Edinburgh tenant records flat rent row on secret video

  • By Andrew Picken
  • BBC Scotland News

Video caption,

Watch the moment Edinburgh tenant records rent row on secret video

A tenant has told of the moment he was confronted by a man he believed to be his landlord during a rent row.

Jason Chen took a secret video recording of the incident where the man is seen waving a stool during the dispute over Mr Chen’s Edinburgh flat going without hot water for 28 days.

Mr Chen believes the man in the video is flat owner and controversial businessman Mark Fortune.

Mr Fortune denied this and said he was at the dentist in France at the time.

Police Scotland said its inquiries into the incident were ongoing.

Mr Chen, who withheld some of his rent as a result of the hot water issue, showed BBC Scotland News text messages that he considered threatening which he received during the dispute.

This included one sent in November from an unknown number which included a threat that Mr Chen would be “spending Christmas in hospital”.

Mr Fortune said none of these messages came from him.

Mr Chen said the confrontation left him frightened and added “nobody deserves to be treated like this”.

Image caption,

The man captured in Mr Chen’s secret video on the left and Mr Fortune pictured in 2013

Mr Fortune has been refused entry to Scotland’s landlord register and has a previous conviction for threatening tenants.

Mr Chen moved into a shared city centre flat in April last year after signing an agreement with Edinburgh Rent Ltd, whose only director, according to Companies House, is Mr Fortune.

The messages

Mr Chen said the flat went 28 days without hot water last October so he messaged the contact number for Edinburgh Rent to say he was withholding some of the rent until the issue was resolved.

Edinburgh Rent said the problem was caused by the electrics being overloaded by tenants and the pair fell into a dispute over WhatsApp.

In these exchanges, seen by BBC Scotland News, Mr Chen – who is from Taiwan – is repeatedly warned his possessions will be cleared from the flat unless he pays up.

The identity of the person sending the messages from Edinburgh Rent is not revealed but one exchange includes a denial that Mr Fortune is the landlord.

Mr Fortune told BBC Scotland News he did not send these messages and does not have access to the number used by Edinburgh Rent.

The confrontation

On the morning of 25 October last year Mr Chen received a text from a random number in the morning saying “hi Jason will see shortly mate”.

Mr Chen was home alone and in bed when, later that day, the man he believes was Mr Fortune let himself into the flat and told him he had to pay the full outstanding amount or faced being kicked out.

The man then returned a few hours later and Mr Chen, who was still in bed, reached over to his phone to secretly video the exchange.

Image source, Contributor

In the video, the man tells Jason: “I’ll put everyone out, I couldn’t care less.

“If it is not paid everything will be turned off in the flat tonight, there will be no electric, there will be no heating, no gas, no internet, no nothing.

“There will come a point where I won’t be very amicable to you.”

He is then seen picking up a white stool and motioning it towards Mr Chen, he said: “The likes of this, you know what I mean?”

Before leaving he says: “You can Google me.”

‘Is this normal?’

Mr Chen only agreed to speak to BBC Scotland News if the interview was published after he left the UK for Taiwan.

He said: “I was quite surprised, I never expect someone will just show in my room, in person to threaten me like pay your rent right now or move out.

“I would say it was my first time meeting people so aggressive to me, I was quite nervous.”

He added: “I know I have to do something to protect myself so I take my phone, which was sitting on the bed, and secretly recording the landlord. He did not notice, he just keep speaking threateningly to me.”

Image caption,

Jason Chen reported the incident to Police Scotland on 25 October last year

Mr Chen paid up his outstanding rent after the confrontation as he felt he had no choice, despite being told by housing sector experts that he had the right not to pay.

He added: “My flat mates all come from different countries, none of us are local people, when this happened to us we definitely feel like is this normal?

“These things happen here and nobody cares. Nobody deserves to be treated like this.”

The background

Mr Fortune owns a number of flats in Edinburgh which are rented out by companies owned by or connected to him.

The businessman, who was refused entry to Scotland’s landlord register in 2013, has faced years of complaints from tenants living in the flats he owns about poor living conditions and having deposits withheld.

Housing tribunal rulings have previously rejected arguments by these firms that they are operating short-term holiday lets from Mr Fortune’s properties.

As a result the people living there should get the same protections as ordinary letting agreements.

Image caption,

The Edinburgh city centre street where Mr Chen lived

According to the latest available list from the City of Edinburgh Council, there has been no application to put the flat that Mr Chen lived in on to the register of short term lets.

New laws in Scotland meant anyone operating a short term let had to apply for a licence to do so by October 2023 or face a £2,500 fine and a one year ban from letting.

BBC Scotland News can also reveal three flats belonging to Mr Fortune have been sold off to settle council tax debts – which are understood to be a sizable 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 – started by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Mr Fortune’s response

Mr Fortune supplied evidence to BBC Scotland News which he said showed he was at a dental surgery in France on the day Mr Chen’s video was recorded.

The businessman said he was not a landlord and the properties he owns being run as holiday lets are operated by limited companies, not him personally.

Mr Fortune said he did not send any messages to Mr Chen and added he has reported Mr Chen to the police for allegedly writing slogans about him on the walls of his room before he left the flat for good.

He added: “Mr Chen advised in November that he would not be paying rent as he was returning home, on inspection of the room after he left it was discovered he had vandalised the room.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “About 8.50pm on Friday, 25 October 2023, police were called to a report of a disturbance at premises in Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh. Inquiries are ongoing.”

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