Alex Clark with regards to the return of the deposit, the emails did in fact contain details of legal action.
....this is how much they care...
I worked in sales for years and know that there are many regulatory boards for almost every type of business, unfortunately there are little amounts of known organizations that deal with housing !!
I have found some and will be contacting them after my plans have come in to effect. I URGE YOU TO DO THE SAME !!
now....to outline simply
1.Problems with disrepair to the property
2.Problems rectifying disrepair
3.Problems contacting Alex Clark
4.Problems with deposit
5.Problems with rude staff
I have for over a year withheld payment as requested by Alex Clark...I believe it to be the wrong thing to do but when you get blinded by stress and hatred you do silly things. I was very hesitant to pay...I have now been forced in to paying the 1st sum of money :(
I apologize for the sporadic nature of my writing, my swearing in this publication and the confused, angry tone I am usually a calm and eloquent individual.
I also apologize for any appalling spelling and grammar, I work 70 hours a week and am not willing to spend any more time even talking about ALEX CLARK....though I have a damn good mind to take some holiday and picket out side of his business's for a while though...maybe even visit a franchising event.
Thanks for reading
I am coming up to a year of renting with Alex Clark and am thoroughly fed up with their lack of maintenance. Don't get me wrong, I've rented with other estate agents and I am all too familiar with the deceptive lure they try to pull you in with. Reassurances that they are the absolute best professional estate agents in all the land, with decades of experience in the highest quality service available, just to have that heart sinking moment as you realise that it was all just smoke and mirrors, and what you're left with is just a bunch of half wit amateurs who know less about the property than you do....and you've only seen it for a few minutes.
All estate agents are just money grabbing, egotistical unqualified twats.......and Alex Clark certainly know how to live up to a reputation!
Lets start with moving in...
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Alex Clark had clearly gone to the trouble of getting a real qualified lawyer to draft up their contract, as while it was long, it was certainly through. Which is actually a relief, as it reduces the chances of nasty conflicts and clearly sets out procedures and expectations with no room for error. It protects both parties and is a refreshing step away from the more shocking "legal documents" I've handled in my time, that are clearly the equivalent of a monkey wiping it's poo-stained arse on toilet paper, and asking you to sign it....in blood...while it pelts you with more faeces...
So I'll begrudgingly award them some respect for exceeding the piss-poor standards set by other estate agents, on that point. However, from there on out, it's all down hill.
Upon moving in, I dutifully examined the inventory/conditions form, carefully noting down any discrepancies and maintenance issues, as per Alex Clarks own request and promptly returning the form, so that they may swiftly rectify any maintenance issues. Many of which were minor issues, in terms of difficulty and time to repair.
These issues were as follows, in defending order of severity, in relation to health and safety/legal implications:
- A broken bulb connector, to the sole light bulb in one of the bedrooms - exposed wiring dangling from the ceiling (which we all know is a violation of the legal requirement to have ALL electrical and gas and water fittings securely fitted, PRIOR to a tenant moving in to a property)
- A broken fire escape (bearing in mind this is a top floor flat out of 3 flats, with only one staircase as an exit, which is also located next to a popular fast food restaurant and the kitchen could pose as a fire threat....in which scenario, my flat mate and I would be guaranteed a fiery death sentence, if not broken legs as we futilely attempt to jump...)
- A video buzzer entry system, whereby, in theory you should be able to clearly see who is at the lower entrance (out of 2 entrances before your own individual flat door) and allow entry to the property by "buzzing" them in, thereby automatically opening the door. The video screen/sound is temperamental and the buzzer doesn't work at all, so we have to run down 3 flights of stairs to get to the first door, to let anyone in.....especially run fast in the case of impatient post men/couriers, who couldn't hear you through said intercom, that you'd be on your way down. Oh, and there isn't even a label for our flat, just 4 buttons, with 1 and 2 labelled, but 2 blank buttons, which delivery men have to guess at which one is for number 3.
- Communal lights in the staircase (which the contract clearly states is the responsibility of Alex Clark to maintain) which have either broken or have the timed light switches reversed so that pressing them switches them off, rather than on, for a limited time. So clearly wired wrong.
- Various other fixtures that are not quite in place/require professional work
Now, given their "ultimate service in expertly managed rented properties "......you would be forgiven for thinking that such menial tasks would be a breeze for Alex Clark to fix....after all, they ARE "experts in the management and the wide-ranging procedures relating to rented property are dedicated to providing both Landlords and Tenants with a first class service"...
...like hell they are.
I was reassured, upon returning the completed inventory form in person, that my issues would be resolved in the next couple of weeks, and that their maintenance manager would see to it that they would all be dealt with.
Confident that Alex Clark would keep to their promises, I went to my new home and waited............and waited...............and waited some more.
While I waited, I phoned, emailed and visited their "prestigious Head Office in Cheltenhams town centre", speaking to at least 3 different members of staff, supposedly responsible for property maintenance, all reassuring me that they would PERSONALLY see to it that our lives were no longer in peril and the flat would be restored to a legally-clean bill of health, to the state it SHOULD have been in before we even set foot in the place. I repeatedly took time out of my own busy life, to remind them to do their job of maintaining their properties. Ya know...the thing they pay their staff to do, which is financed by the tenants who pay them to provide a service......kinda like customers, just with a different name. Technically I should be on Alex Clark's payroll, as they clearly think it MY JOB, to tell them to DO THEIR JOB. Maybe my payslip is just lost in their bermuda triangle of a system...?
Then came the plumbing issues. Now, to be fair, the plumbing seemed to be working ok when we moved in....water was maybe a bit slow to drain, but nothing too distressing. A couple months down the line however, and it had gotten to the point where we couldn't wash dishes in the sink or use the washing machine because the sink would fill up with water from the washing machine and vice versa. This isn't Alex Clarks fault, but how they dealt with it is.
I phoned them to explain the situation and asked for a plumber to be sent round as soon as possible. I was informed that they would, once they had contacted the landlord for permission to carry out the necessary work to fix it. Incidentally, the landlord lives abroad, so they were waiting on a email of confirmation. A week later, they send a plumber round, who seems to fix the problem, but as soon as he left, the problem (and the water) came back. I phoned Alex Clark again, explaining that it was the same problem and the plumber just didn't do a good job in fixing it and wouldn't listen to me when I told him I had done the exact same thing and gotten the same false results, just for it to come back. This time, the usual plumber was on holiday and they'd need to contact the landlord AGAIN, even though it was the same problem and it was Alex Clark's fault for not contracting good plumbers. So I have to wait ANOTHER 2 weeks, to get permission and find substitute plumbers. In which time, the dishes and dirty clothes are piling high. They manage to find some other plumbers who do a better job than the first, and correctly asses that the issue is the old lead pipes clogging up, which apparently they are notorious for doing so. What's that you say? Oh yes, the LEGAL REQUIREMENT for all water fixtures to be fitted properly and use proper materials.....looks like Alex Clark forgot about that one. Well the guys can't fix it there and then, they need to get materials and yep, you guessed it, FURTHER permission from Alex Clark/landlord to carry out the work. To ESSENTIAL living utilities. So ONE WHOLE MONTH LATER, with a mountain of clothes smelling worse than a diseased skunk....in heat...I finally had proper running water in my kitchen. Ironically, the substitute plumbers were better than trusty ol' Faithful.
Now don't you think, what some might say is the clever thing to do here, is have an agreement with the landlords, that any ESSENTIAL work that needs doing to a property, where the living standard of the tenants is compromised, should be carried out immediately, and the bill is agreed later? And if the landlord doesn't agree with being billed for the work, put in place some kind of protection, so that an agreement can be made? This way, the tenants are protected from having to live a 3rd world existence and the landlords don't get stuck with out of the blue bills, for work they weren't aware of. That's fair for everyone. Might put Alex Clark at a slight disadvantage, as they'd have to wait maybe a week or two to get the bill....but it's sure as hell a lot better than the dilemma of "do I turn my underwear inside out.....or go commando?"
Anyways, it's now almost 11 months since I've moved in with Alex Clark aka signed a deal with Lucifer himself, whereby my eternal soul gets tortured on a daily basis as my bank account is raped and my life is held in jeopardy, all in return for having the sweet sweet privilege of a (cracked) roof over my head..........in which time, Alex Clark have mustered up the strength to fix the grand old total of ONE, yes that's right folks, ONE of the issues on the above list. This was after numerous efforts to bring it to their attention that the bulb socket in my room was broken, thereby making the bulb fall out or issue an ominous buzzing sound over my head. They managed to get it fixed, after me quite literally being in the dark for 6 whole months.....over winter, I might add.
Which brings me neatly to my next hurdle....renewing the contract...
We had signed up for a 6 month contract, after filling out all the necessary paper work, regarding referencing and financial background checks, for which we paid the compulsory fees.....plus the "£235 Administration Fee".....whatever THAT is.....seriously, it takes 5mins to find out a persons credit history and print out a standard contract, typing in the date and property it refers to.....it probably costs £1 in paper and ink.......so that's £234 they're charging for 5 minutes work..........maybe I'm in the wrong career after all.....
Anyways, I digress......so, it comes to the time where we either have to give them notice that we wish to stay in the property and renew our contract, or we'll leave the property at the end of the 6 months. Because of our circumstances, we decided to stay on, despite Alex Clark proving to be the Houdini of maintenance......which Alex Clark then informed us that we would have to pay them a further £100......just to print out a fresh copy of the contract, with changed dates.....so let's work this out......again approx £1 for paper and ink......so £99 going..........on nothing. Or rather not nothing, but just Alex Clarks' pocket, just for shits and giggles.
As it turns out, we simply "forgot" to pay that fee and just paid for our rent as normal......and Alex Clarks' impeccable filling and accounts system and on-the-ball team of staff haven't picked up on that. It just slipped their minds. First class indeed.
And so, it comes to that time again where I have to promise to part with my first born child, just to cover the extortionate fees, that Alex Clark PROMISE is in return for a lifetime membership to Disneyland.....but in actual fact is a plot of land, owned by an old guy called Dennis.....who says he and my child will go to "pleasure town" together.....wherever that is...
Or maybe just to pay for their new shiny sign on their snazzy head quarters.....which a blind 2 year old, with no hands, could have designed.
Ashamedly, I am continuing to rent with Alex Clark, as I genuinely can't find a better place to rent, that I can afford, which is a sad reflection on the disgraceful conditions of properties and lack of regulations of decent health and safety....and just downright basic human rights to decent living conditions. I shall continue my search however, as every dealing with Alex Clark spurs me on to find an estate agent that won't sit proudly on it's golden throne, while it genuinely puts people lives at risk. Alex Clark are just lucky that I'M lucky enough to not have died as a result of their wilful neglect.
Considering just about any Tom, Dick and Alex can become an estate agent with no qualifications, as with other professions, I'm sure it will be a difficult hunt. Nonetheless, no other estate agent can lower themselves to the dismal pride that Alex Clark can claim, from being the clear winner at THE WORST MAINTENANCE AWARD!! Given to them by every Alex Clark tenant across the whole of Gloucestershire!!
I rented a flat out via an established "old school" letting agent and was very happy with the service. Sadly the agent retired and sold to Alex Clark - that is when my problems started.
Alex Clark tried to change my terms and conditions, increase charges to both myself and my tenant and were more than useless.
They have flashy offices and do lots of advertising - kind of looks good BUT it is rubbish.
Even when it came to doing the quarterly property inspections, a precaution for both Landlord and Tenant they failed to keep there end of the bargain and let me down BIG TIME.
Eventually my tenant moved on, leaving the place in a state. It took me 2 weeks to re paint and clean the place to a suitable standard. The tenant even stole a bin from the kitchen, but Alex Clarks "inventory manager" did not pick it up and all in all Ilost money, time and effort as a result of being with them.
I am happy to report I am now with another agent who is great, costs a lot less and is only over the road from Alex Clark.
So avoid them at all costs as a Landlord.
To behonest I would aviod them if you are a tenant too.
Dishonest, rip off merchants. RUBBISH !!!!
Late one evening last August, I was in my kitchen tidying away the dishes that I had just washed-up; another exciting evening chez collingwood21. As I came to put the saucepans away, I bent down to the cupboard next to the cooker, opening it carefully because I knew that the top hinge was working loose - this hinge had been the subject of repeated repair requests to the letting agents who managed our flat, and I had almost become used to having to open the cupboard very delicately in case the damage got any worse. That evening, however, the cupboard had evidently become as sick of the situation as I had. As I eased open the door, the top hinge came away completely from the cupboard and the bottom hinge decided a second later that it wasn't going to do all the work by itself, thank you very much. Have you ever noticed how heavy kitchen cupboard doors are? Neither had I until one came crashing down on my toes whilst I was had only slippers on. The initial pain was explosive, and I felt certain that I must have broken something. Sitting down to examine my toes through tears of pain revealed that miraculously I had merely been left with a nasty door-shaped bruise across my toes and desire to swear vociferously at the letting agents, one Alex Clark Lettings of Cheltenham.
At this time I had had the misfortune of being a tenant of this agency for a year - a misfortune that was not entirely of my making. When Other Half and I relocated to Cheltenham in December 2007, we had chosen to rent a flat offered by an agency named Adams; the next nine months were the best I had ever experienced as a tenant of a letting agency. They answered phone calls! They carried out maintenance promptly! They even had an effective out-of-hours service! It was therefore with some dismay that we found in August 2008 that Adams had decided to sell the rental part of their business to Alex Clark Lettings, so that they could concentrate on their estate agency instead. Whilst looking for accommodation in Cheltenham, we had viewed a couple of properties with Alex Clark and this contact had put us off renting an otherwise perfectly nice flat we had viewed with them. We had specifically chosen not to be customers of Alex Clark - they seemed brusque, unfriendly and not all that professional, for all they tried to give a positive impression of themselves through their flashy town centre offices. This information left us with a choice: either move house at short notice, or put up with it for a little while until we were in a position to buy. Given the cost of moving house, we reluctantly decided to stay put and hope the agency weren't as bad as they had first appeared.
**Locution, Locution, Locution**
Our first contact from Alex Clark as our new agents (who advertise themselves as "Gloucestershire's leading force in the Residential Lettings market" I might add) was in the form of a letter at the start of August 2008 carrying instructions for amending our rent standing order so the money went to their bank account rather than Adams'. This, we were informed in bad English, *must* be done *immediately* to make sure that they could collect the payment due on August 28th (this was also to establish two common themes when dealing with Alex Clark - that they firmly believed it was professional to send out incorrectly spelt and grammatically dodgy communications, and that while we must do things *immediately*, they were entitled to do things whenever the hell they liked). We always tried to be responsible tenants, so I duly sent back the requested forms by return of post, and cancelled the standing order set up to pay Adams our rent.
Two weeks later, and the new standing order had still not appeared in my account. I sent an email to Alex Clark Lettings to query this, but to this day no reply was forthcoming (another common theme, it was to emerge - just why do businesses put their email address online for everyone to see if they have no real intention of responding to communications sent this way?). Another week passed, there was still no standing order and rent day was getting alarmingly near. Getting worried now, I phoned them, but they declined to pick up. I phoned twice more and got the same result, so I left a message on the answer phone - no one responded to that, either. Rent day came, and inevitably no payment was taken. I emailed again, with no response. Then, two days after the rent was due, I had a phone call from Alex Clark. They hadn't had the rent because the standing orders "hadn't been processed". Ahhh, so maybe asking for this to be done as fairly short notice while an awful lot of people were away on holiday wasn't such a brilliant idea, then? Or maybe someone in the office hadn't taken the paperwork to the bank on time perhaps? I felt at this point the agent was going to apologise - maybe for the error and the inconvenience it caused, or at least for failing to respond to any of my three messages? Nope. They instead requested that I take the month's rent to them in cash *immediately*. Now, I am all for being a good and responsible tenant, and I would have happily risked muggings to carry hundreds of pounds in cash through a busy town centre to appease them had this been in any way my fault. Under these circumstances, though, I naturally declined their invitation and posted them a cheque instead.
The fourteen months I spent as a tenant of Alex Clark continued in a depressingly similar vein. Other communication was bad - unclear, badly written or downright rude letters, a disinclination to answer phone calls (including the memorable Saturday morning when I rang them every 15 minutes for over 4 hours while they were open with no response) and long wait for email responses, if indeed they ever came. When a response was made, they didn't always do what they said they would, either.
**Repair & Maintenance**
Anyone who has been a tenant will be familiar with the process of quarterly property inspections, designed to give peace of mind to the landlord and act as a means for reporting minor repair and maintenance work for the tenant. Alex Clark informed us that whenever an inspection was carried out they would leave a copy of their inspection form in the flat for our records, to confirm the visit was made and what repairs were noted. In those fourteen months, we were given just one of their record sheets. This either means they were remarkably lax about maintaining the interests of their landlords, or they were unable to follow their own simple administrative procedures. On a couple of occasions, we received phone calls from agents who said they couldn't do the inspection as they couldn't gain access to the property - we responded to each of these by asking what the problem was, so we could try and remedy it. But (and I'm sure you have guessed this by now) they didn't respond to any of our messages. After a few months of this, we called in to their offices in person and managed to find out that the reason they couldn't gain access was because they had lost the keys that Adams had given to them. After a lot of weary sighing and shaking of heads, we had replacement keys cut, tested them out to make sure they worked, labelled them clearly and took them in person to Alex Clark Lettings to make sure they got them. Following this, our one successful inspection took place and we foolishly hoped this had solved the problem. Alas, no. Towards the end of our tenancy, after giving our notice on the flat and agreeing that prospective renters could be shown around in our absence, we started getting the "we can't get in" calls again. They still had the keys, but apparently had suddenly lost the ability to use them correctly. One agent even asked if I could come over and let her and a potential client in, despite the fact I told her we were moving house on that day!
But what of the maintenance? Keeping a property well-maintained is an important issue to both tenant and landlord, and as I suggested in the introduction to this review, organising it wasn't exactly their strong point. The keen-witted amongst you may well be thinking that maybe maintenance was a problem given the agency's intermittent inability to access our flat, but this was never the case. Whenever we were told that a maintenance person was being given the keys to come to our flat, let themselves in and do some work, they got in without a problem - it was only ever the agents themselves who struggled to open the doors in our building. I also have no complaints about the quality of work done, the maintenance guy and the electrician that were called out did perfectly good jobs. The problem was always getting the agents to register that work needed doing and arranging for it to be done - remember, they were never keen on answering phone calls, replying to messages or carrying out the scheduled inspections where notes requesting work had been left for them. Simple things like reattaching our broken letterbox took over a year to sort out, and I cannot recall how many times I had asked for the kitchen cupboard door to be fixed before it injured me (we were told not to carry out these jobs ourselves, much to our frustration). After we had complained about my injury, they did improve (in a "let's try not to get ourselves in any legal trouble due to failing to maintain the property to a safe standard" kind of a way), but that was scant consolation for a year of fairly incompetent and disorganised service from them.
**Fees & Charges**
With this being a consumer review, things would not of course be complete without me commenting on the cost of renting through Alex Clark. It would be fairly pointless to quote the exact amount of rent we were charged (apart from anything else, this was set by Adams and not Alex Clark anyway), except to mention that our research when we were planning our relocation indicated it was an average rent for the type and size of property that we rented in Cheltenham. I can comment on other financial aspects, though.
In terms of the deposit, Alex Clark ask for one month's rent plus £100, which is higher than I had experienced elsewhere (I understood that one month's rent on its own was more usual). At the end of our initial 12 month rental contract, we were given the option to renew for another contract (with the guarantee that the rent would not increase over that time) or to rent on a month-by-month basis with the insecurity of wondering whether we would be asked for more rent at some point. We opted for a six-month extension for the rent protection it would bring, and were charged £88 for this privilege - this was also new to me, having never been charged for providing security of income to a landlord previously. Incidentally, during our 6 month contract extension, Alex Clark did try to increase our rent, only backing down when I sent them a formal letter pointing out that this would be illegal under the terms of the contract we had signed. It does worry me that other tenants may have fallen for such a letter and ended up paying more rent than they should have, though.
Then there were the exit fees. After sending Alex Clark the formal notice of our intention to end the tenancy, we were sent instructions about leaving the flat clean and ending our utility accounts as was expected. What wasn't expected were the charges involved in us leaving this agency behind us - we were obliged to pay for professional cleaning of soft furnishings, and if even the tiniest thing was wrong with the flat, we would be charged a £40 admin fee on top of anything it cost to rectify the problem. This was far to be a far more expensive exit strategy than any I had experienced with other landlords and agencies, and it was clear from the start that however we approached this situation we were to lose a good chunk of our deposit. In the end, despite spending £230 getting the carpets, upholstery and mattress professionally cleaned as instructed (and providing proof of doing this); despite spending several hours thoroughly cleaning the place, and despite acknowledging a minor element of damage (the traitorous toilet seat went and cracked just before we moved out, so we accepted we wouldn't get all out deposit back), they cheerfully claimed we hadn't complied with all their instructions helped themselves to £178 of our deposit. £178 for a cracked toilet seat and a minute bit of dust they found on one windowsill. Sigh. We did send in a written complaint about this and how we had been treated by the agency in general, but the only communication we have since had is the return of what remains of our deposit, and no response to our complaint. Alex Clark are supposedly members of the national approved lettings scheme (http://www.nalscheme.co.uk/frameset.htm) and as far as I am concerned fail to meet several of the outlined standards of their scheme. I am currently considering taking my complaint to them.
What a shambles - Alex Clark Lettings should spend more time providing a decent service to their tenants and landlords and less on maintaining their flashy offices, I think. They charge too much and the service is quite frankly poor. For the sorts of money we paid them, I would have expected an out-of-hours emergency service, but didn't even get an in-hours basic service half the time. And it is not just me who thinks this - www.gloucestershirelettingsreviews.com gives them a feeble 2 out of 5, with 1 out of 5 for the admin charges. Would I recommend Alex Clark Lettings? I think on reflection that would be a resounding no.
Alex Clark Residential Lettings
3 Bath Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1YE
Tel: 01242 210700