Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Property in the UK 5c: A Twist in the Sale

In terms of my categories of blogging this probably straddles the anger management and the journal type as it outlines, briefly, the latest development in the hassle we have been receiving over the house we have been renting since February. It is astounding that we have reached the halfway mark of our 12-month contract, the pressure makes it feel like many weeks more. Anyway, I am currently on leave and was about to set off for a day in a lovely part of southern England when there was a ring at the doorbell. A late middle-aged man stood there and asked me if I was Mr _____, i.e. the landlord. I said I was the tenant, which surprised him, and in fact that the landlord was in the USA. He then outlined that the landlord was months behind in making his mortgage repayments. I do not know how I stand legally but I know in the past tenants would just be kicked out when the landlord defaulted and the house was repossessed. I am guessing that we have more rights than that these days and hopefully there are a few stages before the house is repossessed, especially as we are close to being able to move out anyway.

This bank representative asked to see my tenancy agreement. However, it takes me half a day to find any legal document I need. I cling tightly to everything that I am sent, and the more precious it is the more securely I keep it, hence my inability to locate it. As it turned out later, my housemate actually had it, so it was a good thing I did not look for it as I would never have found it among my things. In addition, I have no financial relationship with the bank and did not feel compelled to deal with this man. I sent him to the letting agent, fortunately located near to our house, as I assume he can put his hand on all the legal papers needed and anyway, that is his job, I am supposed to be on holiday.

I do not know if this is going to make our situation any easier or harder. I can see now why the landlord was unwilling to come out with any financial incentive for us to leave the property early, but I cannot understand why he simply did not sell the property before he left the UK. Our rent is £1000 (€1480, US$2003) per month (out of this he pays only 7% fees rather than the usual 13-16% because of the agent he uses) and his mortgage payments are £1400 (€2072; US$2842), I guessed he made up the gap from the extra pay he got from his promotion in his work and the posting to the USA which presumably came with relocation funds. It was certainly wrong for him to go ahead and rent out the house defaulting on the mortgage payments; luring us into a property that he did not intend to keep for the duration of our contracted tenancy and, in turn, exposing us to his father and his slimy ways of doing 'business'. Even more than before I feel as a tenant I have no protection, I am just a cash cow that can be slaughtered the moment it is convenient for the landlord.

Gordon Brown says he is going to do more for those who are first-time buyers, but he also needs to help secure the position of those millions of us who rent. We have far fewer rights than people the other side of the English Channel. It must come as a shock for those people coming from France and Poland to work here to find they can be exploited in this way within the EU. So, this is the anger management element as tonight I feel I have absolutely no control over a central part of my life and my future - where I live.

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