February 24, 2024

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Real estate agency forced into grovelling apology after it was slammed over rental tactic

4 min read

Real estate agencies have been caught out hiking prices on rental properties even before they go to inspection.

A text message sent out by real estate agent Nelson Alexander to those interested in a rental advertised at $600pw advises that ‘due to the overwhelming response on this property … we have had to change the weekly rental amount to $650’.

The text was posted on Instagram by Melbourne journalist Jacqueline Felgate on Thursday with a caption that asked if the outrageous move ‘was even allowed?’

Opinions were split on this question in the comments.    

The legality of hiking the rent from the previously advertised figure has been debated online

The legality of hiking the rent from the previously advertised figure has been debated online

Jake Caine, who President of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, replied saying it wasn’t.

‘If what has been reported in the second image (text message) occurred, that would to be a clear violation of the legislation, and should be reported to Consumer Affairs. Happy to assist if needed,’ he posted.

‘As a long-serving Property Manager this is against legislation,’ another person commented.

‘It’s hard enough for renters out there without this happening.’

Under 2021 Victorian laws passed that outlawed so-called ‘rent bidding’.

‘Rental providers (landlords) and estate agents can only advertise or offer rental properties at a fixed price,’ the laws state.

‘They are banned from inviting rental bids or soliciting offers of rent higher than the advertised price.’ 

Can also shared on social another message she received from a would-be renter.

‘This exact thing happened to us. Same agency. Attended an inspection at an older house in Footscray, really nothing special but was attended by about 30 others,’ the message said.

Real estate agent Nelson Alexander has apologised for hiking the asking price of rentals even before they are inspected

Real estate agent Nelson Alexander has apologised for hiking the asking price of rentals even before they are inspected

‘The house was listed as $650 on Friday then was taken down and relisted on Monday at $850.’

Following this Felgate posted a message from Nelson Alexander insisting that changing the advertised price was ‘not a breach of legislation’ but saying that it did not ‘follow the standards we hold ourselves to.

The message went on to ‘sincerely apologise for any frustration this may have caused’.

‘For clarity, we do not solicit or encourage any form of rental bidding and we have taken the property offline and are currently reviewing our processes to ensure this doesn’t ever happen again,’ Nelson Alexander.

‘We are deeply aware of the moral and social responsibility we have to the community during these challenging times and will continue to hold ourselves accountable.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as work though this.’

On it’s website Nelson Alexander boasts it ‘is unlike many real estate businesses in Australia and this gives us our competitive edge and ensures we can continue to deliver exceptional levels of service and results to our clients’.

Finding a rental place has become a nightmare in many Australian cities with long queues forming for inspection

Finding a rental place has become a nightmare in many Australian cities with long queues forming for inspection

Under the heading of ‘our core values’ the site states ‘we believe that our high-quality service is driven by a commitment to being trustworthy, transparent, and always having a serious and genuine regard for “doing the right thing”.’

‘Keeping our promises and acting with integrity are obligations we hold steadfast for our staff.’

Felgate also shared another incident where it appeared the tenant wasn’t treated truthfully.

‘My partner got kicked out her apartment over Xmas perido due to “the owners are wanting to sell” only to find that once she agreed to not renew the lease the owners relisted it for rent with a significantly increased rental amount ($38 per week to $465per week) – didn’t even try to list if for sale!’

However, this post attracted some strongly worded defences of landlords.

‘Love how renters expect homeowners to take on the rate rises and extra taxes introduced. Don’t like it? Buy your own house,’ one comment stated.

‘Victorians with second homes or investment properties will pay a new flat rate tax of up to $975, plus an additional levy on the value of their land from January 1, 2024,’ another post stated.

Melbourne journalist Jacqueline Felgate has been sharing frustrating experiences of people looking for rentals

Melbourne journalist Jacqueline Felgate has been sharing frustrating experiences of people looking for rentals

‘Can’t blame the home owners for wanting to use their investment property for what it was intended for, between interest rate hikes and extra tax levy’s what are they to do but increase the rent so they can continue to manage the debt?’

However. a number of people replying to Felgate’s posts shared their despair at finding a place to live.

‘I’m a single person house hunting atm. I feel like I’ve got more of a chance of winning tonights $100 million dollar lottery then getting a rental,” one comment said. 

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