Living Rent members in Glasgow have successfully forced a meeting with the notorious Glasgow Letting Agency, Infiniti Properties after a two day standoff which included private security, barricaded doors and three police cars.
Glasgow member Hugh came forward with evidence that his previous Letting Agency had charged illegally charged him £180 in ‘screening fees’. All fees charged outside Rent and Deposit are illegal under the Rent Scotland Act 1988.
Hugh took the decision to challenge these fees after moving out and noticing Infiniti Properties had tried to claim back part of his deposit. The evidence that Infiniti tried to use to prove cleaning was needed were in fact, pictures Hugh had took at the start of the tenancy when asking why the place was in such a state of disrepair. A further insult on top of the illegal fees.
The Glasgow branch decide to take swift direct defensive action. Hugh’s fellow union members decide to stage a quick picket outside the property whilst a small trained defence team went in with Hugh to secure the refund of the illegal fees charged.
The action took a surreal turn when a police car was noticed circling the designated meeting point away from the letting agent office. Members waiting in a coffee shop next door to the agency had also noticed two further police cars parked up across the road,members were suspicious but couldn't believe it would be for them, why would it be?
As the main body of union members set off from the meeting point the police car that had been circling, was noticed driving off in the direction of the letting agency. It was later confirmed that it was this police officer who went ahead and forewarned Infiniti who then locked and barricaded the door.
Living Rent members arrived at the office to see every blind closed, the door locked, camera’s set up inside the office and private security stationed inside. Kicking off a bizzare four hour standoff outside their office.
It was quickly sussed that the Letting Agency had attempted to stage the action to look like our members were the aggressors. Repeated polite attempts to ask for a meeting were met with rude hand gestures and flippant remarks through the door. A BBC crew filming the action also witnessed the Letting Agency hanging up as Hugh tried to phone and de-escalate the dispute throughout the day.
Our members puzzled why a Letting Agency would go to such lengths and the cost of hiring private security rather than refund the illegal fees soon had their answer. Growing numbers of passers by stopped to share their experiences with Infiniti, some joining the picket and even more signing up to the union there and then. One new member explained that they had been charged the same fee as Hugh and given the option of 3 months rent up front or 1 month and the illegal ‘Screening fee’. This is a sorry tale that has been corroborated by tens of new members who have been in touch since the action took place.
In light of this news and the failure to establish a meeting, the decision was taken to continue the picket engaging with the public and other previous tenants of Infiniti. Up until such time as they agreed to a meeting or the shop front closed.
As the crowd outside grew with more members finishing work and heading down to show their support the police were phoned into the office and asked to remove our members from the shop front as they closed up.
The police had agreed that there had been no offence committed by our members (they also refused to acknowledge the fees were illegal..) and they had no grounds to forcibly remove people from a public street. Our members explained that we had no intention of speaking to any staff who worked in the office and only wished to speak to the management. It was agreed that any staff who felt uncomfortable could leave early without interaction from our members.
As the door opened to let the staff the leave the almost comical sight of a manager attempting to flee the office shoulder barging one of our members in the process threatened to escalate the situation further. Our members remained disciplined and came up with a plan to form an ironic Guard of Honour as the management locked up shop for the night.
Our members debriefed in a cafe nearby after a long cold day bemused at the amount of effort taken by the Letting Agency to cover their guilt, it was agreed that a smaller team would attempt to open negotiations again the next morning before further action was taken.
Upon arriving the next day the negotiation team again had the door locked in their face and the police called out. Over the next hour in a shocking abuse of public service the Letting Agency used the police as a negotiator eventually agreeing to a meeting in a weeks time requesting a neutral venue and a police mediator.
Hugh and our members look forward to finding a resolution to this case, a case that should never have escalated this far and could have ended at any point had the Letting Agency be willing to talk.
The strength and discipline of our members was second to none and ensured a peaceful outcome.
If you have rented from Infiniti Properties in the past and have been charged any fees above Rent and Deposit please contact [email protected]