Eviction is all in a days’ work
I was at an illegal eviction in progress last week.
Well, a day afterward to be honest, arguing with the landlord for the reinstatement of the two tenants, one a mum with three kids and the other a single woman.
There had been a third eviction the week before when the landlord had smashed the windows of the outbuilding the tenant had been living in, effectively making the property uninhabitable, but she had gone her own way before I got involved.
All of this had kicked off when one of the tenants complained to the council about being forced to occupy one room with her three children while the landlord, who had told her to down size temporarily from the two bedroom flat while she decorated the rest of the accommodation but stopped work a week after beginning.
The family had been stuck in one room since January while the rest of the flat was a building site.
Upon receiving the complaint the council did a quick check and found that the landlord didn’t have a property licence for any of the accommodation she was renting out and it was the council’s subsequent involvement that drove the landlord doolally.
Normally we look at either the employment of section 6 of the Criminal law Act, which allows for the use of force to re-secure accommodation for a displaced residential occupier or the suitability of an injunction for reinstatement.
We have an account with a locksmith but section 6 wasn’t a good option here. The landlord having glued up all the locks with Polyfilla and entry to the family’s flat would be difficult as the design of the building meant that the landlord could enter through her own accommodation and object to any force being used, which puts paid to section 6, which can only be used if there is nobody in the accommodation to object to the force being used.
Given that getting the technicalities of section 6 wrong can result in the tenant, or those acting on their behalf being at risk of committing a criminal offence I erred on the side of caution.
Luckily, she was eligible for legal aid and found an excellent solicitor in the law centre who managed to blag himself into court the same day for an injunction. An increasingly rare occurrence, given the current practice, whereby you have to call a phone number before 1pm and make an appointment, just to hand the forms in the next day.
Been there, seen it and done it
After 28 years of having pretty much seen it all, I think I must have developed a very relaxed demeanour these days, even when people are screaming and shouting at each other, as was the case here.
You have to bear in mind that these sorts of scenarios are just another day at the office for me and I have also learnt down the years that such situations aren’t best resolved if the TRO joins in with the shouting and swearing, so I generally amble about over the rubble and belongings in bin liners like Cary Grant at a cocktail party trying to charm tenants back in with amiable reason.
This often causes people who don’t do this kind of thing as much as I do, to question whether I care or not.
Of course I care
I wouldn’t have been doing this job for such a long time if I didn’t. I would long ago have found a more lucrative and relaxing way to earn a living than constantly sorting out other people’s fights and watching newly homeless people in tears of desperation.
But down the years I have at least learnt the wisdom that there is a difference between caring and getting caught up in the dramas.
I’ve seen loads of good people who couldn’t separate these functions who got burnt out very quickly and left the job because things were too stressful. Particularly in homelessness work.
Its the same with landlords
Many times I see landlords becoming emotional and driven to distraction by the way a person occupies property, especially if the property they are renting was once the family home.
Conversely, I’ve met many happy landlords down the years who display a Buddhist-like pragmatism.
One guy I used to know, Arthur, now sadly dead, used to run a few HMOs, mainly occupied by singletons with a variety of problems, worked out long ago that he was always dealing with smashed sinks and soiled mattresses, so instead of railing against this he got himself a lock-up and filled it with sinks and mattresses.
His store was situated on the walk to my old office and I would often see Arthur rummaging around with the door open and shout:-
“Another one Arthur?”
To which he would smile good-naturedly and shrug his shoulders.
As a small child Arthur had been in a concentration camp, so I suppose it would be acceptable and understandable for him to say:-
“I’ve seen worse”.
Then there is the HMO Landlady
Some of you may have read her blog.
We’ve become friends down the years. Like Arthur, she specialises in the most difficult end of the market and has a sanguine and hilarious take on her job.
Of course, she could probably make more money by choosing a different clientele but she works with people because she is a people person, she cares but she wears that care lightly and finds a sense of humour the best protection.
Then there is Marion Money and Richard Blanco from the NLA. Two nicer, more caring people you couldn’t meet and who also seem to find the space to address problems without getting caught up in dramas.
Molehills not mountains
I’ve met loads of decent landlords down the years and decent enforcement officers as well. What makes life easier for all of them is they don’t make mountains out of molehills, like the landlord at the illegal eviction I attended.
Sometimes there is a genuine mountain to deal with but you don’t get to the top by hopping up and down.
Re-reading this piece before sending it to Tessa I’m aware it comes across like “Thought for the day” on Radio 4, but hey, even a grizzled old TRO like me has a soft side.
It’s Sunday morning, the sun is shining, I’ve got a roast for dinner and I don’t have to argue on a doorstep today, at least until tomorrow.