We know that private renting leaves a lot to be desired, and we also know that the voice of private tenants is often missing when decisions about us are made. The only way that we will improve our living situation is by joining together, in large numbers to affect change. For this reason we are starting our next campaign by hitting the doors and speaking to as many tenants as we can about the issues affecting them, in order for us to take collective action. We’re excited to announce that this campaign is about to begin, but we need your help to bring it to life.

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Where? We will be knocking on doors in the Easter Road area of the city, and talking to as many tenants as we can around Easter Road and Leith Walk.

When? We will start door knocking from Monday the 8th of June, and will continue for six weeks, this will culminate in a public meeting on the Tuesday the 22nd of July at Norton Park Conference Centre, where tenants will have the opportunity to come together to raise their issues, and decide upon next steps for collective action.

Amazing, how can I get involved?

We are looking for volunteers to come door-knocking, and to help with other tasks like envelope stuffing. Full training will be given, and we will pair you up with an experienced member of the committee.

We will be stuffing envelopes on Sunday the 1st of June in room G5 at St Margaret’s house 151 London Road from 3pm.

Door-knocking training will take place on Sunday the 8th of June from 5pm, which will also take place at St Margaret’s House.

Door knocking will take place from Monday the 9th of June. We would love to see you along, even if you can only commit to one or two nights. Please contact us if you would like to get involved.

We are also looking for people who live in the Leith/Easter Road area of the city who might be interested in being part of a Leith branch of Edinburgh Private Tenants. If this is something you may be interested in please get in touch.

If you would like to be involved in any of this email us, or phone 0131 661 5113 and leave a message with your name and phone number.  You can also like our page on facebook for more updates.

I don’t have time to get involved in this, is there another way I can help?

The best way to support renters in is to become a member of Edinburgh Private Tenants.  Anyone who rents can become a full member, and others are welcome to join as supporters.  We need to come together in large numbers to affect change. Every new member helps keep us democratic and makes us more powerful. You know it makes sense, so why not join online now?

 

As I am sure you are aware, as an organisation we depend on the hard work of tenants who want to see badly needed improvements to private renting in Edinburgh and beyond. Private tenants rarely have a strong voice, and are often absent from decisions made about our lives.

Throughout our breif history we have held large public meetings, protested outside letting agents as well as lobbying the Scottish Government and attending Edinburgh City Council meetings as well as responding to consultations about housing.

One thing that has become clear throughout the course of our work is the desperate need for the voice of tenants to be louder. That’s why this spring we want to find out what issues are most important to private tenants in Edinburgh, and take action on those issues. To do this we need your help.

We are looking for volunteers to give up 5 hours of their time over a 6 week period in May and June this year. The role will involve canvassing tenants about the issues important to them. Full training will be given, and references will be available. It will also be a great opportunity to meet other private tenants and hopefully a lot of fun too.

To get involved, or for more information email info@eptag.org.uk or fill out the form below.

Together we can make renting better for tenants.

To volunteer with EPTAG please send us your name, email and a contact number and we will get in touch.

Address: Room 4.30, St Margaret's House, 151 London Road, EH7 6AE

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Tenants win back pre-2012 letting agency fees!

February 19th, 2014 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

letting-fees-illegal-19feb14Tenants in Aberdeen have successfully won a small claims action for a refund of letting agency fees charged before the Scottish Government issued a clarification of the law against such fees in 2012.  This decision is a very positive sign, and is likely to empower more tenants to take their letting agencies to court.

The Court heard that in 2009, Aberdeen Property Leasing had charged the tenants an administration fee of £125, in addition to the rent and deposit. The letting agency tried to argue that before the legal clarification made by the Scottish Government in 2012, such administration fees were legal, and that only fees charged after that date were prohibited.

The tenants, who were representing themselves, argued that the 1984 Rent Scotland Act clearly states that it is illegal for a landlord or letting agent to charge tenants any fees in addition to their rent and deposit, and therefore such fees were illegal even before the clarification. The Sheriff agreed with them. This new judgement published today may mean that letting agents in Scotland can no longer rely on this excuse.

In the judgement, Sheriff Lewis stated:  “In my opinion the definition was not changed – it was improved to make it crystal clear to all involved in residential leasing that administration fees ought not to have been imposed and ought not to be imposed.

“I have concluded that the administration fee imposed by the defender was a prohibited payment and accordingly the pursuers are entitled to the return of it. ”

Sheriff Lewis decided that the the Rent Scotland Act 1984 makes it clear that the charging of administration fees is illegal, and that the clarification made by the Scottish Government in 2012 does not change that fact.

While decisions in a Sheriff Court do not create legal precedents, and so this does not necessarily mean that every Sheriff will make the same judgement, this kind of ruling should give confidence to tenants who have yet to claim back their illegal fees, even ones that were charged several years ago.

This a clear victory for private tenants who have been ripped off by illegal fees, and EPTAG would encourage any tenants who have not done so already, to write to their letting agency, and request a refund. If you have proof such as a receipt or bank statement, you can claim back fees from up to 6 years ago.

Private Tenants Scotland and EPTAG are currently supporting a dozen tenants to claim back fees they have been illegally charged, so if you need any tips or advice, get in touch. Or better still, join us and become part of Scotland’s private tenants movement.

A UN Special Rapporteur who visited the UK in 2013 to assess whether residents have access to adequate housing has described conditions in the private rented sector as a “housing crisis”. Although the UK Government invited planning expert Raquel Rolnik to carry out the research, Ministers have since dismissed her report as a “misleading Marxist diatribe” and she has been subjected to xenophobic abuse in the right-wing press.

The full report, which is written in an accessible style and contains an excellent potted history of UK housing policy, can be downloaded from the UN website (downloads as .doc file). It covers a wide range of issues including the bedroom tax, social housing, and provision for gypsies and travellers, but Rolnik also manages to make some important points about the private rented sector. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing yourself, the edited highlights (from a PRS perspective) are as follows:

 Paragraph 24. The Special Rapporteur considers that the United Kingdom faces a critical situation in terms of availability, affordability and access to adequate housing, particularly in some geographic areas… The lack of housing “is not just a recessionary phenomenon: housing supply has failed to respond adequately to high levels of demand for decades”.

Paragraph 26. … [I]t is clear that social and affordable housing is especially scarce, waiting lists for social rental housing have grown, homelessness rates have increased, and the private rented sector has expanded to become the only option for many despite its insecure tenure. In April 2012, facing a waiting list that had grown by 81 per cent (since 1997) in England, councils noted that they would be compelled to use more private rentals, particularly to provide emergency accommodation. As many as 1.4 million properties — 35 per cent of the private rented sector — do not meet the Decent Homes Standard. In the Special Rapporteur’s view, this can be described as a housing crisis.

Paragraph 34. For many, private tenancy is the only option. However, there are significant problems, such as insecurity of tenure, poor management practices and discrimination against specific population groups by landlords and letting agents. In areas of high demand, like London, these problems can be severe. …

Paragraph 80. …[T]he Special Rapporteur wishes to make the following recommendations to the central Government and devolved administrations, as applicable:

…(g) Increase regulation and enhance information and accountability in relation to the private rented sector; adopt regulatory tenancy protections, including minimum length of contracts, restraints on rent increases and strict limits on eviction; encourage the use of standardized human rights-compliant rental contracts; enhance mechanisms of registration of landlords and letting agents, and establish clear accountability mechanisms to eliminate discrimination in the private rented sector;

 EPTAG isn’t going to argue with any of that.

Planting ACORNs

January 5th, 2014 | Posted by admin in News - (Comments Off)

ACORN logoAt our recent general meeting EPTAG agreed not only to assist in the create of a Scotland-wide private tenant’s organisation, Private Tenants Scotland, but also to join with ACORN Scotland, a broader community organisation based on principles similar to our own.

As private tenants we face many issues, not all of which are exclusive to ourselves. Whilst dodgy landlords and unscrupulous letting agents are exactly the sort of bread and butter issues that EPTAG is built to tackle, issues like rip-off energy prices, service cutbacks and safety on our streets are not the concerns of private tenants alone.
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EPTAG demands action against criminal landlords!

December 17th, 2013 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

mf-protest-16dec13Over the last couple of months, dozens of tenants who are being exploited by criminal landlord Mark Fortune have come to us with their concerns and demands for action.

As part of our campaign we staged a successful protest on Monday 16th December to highlight Edinburgh City Council’s lack of action against criminal landlords.

Tenants assembled outside the City Chambers – all disguised as Mark Fortune – and delivered a letter asking council staff to clamp down on dodgy landlords, and to take greater steps to support and protect tenants. (Coverage of the protest in the Daily Record)

The notorious rogue landlord Mark Fortune was banned from renting out property in Edinburgh in February 2013, but he is appealing against the council’s decision and is allowed to continue acting as a landlord until the appeal process has been completed. Ten months later, the council have still not set a date for his appeal hearing. (more…)

Is renting becoming unaffordable in Edinburgh?

December 13th, 2013 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

In the Edinburgh Evening News today there is an article, featuring comments from EPTAG, about how renting privately in Edinburgh is becoming unaffordable for many people. (more…)

Ten months after Edinburgh City Council’s decision to ban Mark Fortune from renting out properties in the city, the millionaire landlord is still in business. Fortune is appealing the council’s decision, and this allows him to continue acting as a landlord until the appeal process has been completed. At the time of writing no date has been set for his appeal hearing. (more…)

A soggy Sunday afternoon saw Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group’s second annual general meeting, which took place at the Macdonald Road library in Leith. (more…)

First action in Glasgow

November 18th, 2013 | Posted by Valeri in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)
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Today’s action marks another important milestone on EPTAG’s long-term journey to improve private tenancy rights in Scotland. In the first move to reach out to other cities in Scotland EPTAG members and local private tenants met up today to kick-off a campaign against a letting agency in Glasgow. The letting agency charged premiums from tenants and also failed to pay deposits to an approved tenancy deposit scheme. Both these practices are illegal but still common throughout Scotland. The five campaigners knocked at over 100 doors and spoke to many tenants who confirmed and reported similar criminal offences. At a meeting on Tuesday the tenants will get a detailed briefing about their options and how EPTAG can support them in claiming back their fees. With the recently initiated Private Tenants Scotland, the umbrella organisation that hosts local groups like EPTAG or the new Glasgow branch, the foundation for an organised approach has been created. If you want to campaign for private tenancy rights in your area, get in touch!