[Ben Reeve Lewis is not good at organisation …)
Filing and organisation has never been my strong point.
I have no interest whatsoever in procedures or a systematic approach to things, including separating work photographs from personal ones on my phone, causing the unwary to gag while I show them a holiday snap, swipe to the next in line to find it’s a toilet from hell out of an HMO from purgatory……..I have a rather nice collection.
And I’ve spent the last 7 months tramping about in some pretty disgusting HMOs in several London boroughs, adding to my little shop of horrors by the day.
Despite years of regulation HMOs are routinely still quite shocking for the most part when you walk through the door. The most desperate end of the tenancy market having little alternative and even less now, thanks to the right to rent.
Business as usual
Which is why I was not surprised to read of Birmingham landlord Zahid Khan being fined over seven grand and forced to do 150 community service for running a dangerous and shitty HMO and intimidating the tenants with threats of illegal eviction when they complained.
It made the news but down in enforcement land where I have operated most of my working life it’s just business as usual. This idiot just got caught, its not newsworthy in any other sense.
Using the wrong agreement
De rigeur in HMOs is the issuing of lodger agreements even though the landlord doesn’t live there.
The pilot project I am helping jump start is called ‘Safer Renting’. It sits under the umbrella of Cambridge House, the oldest law centre in the UK, having started in 1889.
We have just pulled off some stats of the last 54 HMOs we have been into and I note, looking through them that of those 54; in 16 of them there was no written contracts at all and in 34, the tenants were issued with a mixture of ‘Licence’ and ‘Lodger agreements’ when the landlord didn’t live in the property.
All just cheap tricks aimed at hoodwinking tenants into thinking they have no rights and to get the landlord out of the responsibility for protecting the deposit or evicting through the courts.
Like I say, business as usual then.
If you don’t have a passport …
HMOs are traditionally, largely for the poorer end of the tenant market, people often in dire financial straits who can’t afford anywhere nicer or who don’t know their rights, including tenants from abroad.
Whilst the latter group queue up to be ripped off, threatened and generally pushed around by people like Mr Khan, British nationals too are falling foul of right to rent provisions as reported in Landlord Today because even UK citizens have to pass the checks but 17% of them don’t have a passport, the best ‘go-to’ document for proof of status.
This includes me at the moment, mine expired last month.
The article goes on to tell us that 63% of landlords are reluctant to let to those from abroad for fear of getting it wrong and being fined or worse, from 1st December it will be a criminal offence to get it wrong punishable by a prison sentence and fines.
At a recent Easy Law training event in Cambridge, Sam Madge-Wyld told the collected audience that landlords are reminded of the legal requirement not to discriminate against any prospective tenant on basis of race or ethnicity.
A fact I found astonishing, given that the right to rent is the most discriminatory piece of legislation to get Royal Assent since the Enclosures Act. The government can discriminate but you can’t!. David Smith, the policy director for the RLA said:
“These survey findings confirm our fears. Those who cannot easily prove their right to live in the UK, whether they are British or not, are finding it harder to access homes to rent. This is particularly concerning for those UK nationals without a passport, many of them the most vulnerable in society. Landlords are quite reasonably becoming ultra-cautious to avoid tough criminal sanctions and need reassurance that they will not be punished when they get fooled by false documents. They are not trained immigration officers.”
Well said David and where do those excluded go for a home? That’s right, the type of HMO market run by criminals who have no regard to any laws, including the right to rent.
Defending possession proceedings
Disgusting HMOs aside, one of the pilots I am running for Safer Renting involves defending possession proceedings in court for a local authority homelessness unit.
Early days. In the past 3 weeks I’ve done 6 and won 5. The only one I lost was against a woman with dementia who failed to turn up at court on the day because she was hospitalized after being found wandering the streets in the rain in her nightdress.
All of them have involved setting aside already granted possession orders where the s21 was invalid but not picked up by the judge. Which is why I was intrigued to read this piece in Nearly legal about the case of Ms Sonny, who found herself in the same predicament, the landlord having not complied with deposit protection regulations.
Ms Sonny applied to have the possession order set aside on the basis that the notice was invalid and therefore possession should never have been granted in the first place but she was refused. The judge taking the view that her argument held no merit.
Why, oh why?
Not the first time I have encountered this myself. A few months back repping in a set-aside case where the property wasn’t licensed but the judge refused to believe there was a law on it.
Earlier this year Nearly Legal helmed the rough seas of taking on the High Court Enforcement Officer industry, beloved of fly on the wall doc “Can’t pay we’ll take it away”, resulting in a change to High court practice, where it appears that among other things the warrants were being rubber stamped by listings clerks instead of judges.
I wonder, not for the first time, why so many possession orders are issued when the notice is invalid? And more importantly, I wonder how it happens? If an unqualified housing advice type like me can spot a defective s21 from 100 yards why can’t judges?
What made me smile this week.
Watching the serious but also hilarious programme on BBC 2, Frankie Boyle’s American Autopsy.
Whilst being horrified at this week’s appointment of far right nut-bag Steve Bannon to be Dr Goebells to Trump’s Adolph and nervous of both world peace and the safety of any non blue eyed, blond haired US citizens, Frankie managed to make me laugh out loud when he described Trump as:
“Having a face that looks like a novelty mug made in the pottery class of a secure unit”.
See ya next week.