Letting Agent Fails to Disrupt Tenant Protest
In a farcical move, letting agent DJ Alexander hired contractors to carry out unsafe work outside their offices at noon on Friday 20th July in an attempt to prevent a protest by Edinburgh Private Tenants’ Action Group (EPTAG).
More than 20 tenants – some of them in TV cop costumes inspired by the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video – converged on DJ Alexander’s offices in Dundas Street to protest against illegal fees charged by the letting agent, and their bullying of tenants who complain about the fees.
Under Scottish law (section 82 of the Rents (Scotland) Act 1984, to be precise), it is an offence for a landlord or letting agent to charge tenants for anything other than their rent and deposit, but because the law is not enforced, nearly all Edinburgh letting agents charge administration fees. DJ Alexander’s fees are the highest in the city, and include a non-refundable “cleaning fee” which is charged in place of a deposit, and they require the final month’s rent to be paid at the start of the tenancy, which is also illegal.
DJ Alexander tenant Jon Black recently tried to claim back £830 that he was forced to pay in order to obtain the lease for a flat. Shortly afterwards the proprietor, David Alexander, began harassing Mr Black, personally phoning him more than 30 times in two days and leaving numerous messages in an attempt to intimidate him. Speaking about the incident, Mr Black said: “In one of the phone calls, Mr Alexander threatened to give me notice to quit the flat if I pursued this. He wanted to throw me out of my flat just because I tried to stand up for my rights. I told him that as I hadn’t broken my contract, he had no legal grounds to ask me to leave, and I would be prepared to fight this in court if necessary.”
EPTAG decided that it was important to expose Mr Alexander’s behaviour, so that other tenants could be made aware of their rights in this situation. They decided to picket the DJ Alexander offices, but even though they didn’t announce their target in advance, staff at DJ Alexander had called in contractors to cut up paving slabs with an angle grinder and clean the area in front of the office with high pressure hoses. This was not part of any repair work, but simply a tactic to deter the protesters by creating a lot of noise and dust, so that it became unpleasant for anyone stand in that area. However, the protesters were determined not to let this put them off, and stayed outside the office with banners and flyers for over an hour.
Lothian and Borders police were eventually forced to stop one of the contractors, after a passing construction worker informed them that it was dangerous and illegal to cut the slabs without taking precautions to minimise the amount of dust produced. Stone dust is an irritant which affects the eyes and lungs of anyone exposed to it, and can be dangerous for people with existing medical conditions such as asthma. Repeated exposure over a period of months or years can cause permanent lung damage, leading to disability or death.
Senior staff from DJ Alexander stood outside the office supervising the contractors throughout the protest. The decision to call in cowboy workmen who disregard safety precautions had obviously been made by the company’s management, and raises questions over the standard of maintenance work carried out in their properties.
Exploitative business practises have become normalised in the private rental sector; those of us living in rented housing expect poor conditions, perpetually delayed repairs, condescending agency staff, and extortionate fees on top of our escalating rents. This shouldn’t be normal – there’s specific legislation that says you shouldn’t have to put up with this – but we have to start advocating for ourselves if we want things to get any better. If you live in Scotland and have been charged fees by your landlord or letting agent, you can claim your money back using the guides written by EPTAG and Shelter. I’ve done it, and would recommend it to anyone who is fed up of being used as a cash cow by the private lettings industry.
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I have let through D J Alexanders and a lot of other letting agents in Edinburgh over the years and most recently in London. They have always been decent people to deal with especially compared to some of the other agencies I have had the displeasure of dealing with… certainly not crooks in my opinion but a lot of people have different types of experiences it seems when letting a property
DJ Alexander is the biggest crook in the letting market in Edinburgh. They’ll fleece you, give you bad service and make your life a misery.
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So many people should know about this protest. D j Alexander should be avoided at all costs. They are horrible,horrible people from the most junior to the most senior. If you have a complaint they are patronising and don’t do anything. Oh and by the way the reason why they tell so many people their rented property isn’t clean enough when they leave! One of their staff OWNS A CLEANING COMPANY! Therefore making money by putting his company in to clean and refusing to return deposit. It’s scandalous!
It is amazing post and action !! Congratulations
O´neill letting agency ediunburgh rip us off 194 GBP
here it´s my full history how they rep me off
Can you help me to spread it ?
At John – it does not say anywhere he was, has there been an edit since you posted?
this… is… amazing!
you might want to know that is not David Alexander ‘watching the protest’ so before you go ahead and assume, make sure you know who you are talking about first!
Dorothy – Dove Davies are lying because they think they can get away with it. Send them a letter citing the Rents (Scotland) Act 1984, then if they don’t refund you, raise a small claims court action – this is simply a matter of filling in some forms (see the EPTAG and Shelter links for detailed instructions) and paying a £15 court fee, which you can add to Dove Davies’ tab. The court will serve notice, and we’ve found that letting agents tend to refund you pretty quickly at this stage, because they know they can’t win in court, and paying you off is cheaper than trying to fight it.
EPTAG have been round every letting agent in the Yellow Pages, and compiled a list of what each of them charges. We’d like to publish it, but we’ve had threats of legal action, so we want to be more sure of our position first. What I can say though, is that we’ve found a grand total of three who aren’t charging fees.
You might want to forward a copy of this article to Dove Davies. I was recently questioning their £125 (for a single applicant) fee and their agent huffily and defensively informed me that it was NOT illegal.
Could you perhaps compile a list of letting agents and their fees? I know Southside doesn’t charge one, but can’t think of any others.