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.

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The Big Meet-up!

Glasgow Solidarity Network would like to invite everybody to come along to an open meeting on Monday, 10th of February, 7pm at the Centre for Contemporary Arts’ Electron Club.

We would like to discuss and critique the solidarity network approach to learn more about its potentials and pitfalls. Also, we would like to open the Network up for more people to get involved and to extend our cooperation with other groups.

We warmly invite everybody with an interest in cooperating with the Network or with an interest in what we do – and what is done in other places – to come along and get involved in the conversation.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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Repost: Direct action and solidarity win in Glasgow, African migrants strike in Israel, and a few upcoming events

We just got a shout-out over at Cautiously Pessimistic. Thanks for letting people know about our win and for giving a platform to other fights going on at the moment. A nice quote from the piece:

“When we think seriously about taking on realistic campaigns, and get together with other people to demand better treatment, we can win. That message is always worth bearing in mind. Direct action and class struggle aren’t abstract theoretical concepts, or things that are restricted to the distant past or exotic foreign countries: they’re what made the difference between a Glasgow letting agency being able to rip two tenants off and having to pay the money back. These ideas and tactics can be just as relevant to your life, and the lives of the people you know.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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Glasgow Solidarity Network wins case against letting agency

Just a brief update on the Network’s latest campaign against a Glasgow letting agency. Our two friends received the £187 that the agency took off them as “administration fees” – illegal under Scottish Housing Law – in a cheque on Friday after a demand letter delivery in December and a brief internet campaign in January. A great outcome – thanks to great support from a great many people!

A full run-down of the campaign will follow soon.
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Private landlords evicts tenants receiving housing benefit

The Guardian reports that one of Britain’s “best-known landlords has issued eviction notices to every tenant who is on welfare, and told letting agents that he will not accept any more applicants who need housing benefit”. Owning about 1000 properties in Kent, the landlord considers those in receipt of housing benefit as too likely to go into rent arrears as benefit levels drop and rents increase. The eviction notices concern about 200 tenants, the Guardian reports. The landlord may be “heartless”, as some complain. But above all they may be – unfortunately – economically rational in the light of current housing and benefit policies.

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Repost: Solidarity Networks: Innovations, recomposition, and questions

seasol mosaic (1)

An interesting look at solidarity networks using the same model that we here at GSN follow has just appeared over on Recomposition. Interesting reading for a Sunday evening.

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Direct Action: Berlin initiative “We Are Staying” names and shames property speculators

Linie206_FINALPostkarteVornecopia-1024x724The house in Berlin’s Linienstrasse 206 has been used by people seeking to build an alternative communal life since 1990, when free or cheap (albeit run-down) housing became available in the “re-unified” city. Plenty of projects emerged, some still exist today even though rent agreements have been formalised and houses have been bought by those making use of them. Linienstrasse 206 is, however, still in the hands of proprietors who little sympathy with anything that is not geared towards profit so that, with rents and house prices rising in Berlin, tenants are put under pressure to move out so that the house can be “re-developed”. Well, “We Are Staying” have started informing neighbours of the house’s proprietors about the characters of these two fellows. Informational material has been put into people’s letter boxes, and the owners themselves have been made aware of the campaign. This approach echoes the naming and shaming method successfully applied by Solidarity Networks everywhere.

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