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Alex Clark are quite happy to risk your life, as long as they have money in the bank
Alex Clark Lettings
Author Name: Kay Black
Alex Clark Lettings
Advantages: Watertight contract - possibly written by Lucifer
Disadvantages: Happy to put your life at risk, just as long as it doesn't stop them charging you
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!!
Summary: Alex Clark's maintenance department might as well not exist