Comment: What the F(ee)? - Playboy bunnies, paperwork and Japanese shoes

The uphill struggle that letting agents must face when doing admin (!)

The uphill struggle that letting agents must face when doing admin (!) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Letting agency lease renewal fees - what precisely are renters being charged for?

The Playboy Mansion, LA, for sale at $200m

The Playboy Mansion, LA, for sale at $200m - Credit: Archant

My landlord has just renewed the lease on my apartment for another year. And today an e-document thumped into my inbox, requesting my signature.

With much trepidation I clicked it open to see how much more he was proposing to charge me for rent. But to my pleasant surprise, the amount remains the same.

This is the first year that the rent hasn’t been increased upon tenancy renewal. During my time there, the cost has climbed to over £100 per month more than when I first moved in, in 2011. I think perhaps that Mr. Landlord has decided to leave it this year, given that the current figure teeters on the fault line of the right and wrong side of £*** (I shan’t start spewing the exact amount that I pay) so he has kindly kept it below that threshold. Thanks.

Of course my lettings agency have still slapped me with an invoice. Apparently it cost £90 to “prepare the extension document”. I’d be curious to see a detailed inventory of how £90 was spent in the preparation of my renewed lease. It’s an e-document, so presumably none of this fee is to reimburse the letting office for the printer paper, ink and postage that would have been spent on sending me the contract to sign. I can only assume, therefore, that they are billing me in part for the electricity and data usage that was incurred when they typed up my contract and emailed it over.

Given that my rent has remained the same, there was no digit-fiddling to be done on that section of the contract. So as far as I can see, the only thing that has been altered on the contract is the date. And that’s only a couple of numbers. 2015 - 2016 has now become 2016 - 2017.

So - that’s electricity, internet and the deletion/replacement of some numbers. Perhaps they had to bring in an expert to do all this, hence the additional cost. Although admin is surely part of the job role, so surely no extra money will have been spent on a freelance number replacement specialist.

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I deduce that I have basically been charged for the sake of it. While I ordinarily champion the lettings industry, this is an element that irritates me annually when I am asked if I’d like to renew. The dreaded Admin Fee.

This is not wholly specific to the property world of course - admin fees are incurred for all sorts. Insurance processing, air ticket alterations, swapping a theatre ticket for a different performance. All of these apparently involve someone, somewhere having to exert themselves more so than usual and execute a strenuous notarization task, not covered in their regular job description.

What is this task though? When a tenant renews, does the agent have to go on a week-long trek up Mount Shishapangma to tap the nectar of a Chinese Azalea to bless the new contract with? If so, £90 is probably a bargain.

Japanese Geta - perfect for househunting

Japanese Geta - perfect for househunting - Credit: ajpscs

In a bizarre real estate listing, the Playboy Mansion has been put up for sale in Los Angeles. The price tag is a mere $200m (£138m) which is around 14 times more than the most expensive property in Herts.

Aside from the fact that the home has seen God knows what going on behind its doors, the sale also insists that if you buy it, Hugh Hefner has to remain as a house-guest until his final moments on Earth. And then probably thereafter (I get the feeling Hugh’s spirit will never leave that place).

The other snag is that the house is reportedly in a state. Rumour has it that it’s out-dated, falling apart and a bit dingy. The extortionate value allegedly comes from the land it sits on, as well as the fact that it’s a well known property.

I imagine it would be rather fun to say you live there - but the image of a Miss Havisham-esque Hefner sitting at the head of the long dining table, surrounded by stacks of dog-eared Playboys could never be worth that price tag.

I suppose the equivalent of this scenario in Hertfordshire would be to buy Stocks House, Aldbury (20 miles west of St Albans) from current owner retired flat racing jockey Walter Swinburn. Swinburn’s family bought the house from Victor Lownes, the former executive of Playboy magazine, who lived in it with British Playboy Bunny Marilyn Cole and “trained” Bunnies there. Lownes bought it in 1972 for £115,000. Despite being way over the £1m mark these days, it still comes nowhere near to the $200m bargain in Holmby Hills, LA, complete with zoo and an aging rake.

Over the weekend, published an article about marketing your home in January/February. Get an agent, make sure the wording in the brochure is right and plump your cushions, they say. As well as this, don’t ban shoes. Woah now!

The article says that “people feel incredibly uncomfortable without their shoes on and uncomfortable people seldom turn into buyers.”

I’m a self-confessed “please remove shoes at the door” enforcer. I simply would rather my guests didn’t traipse around my home in their footwear. It’s about keeping the place clean for myself and for the landlord. Last week my friend brought her baby over who spilt Yakult on the carpet (the baby, not my friend). With gritted teeth I went to retrieve the Vanish and kitchen towel. There’s no point crying over spilt Yakult, but this eventuality is exactly why the shoe rule applies when someone comes over. I just don’t want to allow the opportunity for a post-visit mud-mark so remove the risk.

Personal guests are different to buyers of course. Prospective buyers are like business associates - you hope to strike a deal with them after all. But wouldn’t someone feel encouraged to know that the person in current ownership of the house they might purchase doesn’t allow strangers to stamp street dirt across the ivory husk carpets? If anything, it might make the viewer feel relaxed and even more at home.

The solution here is simple: Shoes are to be removed, but provide your guests with some Geta (Japanese clogs) to put both their mind at ease and yours. May as well offer them up a kimono too.