Tenant Jason Chen said he was confronted by a man he believed to be his landlord in a row over rent payments.
Chen secretly filmed a video of the incident where the man is seen waving a stool at him during a dispute over the Edinburgh flat allegedly going without hot water for 28 days.
Chen told The Ferret he believes the man in the video is the flat’s owner and controversial businessman, Mark Fortune.
However, another firm linked to Fortune claimed he was at a dentist’s “400 miles” away on 25 October 2023 – the day Chen said the confrontation happened – and suggested he may have a “twin”.
Police Scotland confirmed it responded to a disturbance on the street on 25 October, with enquiries ongoing.
In the video, passed to The Ferret by Chen, the man told him he would shut off his flat’s gas and electricity unless he paid the rent. He threatened to throw Chen’s belongings onto the street.
Chen also received messages he considered to be threatening from the phone number listed on the contract given to him by Fortune’s company, Edinburgh Rent.
Chen claimed he got little help from authorities, while Fortune, who was convicted of threatening tenants in 2011, has been allowed to keep operating.
Campaigners urged authorities to act, accusing them of a “complete failure” of holding Fortune to account for issues affecting tenants, which have been reported by The Ferret and others.
A month without hot water
Jason Chen, from Taiwan, moved to Edinburgh from England and found the flat advertised on temporary accommodation website SpareRoom.
He arrived in the capital in April 2023 but when he entered his new flat, he said it looked “totally different” from the ad, with a broken cooker in the hall, white paint splattered on the floor, furniture and the kitchen window, and no curtains in the living room.
With nowhere else to live, Chen felt he “had no choice” to take the room, so signed an online contract issued by Fortune’s company, Edinburgh Rent, and paid his £435 monthly rent and £300 deposit.
On 30 September, the flat’s hot water stopped working, which Chen reported to Edinburgh Rent via Whatsapp, messages seen by The Ferret show. After an initial visit by an engineer four days later – who found a gas leak and shut off the supply – Edinburgh Rent accused tenants of overloading the electricity and “tampering” with the gas.
Throughout October, Chen was repeatedly told an engineer was unable to enter the flat because no one was in. He claims the company was “stalling” and left him and his flatmates to boil water to wash themselves, or take cold showers.
At the end of October, he told Edinburgh Rent his flat would pay only partial rent until the hot water was fixed. The company claimed it was illegal to do so.
“Clearly you’ve never dealt with my boss before,” said Edinburgh Rent. “You’re clearly going to regret your decision”. When Chen said he believed Fortune was involved in the arrangement, he was told the man “isn’t my boss and he’s not your landlord”.
Captured on video
Despite this claim, the man Chen claims to be Fortune entered the flat on 25 October to demand rent while Chen was sleeping.
When he again refused to pay until the hot water was fixed, he claims the man left and returned after a few hours, and became “even more aggressive”. When the man re-entered his room, Chen secretly filmed him.
“If is not paid, everything will be turned off in the flat tonight,” he told Chen in the captured video footage. “There’ll be no electric, there’ll be no heating, there’ll be no gas, no internet, no nothing. Because when comes back in probably one hour he’ll be told to switch everything off. Ok? So you can sit in darkness.”
He then accused Chen of attempting to bully him by withholding the rent. “You’ll pay, or I’ll throw all your stuff in the street,” he threatened.
Chen said all tenants had agreed to withhold rent, telling him “it’s not just me”. The man replied: “I’ll put everyone out. I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t care less. You, him and him. Everyone. These things happen. I have hundreds of flats. Sometimes a problem. It wasn’t me that blew up the electrics. Ok?
“So if you want an easy life, make sure you’re paid by the time I come back. Because there will come a point when I won’t be very amicable to you.”
The man then picked up a wooden stool, saying: “The likes of this…you know what I mean?”. He gestured to hit Chen with it, told him “you can Google me”, and left.
Chen called various authorities, shared the video and text messages, and told Edinburgh Rent he had done so.
Messages show the company told Chen the council had failed to help tenants who were “removed”. Neither the police or the council had the authority to let him back into the flat, they said.
“Tell whoever you want but will wish you’d not been a smart arse – we have something special planned for you,” it added. One message said “the flat will be dark and many things can go bump in the night”, while another, from an unknown number, told Chen he would be “spending Christmas in hospital”.
When Chen didn’t answer calls from Edinburgh Rent, he was called “a little bitch”, accused of “stealing” electricity and told he would be reported to the electricity provider unless his rent was paid, adding: “Thereafter we will have another nice surprise for you”.
A message purporting to be from an electricity company followed, alleging he had racked up debt, and that police would force entry to shut off the flat’s supply. Edinburgh Rent also told Chen a locksmith was ready to fit new locks on his room.
The next day, Chen claimed he went out and returned to find the locks had been changed, but was let in by one of his flatmates. He was told he would get new keys if he paid his rent, and was forced to keep the flat unlocked.
While Chen claimed housing charities told him he had the right to withhold rent, he believed he had “no choice” and “just felt helpless”. He paid and was given keys two days later.
In January, Chen moved out and did not pay the final month’s rent. He agreed for his video and account of events to be published once he had left the country, in hopes of helping other tenants.
“No one should have suffered like this,” he said. “I just hope this video can help everyone… to escape from Mark Fortune’s hands, and we can just live like normal people… in a safe house,” he added.
Mark Fortune’s firms’ ‘short term lets’
Fortune was taken off the council’s landlord’s register in 2013, but his companies have continued to offer flats as short term lets, despite allowing tenants to stay long term.
In 2021, we revealed that more than 40 former tenants had spoken out against the landlord, claiming their deposits were not returned and they had faced filthy living conditions.
However, last year, housing tribunals ordered one of Fortune’s firms to make a flat “fit for human habitation” and give a former tenant her deposit back. Tribunals rejected claims that Fortune’s firms were operating short term lets and said tenants should get the same protections as ordinary lets.
The flat Chen lived in does not appear on the council’s list of applicants for a short term let licence. Operating without a licence can result in a £2,500 fine and a year-long ban.
However, Edinburgh council last year admitted it has no enforcement powers to pursue rogue landlords who refuse to comply with the law.
We can also reveal three flats belonging to Fortune are in the process of being sold off to settle council tax debts understood to be a six-figure sum, with a further two properties due to be auctioned next month.
The flats were seized from him as part of a sequestration – the term used in Scottish Law for entering bankruptcy. The process was started by Edinburgh council.
‘Violations of tenants’ welfare
The Mark Fortune Investigation team – a group of the businessman’s former tenants – deemed Chen’s video “disturbing”.
The group provides “legal, practical, and emotional support” to tenants, but without “a more urgent approach” from authorities, such incidents “will only continue and perhaps even worsen,” a spokesperson warned.
This view was echoed by Aditi Jehangir from tenants’ union, Living Rent.
“The complete lack of basic utilities and services is bad enough, but the intimidating behaviour that Chen and his flatmates had to endure highlights the complete failure to hold landlords to account,” she argued.
Jehangir also accused the council and police of failing to take action against Fortune despite being aware of his operations.
Others argued for an overhaul of housing laws.
Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland’s director, said: “The fact that is able to continually exploit people is one of many clear examples of the way that the housing emergency devastates lives in Scotland, Edinburgh in particular.”
Local Green councillor, Claire Miller, said she had been contacted by Gillespie Crescent residents “genuinely concerned about the health, wellbeing and welfare of their neighbours”.
Current laws “are just not strong enough to ensure everyone has a safe and habitable place to live”, Miller claimed, and promised to highlight weaknesses in housing regulations.
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said they could not comment on individual cases, but encouraged “anyone with any concerns in relation to any landlord, to contact the council so we can investigate”.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “About 8.50pm on Friday, 25 October 2023, police were called to a report of a disturbance at premises in Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh. Enquiries are ongoing”.
The Ferret attempted to contact Fortune via two of his associated companies. A spokesperson for Edinburgh Rent said he was “not contactable on this number nor does he have any access to the server”. “Mr Fortune has been outwith the UK since Sept 2023 and has evidence such ,” they added.
A spokesperson for Edinburgh Holiday and Party Lets, of which Fortune is a former director, said “we do not work for Mr Fortune”. “…it appears Mr F was in a dentist on 25/10/23 over 400 miles from Edinburgh,” they said. “Perhaps he has a twin”.
The spokesperson claimed the company stopped being Chen’s landlord in October, but did not respond when asked why. We also asked for evidence of Fortune’s visit to the dentist, but did not receive a response.