Scandal of Edinburgh tenants trapped in Airbnb-style slum deals

A DODGY landlord struck off the register is using a loophole to continue renting homes as Airbnb-style holiday lets.

Ferrari-driving Mark Fortune, 50, was barred by the council after a string of convictions but is still raking in thousands of pounds a month from tenants.

Campaigners for Living Rent say such contracts can last up to ten months and mean landlords can house tenants in slums free from regulation or obligation.

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Megan Bishop, from Living Rent, said: “It’s abysmal how tenants are being treated.

Mark Fortune

“We’ve had cases from tenants living in properties in such extreme disrepair it’s threatening their health and safety.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s consultation on holiday lets, but if they are serious about protecting tenants, they need to take action now to close this loophole and drastically step up regulation and ensure tenants are safe.”

A Living Rent report calls for separate registration of holiday let landlords and a cap on the length of such contracts as the Scottish Government launches consultation on the scandal.

France-based Fortune was barred by the city council in 2013 but reportedly carried on leasing up to 70 Capital flats.

Campaigners for Living Rent found evidence of Fortune signing tenants to holiday let-style deals as recently as March.

The Evening News understands the city council is currently looking into Fortune’s operation.

Campaigners argue holiday let leases afford tenants few of the protections tenants would be guaranteed under Short-Assured Tenancies or Scottish Private Residential Tenancies.

Holiday let contracts fail to provide third-party protection of tenants’ deposits, the same fire safety, repairs and protection from eviction, says Living Rent.

The group claims to have been approached by increasing numbers of tenants who have been put on such contracts.

They accuse the government and councils of “turning a blind eye to abuses” propagated by holiday let contracts.

At the weekend, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a consultation into holiday lets.

But Living Rent says Holyrood could go a long way towards closing the loophole without new legislation and urged immediate action.

Since December 2017, the rights of a tenant with a private residential tenancy are protected by statute, irrespective of the terms of the agreement offered by the landlord.

Those rights are enforceable through the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland even if not reflected in the agreement offered by the landlord.

Anyone given a short term let agreement but has lived in the property as their home can ask the tribunal to determine if their lease is covered.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said all landlords must register to be “fit and proper” or face £50,000 fines.

He added: “We need to get the balance of short term lets right, which is why we are consulting on the appropriate regulatory arrangements needed, including the merits of a registration or licensing scheme, and the conditions such a scheme might require.”