An Edinburgh property firm owned by landlord Mark Fortune has been ordered to make one of its flats “fit for human habitation” by carrying out extensive repairs.
In 2021, we revealed that more than 40 former tenants of Fortune had spoken out against the property tycoon, with most claiming they were subjected to squalid living conditions and not given their deposits back when staying at properties run by his companies.
Now, according to an enforcement order, Fortune’s Edinburgh Holiday and Party Lets (EHPL) firm must make window and roof repairs, gas and electric safety checks and install a carbon monoxide tester in one of its flats in the south of the city, by June.
The dispute with the flat in Gillespie Crescent, Bruntsfield, has been ongoing for years. In 2019, City of Edinburgh Council asked Scotland’s Housing and Property Chamber to assess the property’s condition, which eventually led to the enforcement order.
Fortune reportedly told the BBC that he was “delighted” because the ruling meant communal repairs could go ahead. This is despite EHPL having previously lodged an unsuccessful appeal against the ruling, which was rejected on 31 March.
In its appeal, EHPL claimed the flat was a holiday let and not bound by Scottish housing legislation. But the tribunal ruled that residents had private residential tenancy agreements at the time and branded the appeal “deliberately obstructive”.
Fortune and holiday lets
Fortune was taken off the council’s landlord’s register in 2013 but continued to operate by renting out flats under the guise of ‘holiday lets’. However, tenants told The Ferret they were given month-to-month rolling contracts, and were allowed to stay in the flats long-term.
Housing charity Shelter Scotland stressed that the contracts referred to “inapplicable or out of date law” and attempted “to exploit the vulnerable position of people desperate to find homes”.
Holiday let properties are also not subject to the same fire safety and repair standards as typical lets, with fewer safeguards in place to stop operators from evicting their tenants.
In 2021, the Mark Fortune Investigation (MFI) campaign group, formed to expose the landlord’s operations, shared the more than 40 responses from a survey to other former tenants who claimed to have lived in multiple different properties operated by Fortune’s companies between 2008 and 2020.
They amassed hundreds of images showing broken windows, black mould, disabled smoke detectors, water leaking through a light fixture, crumbling walls and rusty appliances. Two tenants claimed Fortune’s companies told them to leave for requesting repairs in a damp flat containing disabled smoke detectors and a cracked skylight.
Tenants also shared emails, text messages and phone call recordings showing that requests for the return of their deposits, each worth several hundred pounds, were ignored.
The campaign wanted authorities to provide more support to tenants and take action against rogue landlords. Tenants’ union Living Rent said that previous interventions from authorities had “not resulted in material changes”.
Fortune has previously argued that his properties are operated by limited companies, rather than him personally.
Following the tribunal ruling, he told BBC Scotland: “The correspondence from both [tribunals] is clear the landlord is Edinburgh Holiday and Party Lets Ltd – my name was only included as the sole director which the upper tribunal has been advised is incorrect. I am not the director.”
He added he was “delighted with the ruling” as it meant a communal roof repair at the property could now go ahead.
The Ferret approached Mark Fortune for comment via two of his companies. A response from EHPL said its email address was no longer in use, and added: “We will not be accessing e-mails after 15/12/2023”.
Header image: Deadline News