Westminster Labour has reacted with anger at the leak of an email showing shocking behaviour by a Foxtons Lettings Manager who was attempting to win business off a rival agency. In the email a Lettings Manager at the Hampstead branch of Foxtons, James Grunshaw, insinuates that a potential tenant might be on housing benefit (as it happens incorrectly), that they could have a family and that this is somehow a reason for breaking a recently signed agreement. Mr Grunshaw goes on to suggest that such a family might create ‘lots more wear and tear on the property’ than his potential renters, irrespective of the rental history of the hypothetical family on housing benefit about whom he is so concerned.
Labour Group leader Cllr Adam Hug said “This lazy prejudice against housing benefit claimants and their families in the private rented sector has got to stop. While the Conservative Government has been increasingly been trying to push more housing cases into the private rented sector, it has become increasingly common for landlords to refuse to accept tenants who might be receiving housing benefit, even when families are not impact by any welfare caps. Foxtons and the wider Letting Agents Industry needs to urgently address such underhand and discriminatory tactics.”
Westminster Labour have written to Foxtons, the Association of Residential Lettings Agents and the Department of Communities and Local Government to protest at this behaviour. In his letter to Nick Budden, Foxtons Chief Executive, Adam Hug wrote:
Dear Mr Budden
I am writing to register my deep concern about the behaviour of one of your employees, James Grunshaw of your Hampstead Lettings Team, whose email below has been passed to me. In attempting to encourage a property owner who had agreed to let their property through another provider Mr Grunshaw not only tries some slippery business practice but fundamentally smears both families and people in receipt of housing benefit. Is this standard practice for Foxtons employees to behave in such a manner?
There is an increasing trend of people stigmatising families who might be in receipt of housing benefit, making it more difficult for them to find homes in the private rented sector, despite increasing pressure from Government for local councils to use the PRS to discharge their housing duties. Such insinuations against the wide range of people in London (and elsewhere) who require support from Housing Benefit do your company and your industry no credit. I hope that this matter turns out to be an isolated incident but believe that there needs to be some thorough analysis of the way in which your staff attempt to make deals and how they treat people who could potentially be on housing benefit.
I have written to ARLA and will be writing to the DCLG to share my concerns about this practice. I look forward to hearing your response to this matter.
Please find attached below a copy of the email in question.
Councillor Adam Hug
Leader, Westminster Labour Group
From: James Grunshaw
Sent: Thursday, April 7, 2016 11:34 AM
Subject: XXX Risborough House, Mallory Street, NW8 8TB
Hope you are well and nice to speak to you.
We have received a very good offer on the above property. The tenants are young professional tenants.
The details of the offer are below:
– Couple and 2 singles professionals
– 2 girls and 2 boys,
– One working as Civil engineer
– One for Cancer Research
– One is in Telecommunication
– One is in Fashion Advertising,
– Offering £2400 per calendar month – £553per week
– One year Tenancy Agreement
– Take it as seen
– Move in 25th of April.
City west homes will most likely rent your property out to a tenant that is on House Benefits (sic). I’d imagine children will also be residing in the property too. This will create lot’s more wear and tear on the property than professional tenants in my opinion, creating greater costs when you come to rent the property out again in the future.
If you only signed last night will City West Homes, and you would prefer this offer above, I would contact them and cancel the agreement you have signed. I’d imagine you would have a cooling off period when signing an agreement.
Do let me know your thoughts and I will proceed accordingly.
James Grunshaw – NALS Lettings Manager Hampstead Lettings, Foxtons
Foxton’s Chief Exec Nic Budden replied on 13th April to say:
Dear Mr Hug,
Thank you for your email of 11 April and for bringing this important matter to my attention.
Let me begin by reassuring you that Foxtons welcomes tenants who may be in receipt of housing benefit. We are currently working with a number of such tenants and we have previously arranged hundreds of tenancies where one or more of the occupants of the property are in receipt of some form of benefit which supplements household income. We also have good relationships with local authorities across London where they are paying rent directly on behalf of families we have housed for them.
Against this background, it’s very disappointing to me that an isolated incident in one of our offices has potentially created a harmful impression of Foxtons business practices.
In relation to the specific recent matter in Hampstead, I do genuinely believe that James’ poor judgement was the result of overenthusiasm in trying to win business for his client. That said, it is clearly unacceptable and I have asked my Director of Customer Service to fully investigate the matter and take whatever steps necessary to ensure that nothing like it happens again.
Should you wish to discuss this further please feel free to contact me directly.
Chief Executive Officer, Foxtons
Westminster Labour looks forward to hearing the outcome of their investigations and have called for Foxtons to take measures to ensure this does not happen again.