Councillor assisting tenant in private civil case

by Readers Question

11:04 AM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Councillor assisting tenant in private civil case

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Councillor assisting tenant in private civil case

I am currently taking two separate tenants (or rather their guarantors) to Court, one over arrears and the other for damages to the property. Councillor assisting tenant in private civil case

I am regularly in Court as it is the nature of renting in my area and I usually win. However, in both of these cases a local Councillor seems to be involved and I am unsure why.

I am unfamiliar with local politics, but I have absolutely no idea why a Councillor (who is just as much my Councillor as he is the tenants he is ‘representing’), is getting/being involved in a private civil case(s) at all.

In the first case, the defendant has been spouting hot air about “a Councillor” for some time in his correspondence and I brushed it off as him clutching at straws, hoping to involve someone he feels is official to fight his corner. He had included a couple of Councillors in our email exchanges and has also suggested we had refused to give them permission to access the property to inspect the damages – apart from that being the first I’d heard of such a request, the Councillors themselves have never contributed to the thread or contacted me directly.

More worryingly still, the guarantor also mentions that all correspondence is being forwarded to the Local Aothority legal team… this is a tax-payer funded Council department for Council use only and not for private use by MoP!

Without getting too ahead of myself, I once again brushed this off as nonsense, however it turns out this guarantor has been communicating with the tenant/guarantor of the second case on Facebook and has managed to rope in one of the Councillors again.

In the first case, I am pursuing a claim for damages and the tenant left months ago with the tenancy now long since ended. In the second, I am only pursuing rent arrears (as it stands) and at present the tenant is still resident at the property but is going through the leaving process.

At a recent pre-exit inspection of the property in case two, I was met by the tenant and half a dozen family members as well as the as-yet unseen/unheard Councillor. I asked in what capacity he was there and he confirmed he was there as both a Councillor and as an independent witness to the inspection. I’m not sure what use he could be toward the end of the tenancy as he has no clue as to the condition of the place on commencement. He passed comment on some badly fitted wallpaper (i.e. hanging off the ceiling) and when I asked the tenant what happened he said there was proof it was the original paper from when the tenant moved in because you could ‘see the paste marks on the ceiling plaster’. Essentially saying it was my wallpaper and was badly fitted in the first place so not the tenants fault. Very strange.

From what I can gather, he may be a friend of the guarantor in case one which is where he has gained his skewed view of me and my agency. Somehow he got involved with case two and when he heard it was me again (along with his dim and unsubstantiated view of me) has decided to ‘deal with this “rogue” landlord’… me. After all he’s now a Councillor, don’t you know!

I called him once I returned to my office to invite him for a chat and to see if I could correct his opinion of me and to better put him in the picture on these particular cases amongst how we operate in general, e.g. those who pay their rent and return the property in a similar condition to that they took it on don’t go to Court, it’s only where I have a case and is necessary…hence my excellent success rate. He said he hadn’t the time and anything I had to say I could do so over the phone. I fired off an email to him on, purely to document his presence and his capacity there as a Councillor. I mentioned that he was included somehow in case one and I wanted him to clarify his acting capacity there, as well as to my concerns over documents being handed to the Local Authority legal team.

He is a rookie politician and I think out of his depth. I have had no response in a week and I now want to stitch this idiot up as he is getting involved in a professional capacity in a private case. I also support the party he represents (as do many of the landlords locally) and so maybe call the HQ – perhaps they will have a quiet word?

What I’m asking of you is how you would go about this and any info on Councillors and how they should/shouldn’t behave. Not that it should matter, but this Councillor lives in a very rough area (where a number of my clientele hark from) and so much of this I imagine is he feels he is ‘helping one of his own’.

Thanks

Luke



Comments

15:11 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

I think a lot of what Mark has said makes sense. However Luke, there is nothing stopping you writing to the political party expressing your concerns t the extent of his invovlvement.
But again as Mark says, you'll have more evidence t the end of the case when you find exactly what lengths the council have gone to. They do have some responsibility for enforcing Housing Act and HHSRS, so basically
write to political party if you feel you must at this stage, and keep your powder dry on the other matters

Luke P

15:29 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Chris: The Council as a whole aren't involved, it is just this Councillor.

Mike: No, indeed. But he confirmed he was not there as a friend but in an official capacity as a Councillor.

As a current serving UK Police Officer, I cannot put on my uniform and act in an official capacity (possibly utilising tools at the Force's disposal) to assist a friend with a private matter. It is not acceptable.

Incidentally, he has just replied to my email:

"To clarify, my position is that of a Elected Councillor that has received individual requests for help from Borough residents.

You would have to speak with the legal team to discuss there [sic] involvement as I have not been in contact with them about this matter."

Jonathan R

15:31 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Luke,

I would probably do what Mark has suggested.

In the meantime your council meetings will be published, most likely on the council website, so you could try and find a little more out about the chap before you go on the warpath.

Good luck!

Luke P

15:43 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Oddly we have some mutual friends who had said he has some involvement with property and we should have a chat about possibly doing some business together (before he was a Councillor).

He doesn't know of our friends in common.

He then became a Councillor and seems to have a point to prove.

Bill Williams

16:18 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mike W" at "08/07/2015 - 15:10":

A councillor cannot use his position to try and influence a case in a private dispute, he is at risk of being investigated for his involvement, and possibly lose his position as a councillor. I've seen it happen.

Luke P

16:22 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Bill Williams" at "08/07/2015 - 16:18":

Thank Ben, this was my general feeling. Do you have any sources/links I could look at to see what I can do if he is abusing his position?

Bill Williams

16:29 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Luke P" at "08/07/2015 - 16:22":

Sorry no, it happened to someone I know, who interfered in a private matter and used his position to try and influence an outcome.

Robert Smillie

16:45 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Hi Luke,
Mark is so very right about serving the dish cold, but typically most Councils have a Standards Committee through which complaints about Councillors are dealt, and for most complaints they tend to have a 3 month time limit. You could make a complaint up to 12 months if you accused the Councillor of bullying as they take that more seriously. Though the typical restitution is only requesting an apology from the Councillor concerned.
It is though an official complaint that the Press may take an interest in.
If you support the Party best go through the local Chairman before the press 🙂

Regards
Rob

Annie Landlord

17:47 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Speaking as a former councillor I would say the councillor has not done anything wrong, so far. It is part of his role to offer support and advice to residents and turning up with the tenant is nothing extraordinary. HOWEVER, he should have been entirely clear with you that he had been asked along to the property by the tenant and he should have asked you for your 'side of the story' too. At least he has now replied to your email and also told he he knows nothing of the rumoured involvement of the council's legal team. They won't be involved. That only happens if you had failed to effect necessary repairs to the property and been served an improvement notice.
I would suggest, if you put anything in writing to the councillor, even an email, that you say you are happy to speak to him if he wishes and leave it at that. If he does overstep the mark your local council's website should tell you how to complain about a councillor.

Puzzler

19:54 PM, 8th July 2015
About 4 years ago

Agree with Annie, as also a former councillor myself, part of the remit is to assist parishioners or residents in their ward. However it should all be above board and provided you have behaved as such, s/he's going look a little silly.

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