In what could be a landmark moment for the lettings industry in the United Kingdom, a disgruntled group of tenants and landlords have joined forces to destroy what could well be considered as the country’s worst lettings agency. A Southend News Network investigation can EXCLUSIVELY reveal that Vettings Lettings in Rochford receives more than 250 complaints EVERY SINGLE DAY from annoyed tenants and landlords, and a group of 50 ‘vigilantes’ entered their premises in Roche Place yesterday afternoon, removed equipment and then threw tins of paint everywhere to ensure that they were unable to continue trading.

Kara Inventori, an Italian law student at the University of Southend, has been renting a studio flat through Vettings Lettings for the last year in Ashingdon. She said: ‘My problems with Vettings started from the very first time that I went to see the property. £1295 per calendar month for a one-bed studio flat with shared bathroom is bad enough in itself, but being asked to pay six months rent as a deposit was a real challenge for me. I was then charged £995 for credit referencing and ‘administration,’ and unless their ‘admin’ involves hiring a team from MI6 to carry out background checks I fail to see how this fee is justified.’

She continued: ‘I wasn’t even able to see the property before putting a deposit down as they told me that there were literally 37 other people walking to their nearest cashpoint at the time of my phone call. Thank God I had my debit card with me to make payment over the phone.’

There were similar problems for Kathryn Bond when she was looking for a new home with her 6-month-old baby daughter. She said: ‘I was told that I would have to pay an additional £1500 arrangement fee as babies under the age of one year old are officially classed as ‘pets’ – a Vettings Lettings representative pointed out that this was a legal requirement and this decision was effectively out of their hands. I was actually lucky to see a real property in the end – they have more than 3000 places listed on Rightmove and most of them were rented out in 2011, but they even admitted that they leave them on there as they love getting phone calls from people who are convinced that they have found the perfect home.’

Paul Harrison-Tenance has a number of properties that he rents out through Vettings Lettings and he has had enough. He said: ‘Every time I go into their office, the entire team of agents has changed – they have more turnover than Greggs. One of my tenants had a boiler that was repeatedly breaking down, and they just kept sending their ‘plumber’ out repeatedly to bang it with a spanner. They even printed a tenancy agreement for someone with the line ‘insert address here’ printed repeatedly, and there was a paragraph at the bottom that said ‘They’re signing it, they’re signing it, how bloody desperate are these people?’

We contacted Vettings Lettings for a comment, and their spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed that we have had to find new premises for our main office – but we will come back better and stronger than ever. While we are aware that landlords could effectively download and print their own tenancy agreements, market their properties online, deal with the admin, register any documents legally, and effectively manage their own properties at every stage of the process, we can take the hassle out of the whole situation. If lettings agents didn’t exist, both the housing market and society in general would crumble.’

They added: ‘Our referencing fees are in line with other agencies who operate locally, and prospective tenants need to remember that there is an incredible amount of work involved – it is about a lot more than banging some personal details into a website and clicking ‘go’ before chatting to our colleagues about which tenant we would definitely ‘smash’.’