Winning with Glasgow Solidarity Network: direct action against letting agency gets ‘admin fees’ back

Check the mail!

In January, Glasgow Solidarity Network celebrated the successful conclusion of its first campaign in 2014. This is what happened:

Back in 2010 a couple were charged £187 by a letting agency as an (illegal!) ‘administration fee’ in order to secure a new home. When they moved out in 2013 they wrote a letter to the agency quoting the relevant passages from Scottish Housing Law and demanding the return of their money. There was no response to this letter so they made a couple of phone calls to the agency which brought assurances that it would be looked at. However, these assurances were only followed by weeks of silence.

Three paths opened up to them: letting the agency rip them off; a lengthy – and costly – small claims court procedure; or attempting a more direct form of action. They opted for the latter and looked to the Glasgow Solidarity Network to show solidarity and provide aid in getting the money back. A call-out went out and those who could attend sat down with the pair and agreed that this was a winnable case.

The first action took place mid December 2013 with thirty people walking into the letting agency’s premises on a very rainy and stormy morning to support the pair in the handing-over a demand letter asking for the fees back and giving them until the new year to pass them back before further action was taken. The delivery went very well, in good spirit, and attracted people who never had participated in anything like this. It was also fantastic to experience the coming-together of people who had never met the couple – an injury to one is an injury to all. Everyone was pleased with the action – everyone apart from the letting agency staff! The manager was so unhappy about the visitors that he decided to hide in a little room off the main office and let his colleague deal with the situation by herself.

However, the agency did not return the money within the deadline set in the letter. The Network, together with the two affected people, then planned the next step in the ‘escalation process’. It was decided that the bad news from the agency should be met with bad reviews online, and so a week of action was organised via this blog, Facebook, and personal contacts.

Success was almost immediate.

The “Bad News Gets Bad Reviews” action started on Monday. On Wednesday morning the letting agency manager contacted their ex-tenants and offered the immediate return of their money. The manager stated that the agency had lost business contracts worth over £2000 because of the reviews. GSN called for an end of the campaign as the manager’s assurance was deemed trustworthy. Indeed, the cheques arrived in the post two days later. Victory!

If you have had a deposit or admin fee wrongfully taken, a boss stealing money from your final pay packet, or have a boss/landlord issue that can’t be solved through the usual channels, then get in touch and get involved in the Network.

This most recent case demonstrates that direct action gets the goods and that solidarity works. If you want to find out more, come along to our  meeting at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts/Electron Club on the 10th of February at 7pm.