Wednesday, 18 February 2015

EXETER ALDER KING EVICTION OF POLISH TENANTS WITHOUT WARNING, WITHOUT NOTICE. – Tim Veater

EXETER ALDER KING EVICTION OF POLISH TENANTS WITHOUT WARNING, WITHOUT NOTICE. – Tim Veater

“More than 40 people including children have been evicted from a block of flats in a raid by bailiffs.”
The “UK Column” has closely followed, and reported on, the ethically very questionable and legally dubious practices of banks and “Receivers” in evicting owners and occupiers from their properties, often with what are claimed to be fraudulent County or High Court documents.
Some years ago, the Conservative Government at the time (1989) introduced what it called the “Assured Shorthold Tenancy” (AST)which in general terms reduced the security for private tenants to six months or less.
It was argued that this and the abandonment of independently set “fair” or “controlled” rents, would encourage landlords to let, relying wholly on market forces instead. (See: https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-agreements-a-guide-for-landlords/tenancy-types)
Most private tenancies are now AST’s with rents set at whatever the market dictates. The effect of this generally “laissez fair” approach, linked as it has been to rocketing property values way ahead of inflation and earning potential, has meant that the notional wealth gap between owner/occupiers and those that rent has increased; that property based debt has mushroomed; that rents, particularly in the south/east and other sought after areas has effectively put them out of the reach of the average worker; that the housing benefit costs to the taxpayer have increased hugely; and that a general sense of insecurity hangs over those who rent that may have serious and long-term consequences for family stability and individual psychological health. All this without even referring the disastrous consequences of the 2008 banking collapse for which we are all now paying in “austerity” cuts to basic services.
However in spite of these considerations, a tenant that occupies a property legally, does at least have a modicum of legal protection. Basically they cannot be forced out in the first six months after signing the agreement and subsequently only after due notice has been served backed by a County Court Order by a Judge. Further in theory they are protected from harassment by the landlord or his agents, which is a specified crime.
I say in theory, as with all these things, for the system to work, the crime of harassment has to be proved and prosecuted by an agency, which is normally the local authority, and we all know what has happened to them and how reticent they are to do so. In practice, unscrupulous landlords can get away with a lot if they are so minded, as tenants usually have neither the inclination nor resources to fight them, particularly if all they can expect is a very short extension to the tenancy.
Clearly the law is now weighted heavily in favour of the property owner, yet the Labour Government, a decade in power, did virtually nothing to right the balance between the protections of owners of property and those of the tenant.
The case referred to above and reported here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-28295224 and here: https://welfaretales.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/exeter-tenants-evicted-from-flats-with-no-warning/ is a case in point of how apparently, even these basic safeguards can be circumnavigated, which is both a moral and legal outrage.
It appears upwards of FORTY POLISH individuals, including children, were evicted with virtually nowhere to go and with only twenty minutes warning, despite having been good tenants and having paid the rent required of them. The firm ALDER KING, allegedly in charge of the operation to send in the bailiffs, “refused to comment”, hopefully from shame. It is a name that from now on will be linked with inhumanity and callousness, and rightly so.
Yet again, as we saw with the collapse of the banking sector, not unrelated to “light-touch regulation” and property price inflation, it has a public dimension, for it is the public that is required to pick up the pieces and bill for private sector failure. It is the hard pressed, tax funded local authority that has to cope and find homes for the families so displaced. If Alder King knew it would have to recompense the local authority for its selfish and heartless action, I doubt it would be quite so eager to flaunt the basic rules of tenancy law. Perhaps it will argue it is not bound by them but its refusal to comment suggests it has no defence.
Where is the court order? If it failed to get one or the order is fraudulent, I suggest the outrageous action may be a breach of not only civil but also criminal law. Let us hope someone at the local authority is prepared to action it and to thereby hold this company to account.
Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw appears to take a similar view. He is quoted as saying: “This is a disgraceful state of affairs which the city council and police should investigate as a matter of urgency. It also highlights the urgent need for the growing number of people in our communities who rely on private rented accommodation to be given more protection.” His words would perhaps have greater weight if for the six years he was part of the Tony Blair government he had done something about the issue.
From the Alder King website the company claims the following: “Alder King is a socially responsible employer with a strong commitment to encouraging our staff, clients and others to consider the impact of our business on the environment, the economy and society as a whole.
Our Corporate Social Responsibility working group, made up of representatives from across the business, continuously seeks ways to improve our support for the environment and the communities in which we operate.
The group is also tasked with evaluating the quality and content of the advice we give our clients, changes in property practice, how we can make a difference by supporting our clients’ CSR and environmental policies/requirements, as well as sharing best practice with clients, suppliers, contractors and others.” http://www.alderking.com/about-us/corporate-social-responsibility
Clearly however, deeds speak louder than words and I am confident the fact that the occupants were all Polish had no bearing on the decision to act in the way that they did.
Landlords should always have the legal right to reclaim their property from illegal squatters, tenants who fail to pay their rent or who otherwise abuse the property or become a nuisance to others. But by the same token tenants deserve protection from arbitrary or unreasonable action on the part of landlords, because it is bad for the tenants and it is bad for society. Nor is it acceptable that only market forces are allowed to set rents, if in the process they cause homelessness and suffering.
The law should be framed along the lines of a “probationary period” with greater protection afforded thereafter.
Meanwhile on the specific point of Alder King and this eviction without notice, let us hope if, in respect of harassment or procedure, the law has been broken, they will be asked to defend their inhumane actions in a court of law. END.



Exeter Eviction of Polish Tenants – Alder King has now published this statement. – Tim Veater

Exeter Eviction of Polish Tenants – Alder King has now published this statement. – Tim Veater

Statement on Eviction Process at Bartholomew House, Exeter – 15 July 2014
Property consultancy Alder King was appointed in 2012 to act as Receivers in respect of Flats 1-6 Bartholomew House in Exeter after Property Edge Lettings Limited, the company which owned the property, went into Administration.
In early 2014 communication commenced with the occupiers and their legal representatives concerning obtaining possession of the property advising them that they were occupying the property as trespassers.
This led to trespass proceedings being pursued through a formal Court process culminating in a Court Order for Possession granted on 16 May by the County Court. This required the occupiers to vacate within 28 days. The occupiers had legal representation present at the hearing, an interpreter and one of the occupiers was also in attendance.
Unfortunately the occupiers failed to comply with the Court Order and the matter was then referred to the High Court. Following a Risk Analysis by the High Court Enforcement Officer, Alder King was explicitly advised not to provide advance notice of the eviction.
Martyn Jones, senior partner at Alder King, said: “Of course we regret the distress this case has caused to the occupiers. However we have strictly followed the proper legal process and complied at all times with Court procedures and advice in what has clearly been a very difficult situation.”
The issue therefore appears to be the extent to which normal tenancy rules in contract are suspended once a landlord company goes into Administration? Even if they are one might expect certain basic rules of notice would still apply to allow tenants to leave in an orderly fashion and to make alternative accommodation arrangements. At the very least the way Alder King proceeded appears to show a lack of imagination and empathy for the people they were throwing out onto the street doesn’t it?

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