The accidental landlord

Victoria Whitlock admits to having a little fun with a particularly eager agent. It's all part of a landlord's job

Why I started fooling around with a lettings agent

Yes, I admit it. It's a filthy secret; but now that even wealthy celebrities can't hide their sins behind superinjunctions, I realise that the truth will eventually out - so I might as well come clean.

A couple of years ago, I hired a letting agent - and not just any agent, but one of the sleaziest yet most expensive. It's not something I'm proud of but, what can I say, I was desperate to let a property.

I thought this would be a one-off, that he'd let the flat quickly (as promised), take his commission and nobody would know anything about it. Ha, ha, how foolish I was. The agent failed to let the place and I found tenants myself, but still he keeps pestering me to let him have another go.

He rings every couple of months and with admirable audacity, always boasts he can get more rent than the current tenants are paying, even though when he had the opportunity he got precisely nothing.

Weirdly, I get a sneaky enjoyment out of these regular calls. If I don't hear from him for a while, I start to worry that something bad has happened. Could he have tripped over his pointy shoes and broken his neck, or cut an artery on his sharp suit? He rang the other day and, not having anything better to do, I toyed with him for a while.

He claimed, as usual, that whatever rent I was getting he could beat it. I pretended to be interested, just for fun. "Go on then," I said, "how much rent can you get, realistically?" "Well, errm, you'll be amazed," he said. "The market has really picked up since last time we spoke, yah, we've got twice as many tenants looking and only half as many properties as this time last year."

"So how much can you get?"
"How much are you getting?"
"No, you first."
"No, you."

I gave him a ridiculously inflated figure but, bless him, he didn't flinch. He said he'd only just that very day let a flat very similar to mine, in fact on the same estate, "would you believe", for £200 a month more.

"Cross your heart and hope to die?" I teased. "Absolutely," he said, but he knew that I knew he'd just made it up. I was curious though (and yes, I admit it, greedy) so I checked on his agency's website, just to make sure. I found the flat he was talking about but it was still on the market and the asking price was £300 less than mine.

"Liar, liar your pants are on fire," I wanted to chant down the phone, but I didn't because that would have been childish. Instead, I told him I'd sussed out how this letting agent/landlord relationship works.

The agent gives the landlord a grossly inflated estimate for the rent, the landlord's greed gets the better of them and they agree to let the agent market the flat. When the agent fails to find a tenant, the agent tells the landlord the market's gone flat and suggests they slash the asking price.

You can't embarrass a letting agent though, it's not in their DNA. My friend said he'd call again in a month or so. I'm looking forward to it, but the question is, should I confess to my nearest and dearest that I'm fooling around with agents - or risk them finding out about it on Twitter?

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