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Posted On: 19 July 2009 10:20 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Agents playing havoc with real estate market

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Unscrupulous agents are creating difficulties for both tenants and landlords in the Qatari real estate market according to businesses, who are doing their best to warn prospective tenants to be careful about who they deal with. Reports in recent months have indicated that agents have been acting as middle men, taking money from tenants and offering guarantees that they have neither the intention nor ability to keep. They work by taking a property from a landlord, and whilst paying him QR8,000 for instance, they charge the tenant QR10,000 and pocket the difference. The agents have also been known to ask for deposits and other charges, duping unsuspecting tenants into handing over cheques which end up being meaningless. In some other cases, the agents may quote a lower price to the tenant and collect the rent in advance and in cash for up to two years. The agents then default in payment to the landlord who goes to the court and get an eviction order, leaving the tenants in a quandary. Landlords have now woken up to the problem, and as a result they are advertising properties which clearly state that agents are neither involved or wanted in any potential transactions. Advertisements can now be seen declaring: “No agents to apply,” “no agents wanted,” and other similar statements, which are a clear indication of the negative connotations landlords are now associating with agents. Gulf Times spoke to a landlord who recently advertised a number of properties he owns with one of these messages, and he explained that he had chosen not to deal with agents following the experiences of some of his colleagues and associates who had endured difficulties with them in the past. “Sometimes people are dishonest and the only thing they are worried about is achieving their commission,” he said, adding “they exaggerate about the house and facilities on offer, and the owners may not even meet their client before they move in.” “This will certainly lead to problems,” he added. Another landlord claimed that around a quarter of the agents in Qatar are unqualified and ‘taking customers for a ride.’ He pointed out that with the current global economic crisis and the introduction of a number of accredited and reputable agencies in Qatar, the ‘freelance’ agents are starting to disappear. However, he argued that he would like to see the introduction and enforcement of tougher rules regarding the actions of these agents so as to make it impossible for them to trade. “I think more needs to be done to protect both the landlord and the tenant,” he claimed, adding “and tenants need to make sure they do not use these agents as they are simply feeding the problem.” His sentiments were echoed by a representative of a reputable agency based in Qatar, who said that she would like to see more done to curb troublesome agents. She stressed the importance of awareness and said that people looking for places to live should be careful about who they deal with, recommending that they use licensed businesses rather than stand-alone agents. Describing a number of cases which she has come to know about, she said that people are often charged one-off fees for the agent to switch on the water or perform other similar actions. These fees are subsequently not paid to the landlord and instead end up in the pockets of the agents. She explained that her company, which adheres to international standards of practice, ensures they have the deeds for property as well as the identification documents of the landlord, who they also create personal relationships with. “When we have a client we will find the property, ensure all the contracts are prepared and signed by both the tenants and landlord, and then we facilitate the tenant moving in.” “Generally we take 12 post-dated cheques, and then we make sure the property is ready to be moved into – if there are any problems we will help solve them,” she claimed. She explained that this is how the profession works in most countries, where the agency is paid a commission by the landlord rather than the tenant, and so it is in the agents’ interests to do as well as possible for their employers. “There is no regulatory body here – that is the problem,” she said, adding “people are working from the boot of their car.” “Not only is this bad for the customer, but it is annoying for businesses like us as we spend money, time and effort on things like advertising.” She pointed out that the rental courts often find in favour of tenants who have been mistreated. However the process of getting to trial is often lengthy and can leave people in a difficult situation whilst they await their hearings. “Agents should have licences and should be regulated,” she argued, “and the agents should not be charging customers, but should be getting paid from the landlords themselves.”