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Brighton Housing Union: G4Lets rent strike

G4Lets anti-deposit theft rent strike

For the past year and a half, we have organised on a regular basis with tenants being messed around by the student lettings agency G4Lets. This has included tenants who have had significant sums of money stolen from their deposit by G4Lets, as well as tenants living in uninhabitable accommodation that G4Lets have neglected to repair.

Based on our experiences with G4Lets, this year (2019) we are recommending that, in order to get their deposit back, G4Lets' tenants simply withhold their last month's rental payment. We explain why in the FAQ below.

G4Lets FAQ

1. Why should I withhold my rent – won’t G4Lets just give me my deposit back?

You’d think – but unfortunately this is often not the case when G4Lets are involved. Like many estate agents and landlords, G4Lets will often bend the truth or outright lie to make unfair deductions from your deposit so they can keep as much of it as possible for themselves.

In the years we’ve spent working with tenants around Brighton, we’ve had more than enough experience with G4Lets and the tenants robbed by them to realise that the level of deposit theft they routinely engage in goes beyond the pale even by the low standards set by estate agents.

This includes:

2017 - £2000 illegitimately deducted from the deposit of a group of student tenants after they spent a year living in unsafe, mice-infested G4Lets accommodation.
Deductions made for pest control and fire safety measures that are the legal responsibility of the landlord, and for a carpet that had already been replaced, and which G4Lets themselves admitted should have been replaced before the start of their tenancy.

2017 - £1080 deducted from the deposit of another group of tenants for “decoration” and “wear and tear” – but the tenants had already had the property professionally painted before they left.

2018 - £1900 deducted from the deposit of another group of tenants - again for "decoration" and "wear and tear", despite these tenants leaving the house clean and as they found it. Eventually, these tenants claimed back just over £1000 via the deposit protection service.

2018 - a group of tenants who moved into a house rented out by G4Lets where the cooker didn’t work, the furniture was filthy, rooms were not the size they were advertised as, sinks didn’t work, the shower was broken – the list was endless. Eventually, after placing considerable pressure on G4Lets, these tenants received a rent reduction and repairs were made.

G4Lets specialise in renting to students who often don’t have a lot of experience in renting and don’t have the money or time to challenge dodgy deposit deductions. This is no coincidence. G4Lets’ entire business model relies on their clientele often not knowing, for example, that it’s important to take photos of the property when you move in and to challenge the inventory you are given so you can challenge deposit deductions they make later for problems that existed before you moved in.

Making dishonest deposit deductions to rob tenants is an integral part of how they make money, and there’s every chance they’ll do it to you. We think that withholding your last months rent is not just the easiest and most reliable way to make sure you don’t lose your deposit into the dark depths of G4Lets, but also the best way to hit G4Lets where it hurts, right in the annual end-of-uni-year tenant deposit robbing bonanza.

Habitually forcing tenants to live in dilapidated and unsafe accommodation before robbing them when they try to leave isn’t ok, and we believe that collective, direct action like this is the way to stop G4Lets getting away with this year after year.

2. Ok, but my deposit is protected by a government approved scheme. Surely I can go to them and they will sort it out?

Yes – your landlord has to put your deposit in one of three tenancy deposit schemes, and these provide you ways to challenge deposit deductions you think are unfair.

The problem is, these take a lot of time and work, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get your deposit back. While you have to balance challenging the deductions with your other responsibilities and likely with moving house, this is the agency and the landlord’s full time job. They will have more time, more resources, and lots of experience using these schemes.

When you move in, you should have been provided a copy of the inventory. Usually these will be compiled by a separate company contracted by the agency. The inventory is supposed to be an honest, evidenced account of the condition of the property – unsurprisingly, however, its very often not. They will regularly downplay or gloss over issues with the property in order to portray them as new issues when you move out, and stick you with the bill for fixing them, in the form of deposit deductions.

For this reason it’s important, but unfortunately slow and stressful, to challenge and amend the agency inventory when you move in, including taking your own photos of the property showing problems they may not have. Otherwise they will likely use it against you to make deductions when you move out, and it will be your word against their “independent” inventory, which will probably include (misleading) photographic evidence, when you attempt to challenge those deductions through the deposit dispute resolution service.

This isn’t to say the dispute resolution service isn’t unusable, and we have worked with tenants in the past to successfully win back their deposits after particularly ridiculous deductions were made. However, it can require a lot of prep work, time, and effort on your part, and even then you could still lose your deposit.

We believe withholding your rent is an easier, quicker, and more reliable way to get your money back
without having to pry it from G4Lets’ cold dead tenancy deposit scheme.

There is more advice about challenging deductions through the dispute resolution service or through other means including direct action here: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/housing-union?qt-new_housing_union_tabs...

3. Withholding my rent sounds risky. Won’t I get evicted?

While it is possible to be evicted for not paying your rent, that can’t happen in one month – in fact, the two legal ways to do this both take a minimum of 2 months from the start of the process.

Evictions for rent arrears can use Section 8 eviction notices, which are the kind of notice used whenever the landlord thinks you’ve breached. These can only be used if you are two months or more in arrears – one month of withheld rent will not allow them to use one of these against you.

Landlords can always use a Section 21 notice to evict you for any reason – however, there is a minimum of 2 months from one of these being issued before it can be put forward to a judge to determine if they are valid and perform an eviction – by which time you’ll already have moved out.

4. But what if I need a reference for renting next year?

It is very possible future landlords will ask for references from your current one to show that you have paid your rent on time, which may be difficult if you, haven’t. However, you may arlready have been given a reference, if you have already sorted out your living arrangement for next year, in which case it wouldn't be aproblem. There are also other ways around this – get in touch with us at housing@brightonsolfed.org.uk and we’ll find a solution to make sure you get a reference if you need one.

5. Won’t they just go after my guarantor for that month’s rent?

While this is theoretically possible if your tenancy has a guarantor, it’s a slow, difficult process for a landlord or agency to go through. It necessitates going to court, and while this may sound scary, it’s also scary to the landlord/agency due to the sheer amount of time and effort involved. Remember covering rent arrears is what a deposit is designed for, when it’s not being used instead as a handy fund for the landlord’s yacht repairs. It’s far, far more likely that given the choice between taking the arrears from the deposit and spending months messing about in court over what to them is really not a whole lot of money, they’ll choose to just take that month’s rent out of the deposit.

6. What if my flatmates don’t want to join in?

We can’t stress enough how much G4Lets like stealing deposits – it’s not just a side project, it’s a central core of their business. So whatever the situation, we think it’s important you try to convince your roommates not to let that happen to them, as there’s every chance it will save them a lot of money. Whatever happens though, it’s good to make sure your flatmates know you are going to withhold your rent, and that they understand why.

Your tenancy could be a joint tenancy – where all your flatmates names appear on the tenancy agreement – or separate tenancies, where you’ve each signed a separate tenancy agreement with the landlord.

If your tenancy is a joint tenancy the landlord has taken a “single” deposit, even if you all paid into it separately. This means if one tenant causes damages or doesn’t pay rent, it can be deducted from that one joint deposit, making the other tenants liable. However, you paid into that deposit to start with, and your share of that should cover a months’ unpaid rent, so if you withhold your last months rent your flatmates won’t be left to foot the bill.

G4Lets will probably still try to make their standard made up deductions from what’s left of the deposit, which is why it’s important your flatmates know that this is likely to happen so they can make preparations to challenge those deductions if they’re not willing to avoid them by non-paying rent.

If your tenancies are separate, then so are your deposits. There’s no joint liability for non-payment of rent.

7. What if I paid my rent upfront?

If you paid your rent for the year upfront, that puts you in a weak position to take on the landlord and agency in general, not just in terms of your deposit. They’ve already made their money off you and so they have no incentive to carry out their responsibilities, for example making repairs. It can also make it harder if you need to leave a tenancy early. For these reasons and others, we always strongly warn against paying rent upfront.

If you have paid upfront, you can prepare yourselves for the likely deposit deductions by taking lots of photos of the entire property so that you can challenge claims for cleaning and painting that are based on G4Lets claiming it’s in worse condition than it is.

There’s more advice on challenging deposit deductions here: http://www.brightonsolfed.org.uk/housing-union?qt-new_housing_union_tabs...

You don't have to commit to withholding your rent straight away. If you're interested in finding out more, fill out the form below and we'll get in touch with you to talk things through in more detail:



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