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(en) Britain, brighton solfed: G4Lets campaign covered in student paper
Mon, 26 Feb 2018 13:35:50 +0200
This week's Badger - the student newspaper at Sussex university - reported on our campaign
against the G4 Lets. The agency - who specialise in renting to students made a group of
students live in squalid conditions, the responsibility for which the local council's
Environmental Health Report placed firmly on the shoulders of the lettings agents. The
tenants had to live in mice-infested, unsafe accommodation for a year, and then had £2000
illegitimately deducted from their deposit for these costs. ---- Tenant's account
We had an unreasonably bad time living in our house last year and this was down to the
fact that G4 lets ultimately don't care about the people living in their properties. We
were excited to move in together, we had a large 8 bedroomed house and we were promised
that it would be thoroughly cleaned, the carpets would be changed and it would be painted
throughout. We were also promised that the garden would be cleaned, I attach our inventory
that we made ourselves in the first week at the house as we didn't feel satisfied with the
state of the property, we never signed G4 lets inventory as they didn't give us a hard
copy and when we asked if we could amend it we were basically just ignored, we sent them
our own inventory and didn't get anything back. G4 then sent the cleaners back after
sending us an email thread from the cleaners saying that the house was beyond cleaning and
they did a very minimal job of wiping the sides.
The worst thing about the house was the colossal mouse infestation that we were then
charged for. I was careful to make sure that I never had food in my room and still had
mice under my bed every nice. We first told G4 about the problem in October and the issue
was ongoing throughout the whole year.
I personally found the year extremely difficult, I suffer from sever anxiety and have OCD
tendencies. During our tenancy there were points when I was cleaning the kitchen in the
house 4 times a day, the kitchen twice and hoovering the whole of the downstairs just so
that I could sit down in the living room because the house generally just felt dirty and
grotty. I had to have therapy for the whole year because I was unable to study and I
basically had to move home to my parents and communicate with my tutors via email. I am
lucky that I passed the year to be honest. The fact that G4 lets claim that we didn't keep
the house clean is an exaggeration. We are students for a start so we are all just
figuring out how to live on our own, we have friends that lived in exactly the same way as
us and didn't have mice running all over their counters. It felt like we were in a horror
The thing is fair enough, they have taken our money now and have managed to convince
themselves that everything that happened to us is our fault but our aim is to reach out to
younger students and tell them about our experience. University is a hard enough time
without being villainised by your housing agency. You have arguments with housemates to
worry about and stand offs about who's doing the washing up and pre drinks and late nights
finishing essays. So whatever you do, please don't let a housing agency like G4 lets ruin
what is supposed to be the freest and best time of your life. I won't get those months
back that I lived with my parents when I could have been out with my mates or actually
going to university so I understood what was going on.
As they have done in their response to you, they've consistently and maliciously denied
any wrong-doing in our attempts, with Brighton SolFed, to address these issues and get our
deposits back. We have on several occasions tried to arrange a meeting with them to
discuss the evidence pack of photographs, email chains, and invoices that corroborate our
claims. On each of those occasions we have met with open hostility and as yet have seen no
sign that anyone in the agency has actually engaged with our claims or addressed the
evidence. Because of this, we have publicised their total lack of concern for tenants, and
it's the public aspect of this campaign that they consider to be ‘extreme'.
We now have an Environmental Health Report, in which the inspector clearly states that the
house has ‘fire precaution issues, a mouse infestation,[and]poor decoration and disrepair'
that ‘represents an offence under the regulations', and that it was the 'duty' of G4Lets
to deal with this. They haven't dealt with it, and are still trying to blame us for it.
This means they're ignoring legal demands from Brighton & Hove City Council in favour of
maligning and bullying tenants. In comparison to what we've been doing (handing out
fliers, talking to members of the public and other students, staging protests outside of
their agency), it seems to me like all of the intimidation is coming from G4 Lets.
Our response to G4 Lets claims
G4 Lets make false claims about Brighton Solfed which we reponded to.
Brighton Solfed Housing Union always attempts to resolve disputes amicably first, before
moving on to naming and shaming them public. In this specific case, Brighton Solfed and
the tenants began this dispute by clearly outlining the ways in which G4Lets breached
various different regulations (fire safety, having to show breach of the tenancy agreement
to make a deduction from the deposit etc) in a letter that was delivered to them, and gave
them a week to respond to the tenants demands. The tenants asked for the deposit back and
for compensation for poor living conditions - it's not uncommon to be compensated when
your capacity to live properly and peacefully in your home has been compromised.
When G4Lets didn't respond, ourselves and the tenants visited them to offer them an
opportunity to talk - it became clear then that the staff member (aggressively) discussing
the matter with us hadn't even read the letter. As G4 Lets were unwilling to resolve the
matter, we began to inform the public about how G4Lets had mistreated the tenants simply
by handing out flyers to passersby outside the shop. Following this, G4Lets were given
another opportunity to open negotiations, and were provided with an evidence pack of
photographs, email chains, and invoices to corroborate the claims. They again refused to
negotiate. Ourselves and the tenants therefore continued to inform the public about the
situation via informational pickets and articles online.
At the third time of asking, they reviewed the evidence pack and admitted that £400 of the
deductions were not justifiable. In response to this, they were provided with a ten-page
document, further evidencing the tenants' claims, but refused to negotiate any further or
to meet up to discuss the situation.
The tenants then obtained a copy of the Environmental Health Report, in which a Brighton &
Hove City Council Environmental Health Officer states that the house has "fire precaution
issues, a mouse infestation,[and]poor decoration and disrepair" that "represents an
offence under the regulations", and that it was the "duty" of G4Lets to deal with this.
G4Lets had had a copy of this report all through the dispute, and had misleadingly quoted
from it to try and blame the tenants for the issues at the property. It is incredible that
G4 Lets still try to justify the deductions in their response to the Badger. Once the
tenants obtained the report, they informed G4Lets that they had it, sent another 3 page
document of evidence, and gave them another opportunity to negotiate. They didn't respond,
so ourselves and the tenants made the report public.
Solfed Housing Union has been organising housing struggles for over two years, and we have
not come across any agency that is as prolific as G4 Lets in making unwarranted deposit
deductions from students. Since we started the campaign, several former tenants have come
forward with their stories, and comments on agency review sites and our articles also
commonly mention deposit theft.
Another student described how she was served an unlawful eviction notice two weeks before
her final exams - https://twitter.com/KateFlood/status/951046020141604864
This is why G4 Lets are so concerned about our campaign being public: they have something
to hide, namely that they are systematically ripping off student tenants. When asked about
the details of this case, they claim to be unable to discuss specifics. When held to
account to their general business practices, they claim tenants must go through their
bureaucratic channels - the reality is of course that tenants are at a disadvantage
because they are not full-time professionals fighting for their deposit, unlike G4 Lets.
G4 Lets are so accustomed to having their way that when tenants who refuse to do so, they
get maligned by G4 Lets.
We have protested outside the G4 Lets office, on social media, by email and by phone.
Protest and calls for boycott are not intimation - they are legitimate forms of action,
they have been common practices of the union movement for centuries, and are the source of
much social progress. We stress that staff should never be the target of verbal abuse - in
fact we have every sympathy with lettings agency workers, whose job only serves to enrich
landlords and the agency owner, and is of no genuine social benefit.
We have not made "misrepresentations" - G4 Lets should either substantiate this claim or
Finally, G4 Lets call us "left-wing extremists". Brighton Solfed believes that every
person deserves a safe home, and we are committed to work towards this goal as a union, on
the basis of tenants' solidarity and mutual aid, and through collective protest. If that's
"left-wing extermism" then so be it. However, we feel that what's 'extreme' and
'intimidating' is a business knowingly ignoring their legal responsibilities even after
they've been told by the council to fulfil them, and then blaming the student tenants for
the issues; what is 'extreme' and 'intimidating' is threatening to evict someone two weeks
before their final exams.
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