It is in many ways unfair. Here is a tenant, living in the landlords property and paying no rent, The landlord meantime, still has pay the mortgage, is responsible for keeping the property in repair, and cannot repossess without getting a court order, which normally takes four to five months.
However, despite all this, a landlord is *not* entitled to go in and take the tenants possessions. Not to sell, not to hold as security. The car, the television set, the computer – they belong to the tenant, and the landlord has no rights over them. If he takes them and sells them, this is both a civil wrong and a criminal offence.
There are certain situtions in law, where someone is entitled to a ‘lien‘ over someone eles’s property. This means that they are entitled to hang on to it until they get paid. Hotel owners, I understand, have a lien over guests luggage. Solicitors have a lien over clients paperwork. There are also liens, I believe, in aviation and maritime law. However, so far as I am aware, landlords are not entitled to any lien over their tenants property, however much rent the tenant may owe. Unfair perhaps, but true.
The only person who is entitled to seize and subsequently sell, another persons property, is a County Court Bailiff or High Court Sheriff, acting under a court order.
It is arguable perhaps that if the landlord takes the property, a tenant might find it difficult to recover it through the courts, as the landlord could counterclaim for his rent arrears, and seek to offset any damages awarded to the tenant against the rent arrears owed to him. I am not sure however how successful this would be – and it is not a course of action which any lawyer would normally recommend.
Do you know of any ‘urban myths’? Or have you had any problems with this particular urban myth? Please post a comment if so, I would love to hear from you.