Mark Fortune: MSP calls for 'proper investigation' into 'abusive' treatment of tenant 5

Mark Fortune: MSP calls for ‘proper investigation’ into ‘abusive’ treatment of tenant

An MSP has urged the Scottish Government and Edinburgh city council to open a “proper investigation” into the case of a tenant who was allegedly threatened in a row over rent payments.

Labour’s Sarah Boyack wrote to both authorities on 30 January after The Ferret published a secretly-filmed video of the incident, which allegedly features the controversial businessman, Mark Fortune.

The footage, revealed last week, led to renewed accusations from campaigners that authorities are guilty of inaction.

In the video, tenant Jason Chen was confronted by a man he believed to be his flat’s owner – Fortune. The man waved a stool at Chen and told him he would shut off his gas and electricity, and throw his belongings outside unless he paid the rent.

Chen claimed he only withheld rent after his flat was left without hot water for 28 days, and alleged he got little help from either the police or the council after reporting the verbal and physical threats.

Boyack said those who subject tenants to “abusive” behaviour should “face serious consequences”. 

A group of Fortune’s former tenants said such incidents “will only continue and perhaps even worsen” without intervention. Tenants’ union Living Rent accused authorities of a “complete failure” to hold Fortune to account.

The government’s tenant’s rights minister, Patrick Harvie MSP, also condemned the “threatening and abusive behaviour”. Harvie told The Ferret his officials had contacted the council “in response to this disturbing report”. The council will not comment on individual cases.

A 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 that date, and said enquiries were ongoing.

Minister: tenant’s treatment ‘completely unacceptable’

Boyack’s letter urges the government to “ensure that landlords are not able to use loopholes and other means to abuse their tenants and subject them to unacceptable conditions.”

She told The Ferret: “The actions seen in this video are deeply shocking. No tenant should be threatened for merely asking that their home has hot water… Any landlord who threatens or is abusive to their tenants should face serious consequences.”

Mark Fortune
Jason Chen. Image thanks to Jason Chen.

Tenant’s rights minister Harvie said: “Threatening and abusive behaviour is completely unacceptable and tenants should not be expected to endure conduct such as that reported. My officials have been in touch with Edinburgh city council, who operate the landlord register locally, in response to this disturbing report.”

He added: “Scotland has a strong package of rights for tenants, but we are still working to keep building on this and will soon introduce a new housing bill, to further strengthen the law to protect tenants.”

Mark Fortune: A recent history

Mark Fortune was taken off the council’s landlord’s register in 2013 after being convicted of threatening tenants. But his companies have continued to offer flats as short term lets, despite allowing tenants to stay long term.

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.

In 2021, we revealed that more than 40 former tenants had spoken out against Fortune, claiming their deposits were not returned and they had faced filthy living conditions.

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.

The Fortune-owned company which issued Chen’s contract, Edinburgh Rent, did not respond to a request for further comment.

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