Sunday, 8 July 2007

Property in the UK 5b: The Landlord's Representative Turns Up the Heat

Taking a break from the writing on counter-factuals in this post I return to probably what blogs are supposed to be about, day-to-day life. The ongoing saga of the problems with housing for me and mine continues. To recap, we have rented this house since February. We had to leave the previous one after only 16 months as that landlord split with his wife over Christmas 2006. Now, having been in this new house only 5 months we have been told we have to leave despite our 12-month contract.

The landlord has emigrated to the USA so he has appointed his father as his representative. With interest rates reaching 5.75% this month and set to rise further the £1400 (€2040; US$2800) the landlord pays on his mortgage each month is rising quickly. This man told us lots of lies trying in some way to get us to like him. The key one was that he would not put the property on the market until Monday 2nd July when he returned from the USA himself. In fact he put it on the market immediately, Monday 18th June. I was angered by his lie and my housemate who works from home would not accept people coming to view the house and disrupting her life. As she pointed out, in the contract it says we only have to permit this in the final month of our tenancy, i.e. January 2008. She certainly wanted to negotiate some kind of deal so we did not have people turning up at any time with the estate agent simply letting themselves in without warning. Of course to the landlord's representative this house is simply a business and we are an illegal obstacle to his plans whereas to us it is our home and we feel violated to be treated this way.

The landlord's representative has a major problem, his mind is in a fantasy world in which he owns 47 properties and used to be a lawyer and is somehow a nice man. Even the estate agents are irritated by his attitude. He clearly expected the house to be sold by the time he returned from the USA and us to have disappeared from his concerns. Even if we had been willing to leave without complaint, in my experience it takes a minimum of 4-5 weeks to move to a new property (you have to find a place, sign contracts with the new landlord, get credit checks, get a day when removal people can come, get a day off work, etc., etc.) but of course the landlord's representative sees this as none of his concern, we should simply have gone.

Right, so the landlord's representative's fantasy world where tenants disappear in a puff of smoke when they are no longer needed (we pay £1000 (€1460; US$2000) for this house, so have provided the landlord a good income) has run up against the real world. What is his reponse? To call my mobile 'phone eight times in two hours; to ring my housemate at 08.00 when she is trying to leave the house to take her son to school; to park his car outside our home and watch us go about our business. We want to negotiate with him, but he will provide not telephone numbers or contact details and will not keep the letting agent informed. Ourselves and even now people coming to the house, look up and down the street, uneasy to think he is watching them. He will not listen to what we are saying, that we need time to move, we need a reduction in rent or a lump sum to recompense us for being turfed out early and having our lives disrupted by people tramping round our home. He says we are breaking the law, that we have not kept up the house and garden properly (it has rained incessantly for three weeks in the UK, weedkiller is ineffective in such weather and they left the driveway not properly surfaced so weeds keep getting through) and that we have been late with our rent each month. We were tricked one month. My salary comes on different days each month sometimes as early as the 27th sometimes as late as the 31st so paying out on the 28th each month was sometimes hard. We were told that if we paid an additional £100 we could move it to the 1st of each month. We did exactly in line with what we were told and then were told we were late and should pay a £25 per day fine. We have gone back to the 28th but have lost the £100 and the landlord's representative has said we have been late every month, which is a lie, but the landlord's representative's fantasy world can only see as trying to cheat him at every turn, when in fact the landlord has tricked us out of an additional £100. A letter from the lawyer of the landlord has been promised outlining all that we have done wrong in the house and what legal steps are going to be taken against us.

The landlord's representative keeps talking at us and has never listened to what we have said. We are treated as if we have no rights and are even illegal in asking questions. He has said things blatantly like 'I will find a loophole to get you out'; 'I will do what I have to do', that latter one verging on sounding like a threat of violence. Even if we had rolled over to his demands immediately, he would have been dissatisfied as we could never have moved on in 2 weeks as he wants. We now feel under siege with him parked up outside the house and ringing at all times. My housemate has been made ill by the worry of all of this. She has an appointment on Monday on neutral ground with the letting agent as mediator, but given the landlord's representative's fantasies I fear her words will fall on deaf ears. The man is stupid because if he had not lied to us, and had listened to us, he could have avoided all this hassle and cost of lawyers, but clearly he loves to throw his weight around.

For us, the sense of powerlessness that I have been talking about for the last two months is again re-emphasised. We are a well-off household, with intelligence and good networks. If we still suffer such bullying, heaven help people in similar circumstances who are not blessed with these things.

I have just realised the date is 07/07/07, well I hope someone out there has had some luck today, if you have done, have one on me.

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