Here is a question to the Blog Clinic ‘Fast Track’ from Martin who is a tenant.
I have been evicted by the proper method. The estate agents have told me I have a single 60 minute period in the next seven days, to remove all my possessions.
I am disabled and sixty minutes is unreasonable to my mind. I don’t owe any rent but hadn’t actually finished moving in the first place!
The landlord wants the property back to look after his sick mother. All I needed was time. They say I’ve had enough time but I say it’s enough time for an able-bodied person.
I have mobility problems, my legs are dressed three times a week and on the dressing days, I cannot move anything because of pain. This means that three days out of seven, I cannot do anything.
The estate agents know my circumstances but still insists I’ve had enough time to move out. They say if I don’t, the landlord will put any remaining property of mine into storage and send me the bill! I bet not one of you reading this can shift my stuff out in the 60 minutes allowed.
This seems singularly disobliging of the landlord’s agents. But let’s take a look at the law on property left behind.
When someone is left in possession of another person’s possessions (which is your situation, your landlord has possession of your items) they are in what lawyers call a position of ‘involuntary bailee’.
They are not allowed to sell or dispose of the items as they do not belong to them. The only way they can do this is under an act known as The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977.
Under this act, if the ‘bailee’ wants to sell or dispose of the goods he has to put the owner on notice by sending a letter giving details of the items held, where they are held and giving a period of time ‘such as will afford the bailor a reasonable opportunity of taking delivery of the goods.’
I don’t consider 60 minutes to be a reasonable time, particularly as you are disabled.
However, I see that the landlord is not proposing to destroy or sell the goods if you don’t collect them within the specified period, but to move them to storage. This is actually something the landlord is allowed to do. They are not obliged to keep the items in the same property.
So far as charging you for the storage, again they are entitled to do this, but if so the notice period for collection must not be less than three months.
I appreciate that you are very annoyed about this and this is entirely understandable.
However, if you are anxious not to lose your possessions, my advice is to just make an appointment within the next seven days, hire a van, driver and a couple of tough looking removal men and arrange to move your possessions within the time specified.
I think it is unlikely that your landlord or his agent will actually prevent tough looking removal men from going back into the property if they have not finished at the end of the 60 minute period, particularly as doing this will just put them to the trouble and inconvenience of moving the items to storage themselves.
You should be able to find a reasonably priced service via the internet and indeed there are comparison sites you can use to find the best price.
If this is not possible for any reason, then if the items are moved you will have to pay the (reasonable) storage costs.
Although if you only want a couple more days – for example, if your van driver is not able to attend on the day specified, you could suggest they agree to this and (if they prove difficult) mention the discrimination legislation and the possibility of a claim being made under it.
I suspect that if you are able to give a specific time for the removal, and the time is shortly after the deadline, they will probably agree to this – as presumably, they would prefer to have you arrange to remove the items than have the bother of doing it themselves.
Is this discrimination?
It is possible you may be able to bring a claim against your landlord under the discrimination legislation, for example for failing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ by allowing you more time due to your disability.
This is not my area of law so I cannot predict your chances of success. However, I suspect that the landlord will say that it is not discrimination because he would have treated any other able-bodied tenant in the same way. He just wants the property cleared so he can use it for his sick mother.
To assist them you should keep detailed records of everything that happens. For example, do attendance notes of all telephone calls and meetings and if they are obstructive keep a record of the precise words spoken to you. If you do this immediately after the meeting or telephone call (and sign and date it), it will be deemed a ‘contemporaneous record’ and will be given extra evidential ‘weight’ at court. You should also keep a diary of events.
My feeling though is that as all your landlord is proposing to do is to move your possessions to storage if you do not collect within seven days, which is something he is legally entitled to do, your chances are not good and even if an award is made to you it will be on the low side.
Particularly as your landlord wants the property for his sick mother who may herself be in urgent need of it.
Had your landlord been threatening to destroy or sell your possessions it would have been a different matter.