Monday, 16 July 2007

Property in the UK 5c: The Beginning of the End or Just the End of the Beginning?

Well, in my long-running saga of our landlord's representative things become more bizarre. On the plus side we have found a house we like and have found out we can borrow enough money to buy it. However, the other-worldly behaviour of the landlord's representative continues. Now he says that we cannot leave the house we are renting early (because obviously the landlord would lose the rental income and be liable for council tax on the empty property) but we can stay no longer than the day before he exchanges contracts to sell the house. He feels he has been generous in offering us a two-week warning of the sale of the house (I guess rather than being hard on us and just telling us the day before). However, there is no indication of when the house will be sold, so we cannot plan anything.

At least now we can probably move to the house we are buying rather than having to put all our stuff in storage and stay in bed-and-breakfast accommodation while we looked for a house. The fastest we have been able to move in the past is about six weeks. Having to go through all the hoops and checks by letting agents and the various utility companies makes it harder to move faster in the UK, not even factoring in the time it takes to look for a house and apply to live in it.

The landlord's representative has now said he will not speak to us. He has been by-passing our letting agent who is supposed to handle these things and now has cut off communication because he is angry with us. Following the meeting he had with my housemate, we thought he was going to put our proposal (for some payment in return for breaking our contract which runs to January 2008) to the landlord, but apparently he thinks he never said that and is angry as we were supposed to be considering his offer (read threat - obey all my demands or face legal action) and ring two days later to confirm our acceptance of that.

We are actually now looking forward to getting a letter from his lawyers as we expect (maybe wrongly) that they will not be fantasists or work in a schizophrenic way and we can negotiate some deal with them, rather than simply being lectured by them the way the representative does (literally he will go on for 30-60 minutes about how his family is suffering [they own a £350,000 house, have an excellent job in Texas and so on], how his daughter-in-law is useless, how experienced he is, how he wants to treat us like family, but thinks we are behaving illegally and so on). The police say him sitting outside the house in his car and calling us repeatedly on the phone does not constitute harassment and cannot understand why everything is not covered by the contracts (well it is for us, but the representative feels he is not bound by them).

The worst situation for us is if we buy the house and still have to keep paying the rent on our house until January 2008, so we are seeking a deal now in which we can leave when we want and in return will let the representative put the house on the market, have people view it, etc. (even though in the contract we do not have to permit this until the end of December 2007). The representative keeps getting more and more estate agents to market the house so we get even more phonecalls coming in. We have had backing from estate agents and advisors on housing in the town that we are doing the right thing. However, one lawyers' firm we contacted said they never represent tenants only landlords.

The representative now wants to evict us but, of course, not so quickly that he will be liable for council tax. This mad system in which we are being compelled to stay in the house until the precise moment the landlord's representative decides we must leave, with no thought of how disruptive that is to our life, just re-emphasises how powerless we are even when we adhere to the law. In addition, he is going round estate agents and letting agents in the town literally lying that we have always been late with our rent, so making it harder for us to find a place anyway, and defaming us, knowing we lack the funds to challenge him in court (especially now that legal aid is only available for the poorest people). So, we are very much in limbo and with our reputation being hammered.

They wonder why the British labour force is so inflexible, well it is no suprise when you face such hassle and lose so much money just renting a house. My housemate and her son will have lived at 4 addresses in 2 years by the end of 2007 and we are not like Will Smith's character in 'The Pursuit of Happyness', I have a well-paid, established job and she runs her own successful business and yet we lack the power to stop ourselves being kicked from pillar to post as part of landlords' economic whims.

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