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Violent landlords

In society there are always a few people who do not respect societies values or the law, and who will use violence to enforce their will. Unfortunately quite a few of these people are landlords.

These are the landlords who rent out substandard properties which they expect their tenants to live in without complaint and who will ‘send round the heavies’ to deal with people who withhold their rent in protest, or under their legal right of set off.

As described vividly by Ben in his TRO Confidential post here.

What can you do if you have such a landlord? As Ben points out, if the landlord is really violent, then the local authority officers, who are only ordinary people after all, and not trained in unarmed combat  (and local authorities can’t really afford much training now anyway), are not going to be keen to tackle them.

After all they value their limbs and the continued health of their family.

The best answer for you personally is to move out, as soon as possible. Forget about your rights, just leave as soon as you can. Or better still, avoid these landlords in the first place.

If no-one rents their properties, they may decide to sell up and and do something else. However realistically with property is such short supply, this is not going to happen any time soon. If you have no-where else to go, a tenancy with a violent landlord is better than no home at all.

However from society’s point of view, it is not good if these people are allowed to continue unchecked. We should all obey the law, and it is wrong for a few people to ‘get away with it’ just because everyone is too terrified to stop them.

So if you want to help society rid itself of criminal landlords, the best thing to do is keep a very detailed diary of everything (relevant) that happens. Collect as much evidence as you can, and encourage all other tenants of your landlord to do the same.

Then the local authority will be able to bring a prosecution, and if all the tenants are involved, there will be too many people for the landlord to ‘deal with’ individually. Hopefully they will be in prison anyway.

The trouble is, a lot of resources are needed to bring a successful prosecution against a criminal landlord. And they will will no doubt be able to afford the best legal help available.

With resources in such short supply, Local Authorities may just decide to turn a blind eye and spend the money elsewhere.

What do you think?

Photograph by ishane

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20 Responses to Violent landlords

  1. I couldnt let this one pass without comment Tessa haha.

    The London Landlords Accreditation Scheme runs a landlord register but it is far from exhaustive and always creates problems with maintaining it. Every TRO knows their local bully boys (and girls) but as you say, we dont have the resources usually to get them and even when we do courts dont take tihngs that seriously (although there are some high profile exceptions).

    My advice to people with violent landlords? Move out and then report them to the tax man (you can bet your life they arent paying tax on the rental income) and the HSE for not having a gas safe certificate (they rarely do)

    Finally, if you have their bank details for paying your rent, next time you get a 419 scam e mail give them his bank details to claim you fictional £1 million LOL

  2. Personally I’m shocked at your blog today Tessa! You’re suggesting that victims of violent landlords should NOT contact the Police to report intimidation, harassment or violence [threatened or actual bodily harm] as you state that ‘Police will treat it as a civil matter’? This is absolutely NOT the case and I feel that encouraging tenants who have suffered from violent exchanges with a landlord, to move out and contact their local Tenancy Relations Officer FIRST is scandalous! TRO’s don’t work weekends or evenings and even in Ben’s account he mentions leaving work at 4.30pm! TRO’s are not compelled by law to intervene in a violent exchange THE POLICE ARE… TRO’s are mediators with little or no teeth to challenge violent criminals who happen to be ‘landlords’.

    Tenants who suffer ANY intimidation, be it threats to ‘kill’ or ‘harm’ should contact the Police immediately. If the landlord is in the building with you or at your door threatening violence whether verbal or actual harm, the Police are compelled to attend and WANT to attend in these situations. My partner is a serving Metropolitan Police Officer and he and his team regularly attend and assist tenants faced with these situations; they provide support to victims, access to emergency housing, through to going to court to give evidence against violent landlords. To suggest that Police assist in illegal evictions, is not a true reflection of what happens today and only happens in sporadic cases where information is scant or mis-communicated; usually via the court or local authorities, who instruct the Police. Police officers are now given very clear training and updates, some even from Shelter direct [I previously worked for Shelter], and liaise with local authority boards and networks.

    So whilst you could have suggested that this was the case 10 years ago, you can’t now. Police Officers do not want to be involved in CIVIL disputes relating to: non-payment of rent, maintenance issues etc. However, if they are called to a ‘disturbance’ as a result of a civil dispute, then they are compelled to attend [and WANT to attend].

    So Tenants, please feel confident in calling the Police FIRST, if you feel in anyway intimidated whether verbally [even from non-specific threats like ‘if you don’t pay, I’m going to do you’ or ‘you better or else’. If you feel that your life or family members are being intimidated then Police can act on this. Keep as much detail as possible: dates, times, what was said, in what context, witnesses, etc. If you are faced with a violent landlord on your doorstep, shut the door and call the Police immediately, explain that the landlord is at your door and you’re threatened with harm and you need help now. This will be treated as a priority and Police will prioritise your call and attend as an emergency. If the landlord is not in the vicinity and you are not in immediate danger, the police will attend less urgently and depending on your situation, in some cases may attend upto a day or two later. However, this doesn’t stop you going into a local Police Station and reporting your incident at any time…even in the middle of the night.

    Please reflect this Tessa, as, in my experience, intimidating landlords DO back down when consistently challenged and as a society we need to challenge them to keep them in check. Police help us to do this and are ultimately paid for by us to uphold the law. Best wishes, Jana.

  3. Hi Jana

    Thanks for commenting and I am really pleased that the police ARE willing to help in these situations.

    I discussed things in the context of Local Authorities in the post, above as they are generally the organisation which prosecutes for breach of the Health and Safety Rating Inspection standards, HMO regulations, illegal eviction and similar offences. So far as I am aware the Police never get involved in that sort of thing. And until the landlord actually carries out an attack, these are the offences in question.

    Of course if the landlord DOES actually attach a tenant and they suffer GBH they should go straight to the police. However the idea is to avoid this happening in the first place.

    And I am sorry, but the records DO show that in many cases the police write off this sort of thing as ‘just a civil matter’ (although I did not use this phrase in the post) and have been known to assist the landlord. For example in this case:

    It is good to know though that the police are now starting to take this sort of thing seriously.

  4. HI Jana, I appreciate that you may have different experiences but as a working TRO I have to say the common experience of our team is the polar opposite of what you say. Your comments are certainly what should happen but it honestly just doesnt.

    We hear from our clients on an almost daily basis that when police are called to an incident involving landlords and tenants they advise both parties that it is a civil matter.

    I have come to dread police involvement because their advice often makes matters worse for what I have to do. One common problem we have is attending officers attempting to resolve a dispute by getting the tenants to sign a note promising to leave, sometimes in the next 48 hours. The landlord, having been advised cant then be blamed for thinking that this is the right advice and they then refuse to believe what I tell them because I am not a police officer.

    The police in our area regular assist in illegal eviction because they are unaware of the landlord and tenant laws. We have had to place a complaint with our borough commander because the problem is so endemic.

    Manchester police were recently fined for the same thing.

    I used to train the police on this and in doing so we managed to build a good relationship with them which really helped and that is what we are offering again to stop this happening because it really is a major headache for us.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that this shouldnt be happening in this day and age…..but it is.

  5. Jana of houseflys is living in a very fluffy cloud cookoo land world. Although in theory police and TRO’s should help they do not. Police could not give a toss and TRO’s are over worked and at breaking point (that’s if your local authority even has one).

    In the real world Tessa’s advice is absolutely right.
    I am an accredited landlord and registered with National Landlord Association. So when my daughter suffered at the hands of a thug landlord we were fully aware of the 5 criminal offences he had committed. Despite my daughters first action being to call 999 and the second to contact the local TRO nothing has ever been done. Police call it a civil matter ignoring the criminal offences, TRO’s do not have the resources and solicitors are out of financial reach.

    And the sad thing is there will always be vulnerably tenants that have no choice but to rent from these landlords. In the past I myself because I am self employed had to cough up 6 months rent in advance plus deposit (£7000) in order to rent from a reputable agent. Most people could not do this so an uncredited landlord is there only option. And then there’s the even more vulnerably, unemployed, those with no references because from abroad, homeless or ex offender, single parents following relationship break-ups, young people the list is endless. I myself let my properties to such people (taking a risk) because I understand how through no fault of many tenants just don’t meet the strict criteria.

    So to get out and get away from these lawbreaking thugs is the best thing tenants can do until the authorities stop bringing in more and more for legislation for the already law abiding landlords and concentrates instead on enforcing the laws already in place.

  6. Hi Luise and thank you for commenting. Yes, life is unfair and it is unfortunate that in many cases the police (and indeed society generally) do not take the problem of violent landlords more seriously.

    All we can do here on the Landlord Law Blog is make people aware of their legal rights. It is a sad reflection on society that tenants are not always able to enforce these rights safely.

  7. Thanks Luise. Tessa’s post does seem quite provocative but it just reflects what is really going on out there.

    I have been accussed in various posts of demonising landlords but I just report what I get involved in and many times people cant believe what for me is routine.

    And tenants at the rough end have to take thier chances.

    A friend (and ex TRO) who lives near Bournemouth, told me of a notorious local landlord down there. Last year I delivered a training course for a local charity and his name came up. I said I had heard of him, even in London, and gave my verdict but they cut me short and said although they know he is a real bad’n they still worked with him because without him their people would have nowhere to live.

    Say what you like about Peter Rachman but when people were sticking signs in their windows sayin “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” he was the only local landlord renting to immigrants. Thye had to make a decision, rent from a gangster or sleep on the street……not much of a choice

    There are still plenty of rogue landlords out there ready to exploit people who havent got many choices and they will persist, as long as local council’s dont have the resources to chase these cases up and the police routinely tell people “Its a civil matter”.

    I would love to get a good result against one of these bullies, but as I have written before in our borough there are around 16,000 private tenants on housing benefit alone, without counting those who are working and there are just 2 TROs who feel like Michael Caine in Zulu (I dont mean that in a racist way, just in terms of numbers defending compared to numbers attacking.

    In the first 2 weeks of December my co TRO and I were in court 13 times obtaining injunctions either for re-entry where people had been illegaly evicted or getting their goods returned because a disgruntled landlord had seized them unlawfully.

    Just a day in the life for me.

    I would love the police to work with us but is a recent case where an existing client of mine was being illegally evicted by a landlord and his family the out of hours duty officer was talking to her on the phone and the duty sergeant attending refused to speak to her and then got the tenant to sign a piece of paper torn from an exercise book saying she would leave at the weekend, when she had a lawful tenancy.

  8. “”In society there are always a few people who do not respect societies values or the law, and who will use violence to enforce their will. Unfortunately quite a few of these people are landlords.”

    How many is quite a few ? There are over a million private landlords – do local authorities liasise with each other and count reports of assaults by landlords on tenants ? If so , lets have the figures.. if not – lets please be more circumspect.

    You are after all already preaching to the converted – only good landlords join subscription sites like this and landlord assocs.

    I find it odd that of all the violent offences reported in my neck of the woods i cannot recall the last one which involved a landlord….. – other than the recent murder of the landscape architect in Bristol where the local press immediately pilloried the landlord and had him convicted before he was charged – and then he was’nt charged.

    Ben i learn a great deal from your blogs also from Tessa’s contributions, and read them assiduously but you must admit that south east london is probably one of the worst borough to work in..

    I will continue to “harp on” about asking you botn to really carefully choose your words and help us stop the demonisation of all landlords which goes on daily

  9. it goes without saying i hope that i utterly utterly condemn all landlord violence and bullying of tenants.

  10. Hi Collette, thanks for your comments.

    I don’t know exactly how many private landlords there are – no-one does, and no-one knows exactly how many criminal landlords there are. However the fact that I don’t have precise figures doesn’t mean I can’t write about them! Statistics are not everything.

    I am well aware that the majority of landlords are good landlords, I have acted as a solicitor for landlords for 20 years or more and have known some marvelous landlords, very committed and honourable.

    This does not mean however that the bad landlords do not exist. And if they exist they are a subject that the Landlord Law Blog should look at.

    But I quite accept that they are a minority (except perhaps in Ben’s manor …)

  11. Yeah you are both right about South East London being a dive Collette, I was born and brought up here (as was Tessa)and I have an odd affection for the madhouse that it is but once again, for just reporting what is happening on a daily basis I am being accused of demonising landlords yet again!!!!

    Not one of my stories is made up, and I am just one TRO out of many around the country

    We dont keep stats on these people, and I will state quite happily that in my dealings with the complaints I get my sympathies tend to be with most of the landlords who are really ok and their actions more reasonable than many of their tenants but there are still plenty of the other ones in operation.

    Taking your figure of 1 million landlords Collette, if we said that only an infinitesimally (we need a spell checker Tessa haha) small figure of 1% of landlords are like that we are still talking about 10,000 people – and that is a sizeable problem,especially as 9,000 of them seem to live near me LOL.

    On your logic should people not write about West African fraudsters in case we demonise all Nigerians? Should newspapers not write about Islamist terror groups lest we demonise all Moslems?

    Hardly a week goes by when I dont get involved with landlords who have threatened and assaulted their tenants. Thats just the way it is. Some allegations prove to be nonsense but many repeat the threats to me on the phone and in person when I confront them.

    I recently trained a bunch of housing advisers in the west Country who told me that the worst case of harassment they had seen was a landlord who disconnected the tenant’s electricity and I am sure for many communities that is the same, but try talking to TROs and housing advisers in Manchester, Newham, Newcastle, Nottingham and Liverpool, you’ll hear something completely different.

  12. Like Tessa and Ben, I have no figures to give for ‘proportion of landlords’, but my South London based experience is that violence or threats of violence from landlords, and from dodgy agents, are not at all uncommon.

    Ben clearly works a different patch of Sarf Lunnon to me, because the main local authority we deal with has a TRO department who (and I quote) don’t do injunctions for re-entry because they are ‘difficult’ (so if they can’t change the locks back, nothing happens) and don’t prosecute ‘small’ landlords for illegal eviction because they concentrate on the ‘big landlords’. I frankly can’t recall when I last heard of a prosecution of a landlord of any size on my patch.

    They tried to refer a client to me for an injunction application on a Friday afternoon – she hadn’t been evicted yet, but but the LL had told the TRO that she (LL) would evict the tenant on the Saturday. I explained that a preventative injunction would be very difficult – what was the evidence? A couple of ambiguous text messages and those couple of phone conversations with the TRO. Would the TRO do an urgent witness statement setting out the content of those calls and their belief that the LL would carry her actions through? No. They didn’t want any further involvement. Oh and they had no address for the landlord and hadn’t actually checked the Land Registry or HB payment records etc. So what the hell was I supposed to do? Apply out of hours for an injunction based on a couple of ambiguous text messages and ‘the TRO told me…’ in a situation where I couldn’t even contact the landlord? Chances of success – nil. I declined the referral on the basis that there was absolutely nothing I could do. Call me on the Monday if the tenant does need an injunction for re-entry. Never heard back.

    And lovely though it would be if Jana’s view of the police and illegal eviction with violence or threats thereof, was generally right, it is far from common, including in London. (I don’t know what borough her partner works in – sounds fabulous, but it isn’t the same borough I work in). I say this as a housing solicitor at the sharp end. The chances of the police actually doing the right thing are below 50/50.

    That is no reason not to call the police if faced with threatened violence or, heaven forbid, actual violence. Of course the tenant should.

    One reason the tenant really should call the police is that without a crime reference number and the contact details of an officer, it is very likely that (at least in the big cities) the local authority will refuse to provide emergency accommodation because they will not accept that the tenant may be homeless. This is, of course, unlawful, but happens all the time.

    If the tenant is really lucky, they may be able to get a legal aid housing solicitor who, if they have the free time and can take the case, may – may – be able to do something about the unlawful eviction, or at least the homeless application.

    But the proposed Govt legal aid reforms, as they currently stand, would end legal aid for private sector unlawful eviction cases. So unless things change, you’ve got about a year or two to be illegally evicted and get a legal aid solicitor. After that, tough. You just might – might – get legal aid to challenge a refusal to take your homeless application, but that would be it.

    Sorry for the rant. But I really don’t think people realise how bad it currently is for those tenants at the bottom end of the private rental sector, at least in the big cities. And it is just about to get considerably worse. Those people with the baseball bats won’t be happy about the cuts in housing benefit for starters. Their view of how market forces work tends to be a little different to that of the housing minister.

  13. Blimey your TROs sound less than effective NL. We do injunctions all the time, mainly because if we can find a solicitor who does housing and legal aid together they often dont have the time. When you need an injunction for re-entry you need it quick and we just drop everything and toddle off to court straightaway (especially if they are in priority neeed so the homelessness crew dont have to TA them haha)

    Having said that 50% of the time the landlord flatly refuses to comply with the injunctin but I have yet to have one of our judges enforce the 7 days for contempt clause they put onto them.

    Whenever I do talk to solicitors about our overspill cases they usally cant see the client for at least a week, by which time the property may well have been re-let

    I’ll put my hand up on the prosecutions bit though, I cant remember the last time we did one. Its partly resources but more often than not, in the past we always had trouble hanging onto the tenants as witnesses because by the time you get the case into court, even just a summary one, the originally indignant tenants have long moved on with their lives.

    Also, it has to be said that many of our really bad landlords are past masters at staying anonymous and off the record. You would be amazed at how many tenants I meet dont even know their landlord’s surname, let alone their address.

    Like you NL I work at the sharp end and public sector cuts have hit us hard. My team has been cut from 8 to 2 and in a borough where there are 13,400 HMOs fit for licensing we only have 2 EHOs responnsible for dealing them.

    Those legal aid cuts, along with the the upcoming HB cuts are going to really put the cat among the pigeons for lower end tenants. Welcome to Cam-World

  14. And Lo and behold, I have ust dealt with a case where the landlord got a possession order but didnt wait for the warrant before letting out to a new tenant who promptly turned up at the property and assaulted the existing tenant who called the Police.

    They arrived and got the story from the tenant and while she was carted away in an ambulance the attending officers kindly helped the landlord and the new tenant to carry her boxes of posessions upstairs……..Un Bloody Believable

  15. And as PS I have just spoken to the police operations room chasing up their involvement in the above incident. The attending offciers returned to their office and filed a report saying “No assault, no allgeations, civil matter between landlord and tenant” Even though the landlord says the ambulance was there when the police arived.

  16. It gets worse, folks.

    I’m in East London and I’m surprised that there’s not more illegal eviction round here. My borough doesn’t even have a TRO, though, so maybe it’s going on loads but I’m not hearing about it.

    The one illegal eviction case I’ve had in the last few months fizzled appalingly, despite the landlord trousering up to our offices to remonstrate with me (and in which he effectively admitted to doing it despite also handing me a snotty 4-page letter in which he explained how he was all noble and suffering and victimised), the tenant bottled out. She had retrieved her stuff herself (it was an HMO and he changed the locks to her room, dumping her things outside in the corridor, but not the front door) in a midnight raid and went to kip on a friend’s sofa. I told her she would have a strong claim for damages given that the landlord admitted it, that ignored the closest thing that my local Council had to a TRO and, (get this) advertised for replacement tenants on Facebook but she bottled out.

    To be fair, my advice to any unlawfully evicted tenant is: 1. Injunction. 2. Committal when they inevitably breach it. 3. Damages claim. Even if the person is conceivably priority need for rehousing under homelessness provisions, because no doubt the Council will gatekeep them and/or mess them around.

    At the risk of sounding like a Daily Mail reader, we need to send a message that this sort of unpleasantness has no place in a civilised society, and that it is a shame and a disgrace that so many landlords get away with it.

  17. I don’t want to whack the police JS, I want to educate them. I used to do that years ago and it worked well. We helped each other out. On one occasion attending officers used their truncheons to break a tenant back

    Lack of knowledge is the problem. While I was dealing with the above madness today I also got roped into another case where a husband and wife obtained a joint council tenancy 15 years ago. They split up 10 years ago. She moved to the midlands and obtained her own council tenancy. He remarried but didn’t take wife #1 off the agreement.

    He died 6 months ago, wife #1 heard and moved back in. Wife #2 called cops who saw wife #1s name on tenancy agreement and told wife #2 to sling her hook and stop making problems!!!!!!!

    So 2 in one day for me.

    It’s not that officers are unwilling, they just don’t understand the law. And I don’t expect them to, that’s my job. I just want them to work with me, not against me

  18. hi my land lord has assalted my partner and threatened to have my head caved in the police are aware but what more can i to protect my family



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Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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