Monday, 18 February 2013

Shooting Tenants

Throughout the duration of my long, long (very long) renting experience I endured, variously landlords who have: threatened to hit me, refused to repair deathly gas water heaters, given notice by telepathy and then wondered why I hadn’t moved out, gone bankrupt, and it seems gone mad.

But so far, nobody has threatened to shoot me.

Like every right thinking citizen, I think that rogue landlords are bad and should be banned. (I know… I know… see recent post…)

But here is why tenants are scared, and why they feel powerless and vulnerable: there are a minority of landlords out there who are not just a but naughty. There are rentiers who do more than occasionally saunter in to homes unannounced, or who avoid repairs which not even the staunchest advocate of tenant rights would describe as vital. Some rentiers are violent thugs.

But threatening to shoot your tenants? Well that’s extra special horrible isn’t it? I mean, having someone let themselves into your house, using their own key, threaten to have you killed by thugs in their pay, and then bombarding the tenants with abusive phone calls:

A millionaire landlord who threatened to have tenants shot has been banned from renting out property. Mark Fortune will be breaking the law if he takes on new tenants after licensing chiefs ousted him from a list of fit and proper landlords.”

Fortune’s behaviour makes me wonder if many rentiers secretly wish to copy him. But threatening to shoot people (and all threats of violence) are the handiwork of dodgy crooks who believe tenants should hand over the money while remaining barefoot, unlagged, unheated, draughty and grateful. Ask for repairs? Nah. Fat chance: just hand over the rent, the exits over there, do not pass go, do not collect your deposit on the way out (they’re keeping it for ‘damage.’)

‘The decision comes after Fortune was fined £650 for issuing a tenants of a property in Lonsdale Terrace after they confronted him over a £160 repair bill.'

At the dodgier end, many are gangsters (and I mean actual gangsters) as buy-to-let is rumoured to be a haven for money laundering. The criminal law can, should and usually is, being used against them, but it’s nice to ban them forever from the landlord register as well, isn’t it?.

A while back I received an email from a tenant advisor in (I think )Alabama, where landlords threatening to shoot their tenants was seemingly so commonplace that had published a specialist leaflet (do not fire back?).

I am also intrigued by particular sentence in the Edinburgh story:
It is the first time the city council has refused an application to be included on the register.
There’s the rub. ‘The first time.’ He's banned from the landlord register - big whoop, for sure, but will the council take similar action again? How many landlords understand that they can’t abuse, beat, and hurt their tenants? How many want to issue such threats with impunity?

The rebirth of buy to let will make this a whole lot worse. Meanwhile, Fortune, the gun-toting rentier, still owns those residencies. Perhaps he might just sell or assign them to one of his cronies, managing things from behind the scenes? Confiscation of property – it’s the only way.



http://www.scotsman.com/edinburgh-evening-news/latest-news/landlord-banned-for-threatening-to-shoot-tenants-1-2778349

25 comments:

Barney from Newington said...

"It is the first time the city council has refused an application to be included on the register"

And it's no coincidence that it comes straight after Landlord registraion is criticised as a waste of money.

http://www.scotsman.com/news/landlords-scheme-farcical-tories-1-2748046

Anonymous said...

I never thought of shooting ! Before I got my GCSE I did a good line in threats
Look here owd cock if I don,t see your rent by 3o,clock I'll put your windows in .
Then when I got my education I thought hold on a mo ,their my windows.

Keep up with the humour it s everywhere even in adversity
PLD

RenterGirl said...

Barney - just to clarify, that post is about dangerous rentiers+ inadequate sanctions, not licensing. And further comments trying to hijack for your obsession will be deleted.

Callum Pragnell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RenterGirl said...

Hey Callum, odd to find threatening to shoot someone funny, but his crime wsn't about the money. And don't put stupid SEO in your comments on my blog please. Thanks!

space cadet said...

Barney would volunteer, I reckon, if he only had the time,. His first thoughts are always with the victim.

And ironies aside: this is anything but funny. Being at the mercy of your landlord - any old Jack - who laps up the status and shows such supreme arrogance, on a whole new level.

Barney from Newington said...

SC: I think the victim has done quite well for himself, he breached the terms of his lease on more than one occasion and now gets to stay in the landlord's property rent free.

Regarding the timing of the ban, the guy was charged in 2011 for threatening his tenants. In 2012 EPTAG had been campaigning without success to have him banned by landlord registration (I think he is referred to in your post "the tenants are revolting") then immediately after landlord registration is criticised for failing to tackle rogue landlords he is banned.

I think that the reason he was banned was to deflect the criticism that landlord registration is a waste of time. If it hadn't been for this criticism then the guy would still be registered.

Finally for what it's worth I do not think it's acceptable to threaten tenants or to park in disabled parking spaces.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Speaking as one whose day job is to prosecute these criminal landlords for a living I can happily say that 90% of landlords I meet are fine, some of them even lovely and they suffer with some dreadful tenants.

Having said that I get assaults, gun pullings and serious death threats on a weekly basis (Yeah OK I work in South East London…..it’s considered rude NOT to pull a gun) but the landlord industry shouldn’t be ignoring this huge problem or ridiculing the very idea of licensing which is intended to take these people out of the game, not the good ones. Sorry if it costs you £57 per property (Scotland) to licence. A small price to pay.

The fact that licensing is having a hard time getting off the ground at the moment doesn’t mean that licensing is a failed idea. Give us a chance.

Today I interviewed a woman living in a tiny 1 room apartment, one of six, in a converted 3 bedroom house paying £750 a month. She hasnt had any heating or hot water for 5 months. The landlord refuses to fix it because she is withholding her rent, unlawful but understandable.

Planning department have identified the property as an unauthorised conversion. They have prosecuted the landlady twice, each time she was fined a 5 figure sum but still has not converted the property back. The thing is, that this one property brings her in £54,000 in annual rent, so she can deal with the fines.

Trouble is I did a bit of digging. She owns 14 other properties in my borough that I know about, running under the same conditions and in 2009 bought a house for £935,000 (Land registry is a mine of information) where she lives with her partner while her numerous tenants live in shit.

Of course you will say that environmental health should serve work’s notices on her to fix the heating but while planning action is outstanding environmental health daren’t touch it, lest it be deemed that another arm of the council legitimises the conversion.

This is what enforcement officers are up against, a legal minefield. Meanwhile she continues to operate beyond the law, while numerous council officers try to do what Shelter and the government tell us we should be doing, enforcing existing legislation, when there are perhaps 2 people in the team to deal with the 30,000 private tenants in our borough who are on housing benefit, not counting the problems of the ones who aren’t.

When the landlord community can come back at me with a workable idea for this woman then I’m all ears. Meanwhile I will continue to shout loudly for licensing.

Barney from Newington said...

Today I interviewed a woman living in a tiny 1 room apartment, one of six, in a converted 3 bedroom house paying £750 a month. She hasnt had any heating or hot water for 5 months. The landlord refuses to fix it because she is withholding her rent, unlawful but understandable.

Therein lies the problem - bloody dogooders do not think that tenants witholding rent is a big issue.

If a landlord fails to protect a deposit then they can be fined up to three times the amount of the deposit.

I would suggest that laws are implemented that if a tenant fails to pay rent then the landlord could be able to petition the courts to fine the tenant three times the amount of the rent outstanding.

Perhaps this will stop tenants advisors from telling tenants that they do not have to pay rent.

space cadet said...

Registration vs accreditation came up here. http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12501

(actually move the player, to get it to start)

*meanwhile Barney shows his true colours once again, and sinks so low with that last comment, the rest of us are resigned to spitting on him as we walk by.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Barney she witheld her rent precisely because the landlord was refusing to do the repairs. She didnt do that on my advice. I told her that even if the landlord failed to fulfill their legal duties under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 the tenant was obliged to pay their rent until the day they leave.

Which means the landlord can ignore the law but still receive payment. A different slant to the one you propose in your reply there.

Anonymous said...

"The fact that licensing is having a hard time getting off the ground at the moment doesn’t mean that licensing is a failed idea. Give us a chance."

Ben, in April it will be 7 years since licensing was compulsory in Scotland.

Local Authorities admit it has made no difference whatsoever on the bad landlords.

How much more of a 'chance' does it need? Another 7 years?

Regards, HB Welcome

Barney from Newington said...

HB Welcome

Just wondered if you agreed that penalties are introduced for tenants that fail to pay their rent?

If so do you agree that it is appropriate that penalties should be in line with the penalty regime recently introduced for landlords who fail to protect their tenant’s deposit?

Ben

I am glad that you gave the tenant that advice.

From a landlord point of view, Registration and Licensing mean that you have ownership of a property but you do not have control. Effectively the PRS would become part of the social sector and landlords would be at the mercy of whatever decision making is the flavor of the month in the public sector e.g. homelessness, energy efficiency, anti-social behavior etc. This is completely unacceptable to the PRS.

In the example that you gave registration would give you the power to tackle this landlord. When the Scottish Government brought in rent orders which allowed the local authority to instruct a tenant not to pay rent to a landlord, they were supposed to be used only as a last resort in extreme situation such as when a property was deemed dangerous and all other attempts to make the landlord comply had failed.

As soon as they were introduced one council started using them as normal practice to enforce landlord registration. The Scottish Government were horrified but were unable to stop this local authority as they had handed them that power.

The moral of the story is “Power corrupts” and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Finally I have some advice for the tenant you mentioned and that is to move out. It is a free market and if you are not happy with your landlord then move to a property were you are happy with your landlord.

RenterGirl said...

The tenants are already penalised for not paying rent.

Ben and everyone - the point I am making is for confiscation of property for criminal physically abusive landlords, ie tht their flats etc should auctioned off.

I'm tired of Barney's ill-informed spite, and thinking about deleting him in the future. Thoughts?

space cadet said...

"Finally I have some advice for the tenant you mentioned and that is to move out. It is a free market and if you are not happy with your landlord then move to a property were you are happy with your landlord."

Moving house every 5 minutes is piss easy. No trouble in fact. Just find a good landlord, no problem. If your landlord is shit, whose problem is that? Definitely yours. If your "home" is sub standard (maybe even no heating or hot water) whose call is that? Definitely yours. Just move damn it. It's a free market. You're free to leave at any time. And the landlord is free to ignore you at will. Dare to make the only stand you can make? When all else has failed? God no. Barney would rather have you at gunpoint, than let that happen. Just too busy hating-on tenants to stop and understand the realities.

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...





Anonymous I’m not side-stepping the point about 7 years regulation in Scotland, I just simply don’t know anything about the system there. A Scottish solicitor emailed me recently and said the lack of success was mainly down to lack of staff to enforce there. Which is the same problem we have in England. I doubt it is that simple though.

My point is that the fact that it’s not working very well there doesn’t automatically mean that licensing wont work. I look forward to the Welsh attempts that are in the pipeline.

You cant make changes in one area with affecting other areas. I admit my enthusiasm for licensing is from the selfish perspective of being an enforcement officer, frustrated at seeing so many criminals walk because the only tools we have to get them are unwieldy, lengthy and cumbersome and nobody has the staff.

We need quicker remedies than we have in our tool box.

Come on Barney, is that really your measured response? If you don’t like living with no heating or hot water just move? What would you have us do with the landlord?

On a point of detail my tenant’s letting was set up by a dodgy agent who has now gone out of business and taken her deposit with them, so she doesn’t have the money to move.

@Penny. My team are currently looking at taking civil action against landlords for a range of things and then registering a charge on their property for the money order. Sort of what you are suggesting

Barney from Newington said...

Ben

I am sure that for an enforcement officer, Registration would be the equivalent of a Penis extension. However I would urge you to consider the effect it would have on the PRS.

Regarding the tenant I think my advice of "move out" would be much better than any "Officer Krupke" type solution that you can come up with.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq28qCklEHc

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

"Penis extension"? Hmmmmm do you know what Barney? I actually tried to engage you in an adult conversation about the situation in the PRS. I realise I extended respect in the wrong place and in future will save my time

Barney from Newington said...

Ben

Good attempt at taking the moral high ground.

In my opinion the reason this countries finances are in a mess is not to do with bailing out banks.

It is because there are too many people like yourself in non jobs being paid inflated salaries with defined benefit pension schemes.

RenterGirl said...

One of the reasons I let Barney's comments stay up is because he digs his own grave with vituperative emissions of deluded tenant hating bile. On the negative side, he's getting on my nerves. Barney, love: have a lie down. And that's the last comment from you on this.

space cadet said...

"I'm tired of Barney's ill-informed spite, and thinking about deleting him in the future. Thoughts?"

Please do.

Anonymous said...

Barney said..
"Just wondered if you agreed that penalties are introduced for tenants that fail to pay their rent?"

No, I don't agree - not that it would happen anyway.

If a tenant fails to pay their rent it results in them losing their home. I think that is enough of a penalty.

Although I would like to see the section 8 as being a realistic route for eviction for non rent payment.

Regards, HB Welcome.

Anonymous said...

Ben,

Lack of resources is an easy excuse for failure, trotted out by public authorities the world over.

I predict this will be the excuse Newham will come out with for their schemes failure.

But that is not the reason in Scotland.

The reason it has failed there is because nearly all the resources are used up on administering the 'good' landlords. (Nearly) All efforts are focused on this and the rogues get off scot free (pardon the pun). The amount of unlicensed landlords has remained consistently around 25% -incidentally this is roughly the same amount unregistered in Newham.

It has proved too difficult to go after the rogues so they go for the easy targets.

How is the Welsh system going to be any different?

The landlord in Penny's blog highlights the point. All that time, money and resources wasted on the licensing aspect of one dodgy landlord.

Of which he is appealing against anyway, which has a fair chance of success if other licensing appeals are to go by. But even if that fails, he can simply get one of his mates or girlfriends to register for him. And he is one of those who bother to license! What about the tens of thousands who don't?

If you get your licensing wish for Lewisham, exactly how will it make your job easier?
They are not going to let you act like some kind of Judge Dredd figure, removing rogue landlords just because you know who they are. You will have to carry out due legal process.

Instead of targetting the rogues, you will be tied up administering the good landlords.

Just as has happened in Scotland, is happening in Newham and will happen in Wales.

Regards, HB Welcome

Ben Reeve-Lewis said...

Lack of resources is an easy excuse for failure, trotted out by public authorities the world over.

Anonymous, it may be an unpalatable truth but a truth nonetheless. It isnt an excuse.

Councils are cut to the bone across the UK. True, the legislation is there to deal with rogues but what do you do, citing my circumstances, where you have 30,000 tenants on housing benefit alone, not counting the working ones, and 2 enforcement officers? Even the Welsh Guards at Rourke's Drift stood a better chance of success in 'Zulu'.

The legislation available to people in my line of work is there but we are defeated from the off by the sheer numbers of illegal eviction and harassment cases that come in everyday.

I picked up an illegal eviction yesterday. I spent 4 hours sitting around in court today getting an injunction to get him back in.When I got back to the office at 2.30pm I had 2 other illegal evictions in the reception area, expecting the same level of service.

If you think lack of staff and resources is an 'Excuse for failure' you live in cloud cuckoo land

RenterGirl said...

It's not just doing an impossible job with no resources, Ben: it's doing that well, when 'the enemy' are so well-resourced in comparison.

In other news, the spammers are driving me nuts: with so mny mny readers, popularity attracts some horrible people.