A day in the life of TRO Ben Reeve Lewis.
The case of the culinary horse
Explanation: Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs) work for local council’s providing advice on landlord tenant law and investigating allegations of harassment and Illegal Eviction and prosecuting landlords. All names are false but the stories are true.
A Gypsy family who have given up life on the road and started living in a local privately rented flat came in a few weeks back and complained that their landlord is going to the property and threatening them because they owe him rent.
I meet up with him and warn him off and remind that he has to follow a legal procedure and go to court if he has a problem. We have a long to and fro in which he does the usual landlord trick and complains that all the law is on the tenant’s side and he, a poor decent landlord is forced to do the unthinkable and actually……gulp………obey the law.
His main complaint, a commonly voiced one, is that if they don’t pay their rent then he can’t pay his mortgage on the flat and the bank will take it from him. I point out (as I have to do several times a week) that the law that stops him throwing his tenants out on the street is the same law that stops his bank doing it to him without following due process, so he should count his blessings the law is in place.
Eventually he backs down and I bin the file. Three weeks later the tenant wife calls me in tears saying the landlord is at the property shouting and generally throwing his weight around, which is a tad worrying given his actual weight, which is somewhere the wrong side of ‘Portly’ and sliding down hill, giving ‘Stout’ a farewell wave at the roundabout, and pulling into the cul de sac of morbidly obese.
So I tell Mrs Tenant to wait there and trot off down the road to confront the landlord on site.
Legal Point:If a tenant owes rent then the correct way of dealing with it is to seek a possession order on the grounds of rent arrears. There is a fine difference between asking for rent reasonably and acting in a way that could be construed as harassment, which is a criminal offence. I never understand why landlords don’t take advantage of the numerous rent insurance policies there are on the market…..anyway……..I digress.
When I walk into the living room there is a scene straight out of a Nick Broomfield documentary. The wife is sobbing on the settee, her husband is shouting about not being allowed to live in peace, their charming, cherubic children are kicking a football in the hall, and the inevitable snot covered baby is screaming it’s lungs out.
I make straight for the landlord and say “Now look, we’ve been through this before, you cant just come in here and start intimidating the……….”, and, like a policeman directing traffic he simply raises his hand to stop me in mid-sentence and indicates, with a crooked finger for me to follow him without saying a word. I duly walk behind him into the kitchen where I find a horse, calmly chewing away.
“Ah!…………………a horse!” I say wisely, because very little gets past me.
“A horse” comes the solemn reply……….
Sometimes you just can’t win.
About Ben Reeve-Lewis: Ben has worked in housing in one form or another since 1987. He has variously been a Homelessness caseworker, Head of Homelessness for a local authority, a Tenancy Relations Officer and Housing law trainer. He now divides his time between doing contract Tenancy Relations work and as a Freelance housing law training consultant for the CIH, Shelter, Sitra and many more.