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Aston Fox
East Ham, London
Letting Agents

Very Poor & Possibly Illegal Conduct From Them


Complaint Staff Member

NOTE: Aston Fox has formerly been known as:

  • Franklin Blatt
  • Taylor Simpson
  • Phil Chandler property services trading as Semprini Ltd.

Aston Fox is a letting agents, based at 196 High Street North, in East Ham, London. E6 2JA. It is run by shadow director, Mr. Philip Chandler, who is a disqualified director currently owing £325,000 to landlords in rent arrears. You can read more about him in this Government News Network report.

For those who may not know, letting agents find tenants for rental properties; they manage rent collection and may provide other services. Letting agents usually negotiate contracts to manage rented property for a period - often two years. Their fee for managing the property for this period is often taken out of the tenants first few rent payments.

Let's Fix Britain provides a Complaints Service. For a small fee we write a complaint letter and we did this for our client in. She had engaged Aston Fox to manage her property - they found a tenant. For a while the tenant's rent was absorbed by Aston Fox to pay the two year letting fee of £2,444. However, when that fee was paid Aston Fox passed on only £156. Since that first and only cheque, four months have passed and Aston Fox have not paid our client a penny.

Our complaint letter had no effect on Aston Fox - they didn't even reply to it.

As a follow-on service, we offered to try to recover the outstanding money from Aston Fox for her, on a no-win, no-fee basis.

One of the tactics we use is to document and publicise the conduct of companies who mistreat their customers, and that is what this article seeks to do. It is, of course, illegal to damage the reputation of a company or individual by publicising unsubstantiated claims or lies - and that is as it should be. But it is not illegal to tell the ugly truth about a company who is mistreating a customer. That is also - as it should be.

So here, we limit our articles to undisputable facts. We also offer complaint subjects - in this case Aston Fox - the opportunity to place their own un-edited comments here.

The central facts are these:

  • Aston Fox are not members of any of these professional regulating bodies:
    RICS - Royal Institution of Charters Surveyors
    NAEA - National Association of Estate Agents
    OEAS - Ombudsman for Estate Agents Scheme
    ARLA - Association of Residential Letting Agents

    - This means that you cannot take any complaint you may have about Aston Fox to any of these organisations.
  • To date, Aston Fox has taken £2,666 from the tenant which should have been passed to our client - but was not. At the time of writing, money has been left unpaid for four months, causing our client very significant financial problems.
  • Our client tried to resolve this issue with Aston Fox on numerous occasions.
    Her contact within Aston Fox - Stephanie - was unavailable to deal with our client on at least eight occasions. by telephone, and she did not return our client's calls. On one occasion Stephanie was unavailable to see our client when she visited Aston Fox in person.
  • In April, Stephanie assured our client that a cheque would be issued. But it was not.
  • In May, we took on the problem for our client. We wrote to Aston Fox asking them to respond with an explanation of the delays and a commitment by June 9th. They did not.
  • Like our client, I also found great difficulties in speaking to Stephanie who was very often "not in yet", "out to lunch", "on the phone", "in a meeting" or otherwise indisposed. ON one occasion she was dealing with a bomb scare. My requests for her to call me were usually ignored.
  • I did eventually speak to Stephanie who said that the problems were caused by mal-administration of standing orders. Can this kind of problem really persist over 4 months?
  • I set another deadline for Aston Fox to issue a cheque for the outstanding money on 29th June, informing us of the cheque's details. Aston Fox did not respond to this - nor did they meet the deadline.
  • In my earlier call, Stephanie assured me that a cheque for the full amount outstanding would be issued on July 3rd. It was not.
  • When I wrote to Aston Fox outlining our intentions in recovering our client's money, Aston Fox referred us to their solicitor - W.H. Matthews & Co., or 109 Old Street, London EC1 9JR.

Bottom line? Aston Fox have retained our client's rent money - about £3,000 - without permission nor any good reason which has caused our client significant problems. Aston Fox have been evasive and difficult to deal with. They have made promises then broken them. As at this writing - four months since the problem arose - they show no signs of returning our client's money.

We are taking other steps to address this.

If you would like to express your opinion of Aston Fox's conduct to them, please email them at stephanie@astonfox.co.uk or phone them on their Low-Call number: 0845 223 8220.

UPDATE: Our letter-writing service did not persuade Aston Fox to pay up on this occasion so our client asked us to work on her behalf to recover her money on a no-win, no-fee basis. We worked long and hard, involving several other agencies, and in October of 2006, we recovered all of our client's money.

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Let's Fix Britain has been contacted by seven other people reporting similar treatment of them by Aston Fox. Our first piece of free advice is for you to write to them saying that you will involve us unless they pay up. If that still does not work, then you may want to purchase our letter-writing service and if that doesn't work, we are willing to work for you to recover your money on a no-win, no-fee basis. Please contact us to arrange things.

UPDATE: Reader "P.M." wrote to us explaining that Aston Fox had been treating him as badly as the client featured in this article - retaining rent money without justification, and ignoring his emails and phone messages. Our advice was to initially write again to Aston Fox, explaining that - if they did not send his money immediately, he would engage Let's Fix Britain to act on his behalf. P wrote to us last week and we re-produce his email with permission:

Just thought I would keep you in the loop. Wednesday I let rip at Aston fox and threatened that if it wasn't sorted before the end of the week I was going to go to Lets Fix Britain, Trading Standards, Watchdog, Rogue Traders, The Sun, Homes4U, Findaproperty.com and anybody else I could think of.

Yesterday they paid the cheque in my account!!! Thanks for your help.

P.

UPDATE: April 2007: We were engaged by another client to write a complaint letter to Aston Fox, who said: Your attachment letter to Aston Fox is perfect. Please go ahead and send letter as soon as possible.

UPDATE: April 2007: We sent the letter, and later I conducted a 40 minute phonecall with Philip Chandler, who agreed to forward a cheque to clear the debts. This was received by my client on April 24th, ad he wrote:

Hello Chris, Finally we received the cheque. My wife, Andrea picked up the cheque at about 16:45 from the Aston Fox East Ham office. The amount is for £1,913.20... Thank you for all your help, as I know for certain if it was not for your solid letter writing and knowledge of this particular type of company, this (i.e. Receipt of cheque today) would not be possible.

UPDATE: June 2007: We were contacted by Mr. H.H. who was experiencing poor service from Aston Fox. In this case, Aston Fox were only passing rent to the landlords after constant badgering from our client, rent being late on five out of 6 times, but up to a month. As is always reported to us by our clients, Aston Fox werealso being evasive and unpleasant in response to our client's reasonable requests. We were retained to write a letter to Aston Fox and did so. On this ocassion, it did not produce the requred results and our client decided not to take things further for the time being.

UPDATE: July 2007: Another client, Mr. A.S. contacted us on behalf of his son, who gave Aston Fox nearly £2,000 up-front rental for a house which they never got to move in to. Aston Fox refused to return that money for no good reason. Mr. A.S. asked us to write a letter of complaint which we did. However, we didn't send it. Mr. A.S. said:

Hi Chris

I am pleased to inform you that a cheque was received from Philip Chandler of Aston Fox and that it has now cleared into my son's account.

I will no longer require your letter writing service but I am sure that the mention of your organisation helped in persuading Philip Chandler to write a cheque in a fairly prompt manner.

Many thanks for your advice and I will be keeping an eye on your site for any future developments relating this and other companies.

UPDATE: December 2007: We have received a number of emails from people saying they have problems with Aston Fox keeping their money without good reason. Here is a typical example:

Hello Chris

My name is [supplied] and I am on eof the "victims" os Axton Fox. My partner found out that Mr. Chandler had lost the lisense to be a director and contacted you in my behalf over a month ago, as Axton Fox owe me payment for two months. They paid and Mr.Chandler spoke to me saying all should be ok from now on. But it is not. They payment they should have done around the [... December] I haven't got, and it is the usual excuses, " you can leave a message for Stephjanie ill tell her to call you back" or "she is not in", or "she is in a meeting". I know them all.

I am going to send a letter saying that if I dont receive the money but the end of this month I will get you guys involve, and obviosly carry it out....

2011 - Aston Fox still up to the same stuff, it seems:

I have just read an article about AF on line and could be reading about my own experience.

I am suffering from the issue of rent not being paid to me and not ever being able to talk to Stephanie.

I have advised that I will take legal action if all rent is not paid by the end of this month.

2013 Aston Fox still up to the same stuff, it seems:

Please publish this on your page. Aston fox has not changed. During my current problems listed below, I referenced the website and they state it has not happend since 2007. Which is a lie as they have not paid my landlord since November 2012. I am a ex tenant of Aston fox. It has been two months and I have not received a refund of my deposit. On visiting the office 2-3 times a week, no staff can help apart from philip or Stephanie who are never in office. An email was sent each time, and each telephone correspondence I made And email was sent. Yet two months later, they have not responded, nor released my deposit. It is the most aggravating service, chasing people who are immune to dealing with unhappy clients. Continuos dismissal.

Email address provided

Various correspondence to third parties sent below:

Dear air/madam,

I was previously a tenant for Aston fox from January 2012 to January 2013.
I had paid one months rent and deposit in advance at Aston fox on signing the contract.
I have paid my rent 1-2 weeks early each month.

I gave sufficient notice to leave the property- landlord was informed October 2012, Aston fox November 2012. Tenancy was due to terminate on the 28th of January 2013.

On discussion Aston fox stated I must pay the last months rent and the deposit will be refunded on inspection of the property.
The property had been well kept.

I moved out on the 16 of January and handed in the keys to Aston fox. Informed it usually takes 48hours for refunding a deposit post inspection.

Since then, the office staff have been dismissing my request for a return of my deposit.

A) the landlord has not yet confirmed- which was a lie as I had personal contact with the landlord and saved the messages, in which she states she is happy for the deposit to be released.

B) the office staff stated they do not deal with finance and accounts, only Stephanie or Phillip can arrange for the deposit to be refunded. Stephanie and Phillip are never found at the office, on each visit to the office over the last two months, an email has been sent to them requesting resolution, of which no response has been given. On each phone call, both are not available and staff have emailed them, according to the phone call. Several messages, emails with no response.

C) the staff stated they have no responsibility, it is up to accounts and the landlord. Yet they are the first contacts and persons who signed me onto the contract. They have no head office and a free letting agency, which had been misleading due to the large name of Aston fox.
The company is not governed by governing body\'s to which I could escalate the problem to.

On researching I found my landlord had not been paid from November 2012 to January 2013. She also was experiencing problems with contacting the staff. On researching the Internet I have seen bad reviews. Lastly I came across several complaints of which people have not received their money back, landlords and tenants alike till they took legal action. Months later a resolution was made for them.

Unfortunately I\'m a mother of two, expecting and working part time. I have been chasing them up, and I have no hope of receiving my finances back. I have visited the citizens advice bureau in my locality who do not deal with housing issues such as this. I cannot afford legal services and am not eliagable for legal aid as far as I a concerned.

I would like to know if you know any processes in which these agents will take me seriously. The sum of 950 may not seem much to what they have horded from other landlords and tenants but for myself it is a large sum of money, which I have not received, nor see myself receiving it anytime soon.

According to the online reviews , Stephanie\'s name has been mentioned avoiding clients, refusing to speak to them when approached, making excuses. Philip chandler the owner of Aston fox had been a dismissed director financially bankrupt and involves in several disputes, if I had known before I would never have opted for services from Aston fox. The service is very poorly once a contract is signed.

Update 7th March 2013:

can relate to your experience. I rented a property managed by them for one year paying rent two weeks in advance every month from the 28th jan 2012. I have moved out, it's been a month and they are not realising my deposit, saying the landlord has not Mande any arrangements. Which is a lie as I have contact with my landlord who had given the all clear. The landlord also never received 2months rent from Aston fox, and is struggling to obtain this.

It appears Aston fox want to hold on to whatever cash they have received for as long as they can, for their own accounts.

I have called 2-4 times a week for the last 4.5 weeks, visited 4 times , had emails sent out to various individuals who usually deal with these cases, as the actual branch only take cash, do not do any other aspect of property dealing.

Each time the office is contacted the relevant people are out of office, a
Message is left or email sent without a response. As no one in the office is equipt to deal with the matter.

I know now I'm not the only one who this has happend to, various people have said they never quote never recovered their deposit.

This is thieft.

Pro's: the agents worked swiftly to draft up a contract, take a deposit and one months rent for the tenancy.

During the tenancy- the boiler broke down, with 2weeks no hot water the agents stated they do not deal with repairs I need to contact the landlord directly. Which took a great effort to get the repair in.

The landlord was given notice in October- 5months in advance that I would be moving out. Aston fox informed 3 months in advance.

It would have been appropriate for them to inspect the property after the keys are handed in. Yet this was not done. The Keys were given to the landlord to start renting again. How would this show how we left the property?

Fortunately the landlord was honest and stated the property is clean and satisfactory - happy to return deposit and had informed accounts staphanie at Aston fox. Who has been out of office. All other accounts people have also Been out of office when attempting to call. For a month, I wonder how they manage...

Yet when I paid rent with a separate account, the accounts department phoned immediately to check if this was my rent payment.

Very poor service. I'm at the point of taking legal action, the agent had a reputable name, that may have been a very long time ago, because I've rented from the age of 15yrs" and 21years later I have never had this bad a experience at all.

I totally agree with the complaints on this website, and am shocked to the extent it has been going on.

PLEASE NOTE:

Aston Fox have been notified of this article.

On If Aston Fox wish to express their views
I will place them here, un-edited.

From conversation with Philip Chandler I would like to point out the following on his behalf:

It's important to recognise that we usually see only the cases that go wrong. It may (or may not) be that these form a tiny minority of the client relationships maintained by Aston Fox.

Aston Fox tell us that they receive many letters and gifts from extremely satisfied customers. I have asked them to place these online, and I will be very happy to provide a link to them here.

It is also important to take care to ensure that you have a valid case before proceeding with a complaint. Ason Fox tell me that many clients simply don't read their contract or terms & conditions before complaining. So please do so, and be sure that Aston Fox is in breach before you take action.

UPDATE: December 2007
We received a letter from Aston Fox's Solicitors, WH Matthews & Co, which we are happy to publish here:

 

Dear Sir

Re: Aston Fox

As you may be aware, we act for Aston Fox and we note that in email correspondence you have invited my clients to express an opinion with regard to the information contained on your website, and that you would publish the letter unedited and our client is taking up this offer by way of this letter.

Our client has a well established firm in the East Ham area, having operated there for many years and has built up a reputation for being honest, reliable and hard-working which has enabled the company to expand.

Our client was extremely concerned that the Landlord you referred to at the beginning of your website received a service below one you can normally expect from a professional client such as ours and he fully accepts the criticism received. However, your website fails to mention the fact that your client has now been fully reimbursed and would you please therefore take steps to correct this accordingly.

With regards to the complaint made by another tenant in April 2007, the information contained therein is incorrect. The Landlord was always paid on time if not earlier than in accordance with the terms and conditions he signed. The basis of his complaint is therefore wrong.

With regard to Mr H, unfortunately once again the information you have been given is incorrect and we confirm that all monies have been accounted for to your client and we enclose a copy of the email sent to him confirming this fact

Our clients have dealt with many successful matters, and we ourselves have seen a whole file of compliments sent to our clients following conclusions of same.

It is therefore totally wrong to paint a picture that our clients are doing something wrong when he runs a very professional service. One genuine complaint out of numerous satisfied customers is not a basis for the tone of your site.

We trust this letter is published and edited on to the site so that people can get a fair balanced view of the realities of the situation.

Yours faithfully


BARRY LESLER

 

LFB NOTE REGARDING THIS LETTER:

Our clients fundamentally disagree with Aston Fox, and on every occasion we have represented a client, Aston Fox have finally relented and paid up what they owe.

 
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