Have we been scammed?

*A friend and I were looking to rent a 3 bedroom property recently but we asked if we could pay the deposit monthly along side our rent just so it wasn’t a huge lump sum missing all in one. *
*I was told it shouldn’t be an issue but to find out we’d have to place a holding deposit and go through the application process. *
*I was then sent an email with their personal bank details telling me I had to put the money in quick so that I could secure the property. *
I did as I was told but then the replies slowed down from the agency. Some replies would take days to come through and their office was always closed for days on end.
*They kept giving us new requirements to meet to be able to let the property in nearly every email we received, we got sick of it so firmly asked if we could pay the deposit monthly and if we could have the house be rude we were starting jobs soon. *
*They then harass our guarantor hounding for the deposit to be paid in full that very day - which was never ever the plan. *
*Our guarantor then feels uneasy about the situation so asks the agency for more details etc. *
*The agency gets funny about it all, lies to the guarantor about various different things to try to get him to pay the full deposit. *
*We try asking again if we could just have the house, if not then we’d like our holding deposit back. They then reply lying saying that because our guarantor wasn’t aware he was being used as a guarantor, it’s our fault our application didn’t succeed and they’re not paying us the holding deposit. *
*Where do we stand overall? *
It’s over £250, it felt like they were never going to give us the house and they’ve scraped the barrel to find an excuse to keep the money we gave them.

How did you pay the deposit? Bank transfer? Credit card allows for comeback.

Does agent have a shop? If so I would get down there.

What lies did agent tell to guarantor?

Why would guarantor pay deposit, this is down to tenant alone.

Did you provide all of the required info quickly?

So their reason for you failing application was you failed to let guarantor know about being a guarantor?

This makes no sense!

Do you have anything in writing about why rejected? Request this.

I paid via bank transfer, I didn’t realise that OpenRent has a way of doing it through the website so it’s all safe and secure.
I was rushed into the bank transfer because they made it sound urgent.
They kept telling our guarantor that we had agreed he’d pay the whole deposit when it was never a discussion. They were also asking for more than the deposit was listed for originally. We have no idea why they were demanding the money from the guarantor in the first place.
But yes, we’re both in full time work so the replies weren’t instant but we definitely got back to them with all the information they were asking for within a max of 3 hours.
The lies they told the guarantor were things such as “The tenants have told us you’d pay the deposit” and when the guarantor said no, they changed it to “The tenants said you’d pay £900 towards it, we need that as soon as you can”. They also made out that we were the ones that took days to reply, they told our guarantor we ignored them when we have the emails as proof that we replied as soon as we could whereas they took up to 5 days to reply sometimes.
Thing is, our guarantor was aware about being a guarantor, he just wasn’t aware of paying any of the deposit because it was never actually a thing. It just seemed like another way to get more money from us.
When we asked for the holding deposit back, they said it’s in their terms and conditions to not give it back to us because we failed to provide a guarantor even though we had one, he just wasn’t willing to fork out for the deposit.

Genuinely so confused! I viewed the property and placed the holding deposit on the 14th of September!

This definitely sounds like they have ripped you off. Putting pressure on guarantor to pay sounds like a scam.

Are they still listing properties on open rent or RightMove?

Openrent is for landlords only, not agents, are you sure it’s an agent and not an individual?

Are they an established estate agent, do they have premises? Do they look genuine? Website? Reviews etc?

Have you got a letter offering you the property? Security deposit (upto 5 weeks rent) wouldn’t be paid until property offered and should be sent only when signing tenancy angreement, only a small holding deposit of 1 weeks rent should be requested.

A legitimate estate agent will be a member of one of:

Ask them what their complaints procedure is and send a complaint. Or write to the manager. They have 8 weeks to reply.

If getting nowhere approach the ombudsman or redress scheme.

Though to be honest they do not sound like a real agent.

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I’ve never had trouble with landlords like this before so I didn’t think to do a thorough check on reviews and websites etc. After about 10 minutes of searching now, I’ve only just managed to find their website and it’s extremely basic with just some standard contact info, nothing else.

The landlord name on the OpenRent advert is different to the people that we’ve dealt with via email. The landlord on OpenRent is a member of The Property Ombudsman yet I can’t find any indication the agency is on their website or through their emails.

They’ve not listed another property on OpenRent since the one we went for in September.

They do have an office located in Manchester but they’ve had no reviews and the details obtainable online are little to none except the info on the Gov website which has the names of the owners.

We have multiple emails saying that we could have the property if we do “one last thing” for them until they decided they didn’t want to give it to us and tell us we’re not having the holding deposit back due to “not having a guarantor”.

I would write to the manager except it seems like it was the manager I was dealing with a lot of the time anyway. He became very frustrated in the end and blamed us for the process taking so long even though their office was closed more than it was open.

Their final reason was - and I quote - “You provided us with misleading information that your dad would be your guarantor”. Which isn’t true, even after the agency harassed our guarantor, he was still okay to do it, just not pay the ridiculous deposit fees they were asking up front. We have every email saved and not once was our guarantor paying the deposit ever spoken out.

If they’re a member of a redress scheme, contact the scheme immediately. If they’re not, report them to local Trading Standards and seek legal advice.

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