Don’t Shoot the Messenger #9 – How the Police can land you in hot water

Don’t Shoot the Messenger #9 – How the Police can land you in hot water

10:58 AM, 17th April 2012, About 10 years ago 36

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Don't shoot the messengerImagine the scenario. You are being threatened or assaulted in the street, your home has been burgled, your car has been stolen. Who ya gonna call? The cops of course, because they know their stuff, act appropriately and sort it out for you right? They ARE the law.

But what happens when the actions of the Police in assisting you actually puts you in the dock with criminal allegations being made against you? What do you do when you follow the advice of the law professionals and find yourself in court?

This happens thousands of times a year to landlords who ask the Police to help them with a problem tenant.

Why? Because the Police know Jack about landlord tenant law. They aren’t trained in it and they don’t want to know. The minute they hear the words ‘Landlord’ or ‘Tenant’, they take a line that it is nothing to do with them and advise from that position.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing the cops. I work closely with them and have a lot of respect for them. The problem is lack of knowledge not willingness.

There are 3 common problem scenarios that occur whenever the Police get called to an incident between landlords and tenants;

  • Wrongfully advising the landlord on their rights and obligations.
  • Telling both parties that disputes between landlords and tenants are civil matters.
  • Actually helping landlords to illegally evict tenants, thus putting the landlord in the position of having committed a criminal offence, ably abetted by the police themselves.

Wrongful advice:

Whenever a client comes in to see me alleging that they have been either harassed or illegally evicted by their landlord and they tell me Police were involved I physically groan, because I know that my job is suddenly made twice as hard.

People tend to believe the advice given to them by Police and disregard what I say because I am not an officer, so I have a devil of a job just convincing them that they have been mis-advised.

I have taken out injunctions against landlords who doggedly stick to the advice of the Police and are gobsmacked when they find themselves in court explaining themselves to the judge a week later.

Police are not trained in eviction procedures and so in terms of advice on landlord/tenant matters are as clueless as Dave down the pub, with his “A mate of mine told me” school of landlord law.

Disputes as civil matters

This is almost a knee-jerk response to incidents where there is no violence, and sometimes, even when there is violence.

Sure, disputes can be dealt with in civil courts but allegations of breaches of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 are criminal offences, not civil ones. It is the council which prosecutes under this legislation, not the Police and that is where the misunderstanding arises.

This is something that adversely affects tenants more than landlords. When being faced by imminent illegal eviction Police could take action under Section 25 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and arrest anyone who they suspect of committing a criminal offence, but I have never known them to do this in 22 years.

Police illegally evicting tenants

Yes this really does go on, in fact in my area in about 50% of reported cases.

In 2009 the case of Naughton v. Whittle and Chief Constable of Great Manchester Police went through the criminal courts. Manchester Police had to pay a few grand in damages to Ms Naughton for their part in participating in an illegal eviction, as did the landlord, amounting to £11,000.

I recently had a case where an outgoing tenant hadn’t been correctly evicted by the landlord before arranging for a new tenant to move in, who promptly assaulted the old tenant upon finding her still in occupation. Cops were called, ambulance was called. The outgoing tenant complained before being carted off in the ambulance as a result of the assault and the attending officers astonishingly helped the new tenant carry her boxes upstairs to the flat.

When I called the incident room for a report they had logged it as a civil dispute and didn’t even mention the assault, despite the fact that they were there when the ambulance arrived.

What I have been getting a lot of lately is cops being called to an eviction in progress, who grab a piece of paper, even torn from their Incident Report Books (IRBs) and writing a short paragraph saying “I promise to vacate the accommodation in 24/48 hours”, or by the weekend, and getting the tenant to sign it. It has become almost a trend so I would imagine there is some advice doing the rounds in the Police canteen at the moment.

The landlord not surprisingly then goes back 2 days later to change the locks on Police instruction. Or the tenants come to me and I ring the landlord to tell them they have been mis-advised and having the usual endless argument.

I get called to a lot of illegal evictions in progress. It usually starts with me arriving to an angry scene with the landlord and their family or associates chucking bin liners through the door, packed with the tenant’s belongings while I chuck them back through the door and read them the riot act.

The landlord often threatens me and the tenant so I’m forced to call the Police who arrive give the standard advice.

Now to their credit they do instantly listen to what I say and back off, freshly informed but so many of these incidents happen in the evening when I’m not around.

We have repeatedly complained to the Borough Commander about their officers and get letters back saying they will investigate but still it goes on.

Education is the key. When I was doing the job back in the 1990s I trained new Police every 6 weeks and we built a decent relationship. We are trying to set this up again to eradicate the problem but the Police is an even more bureaucratic monster than the council so progress is slow.

Police involvement is a common complaint amongst TROs right across the UK. It’s frustrating and damaging to the rights of both landlords and tenants alike.

So if you are a landlord, please don’t take the Police’s advice as Gospel. Just because the uniform is telling you what you are allowed by law to do it doesn’t mean you are being correctly advised and you will be just as liable to prosecution as any landlord acting in a criminal way.



Comments

by

9:44 AM, 7th February 2013, About 9 years ago

have lived there for two and a half years so have completed the first year which I believe was a probationary period as above, never missed rent, tax or cesspit payment, paid up past the day they changed the locks, all paid to the 3rd February always paid weekly never shown a default or days overdue in whole term. Just seems they decided because I was removing my stuff so they would take possession, so I'm afraid they are that daft.

My first contact after this even offered them the opportunity to apologise and hear nothing of it but the team I had paid to do a rubbish clearance could not gain access so have obviously refused to refund my money, which I can't really complain about as they were there as good as there word to do the job and obviously the council now expect me to cover the clearance bill caused by there eviction, not really fair seeing as they caused my loss and have broken the law.

Anyhow the most annoying part is I didn't what another tenant having to go through what I did after taking the property, There's three ceilings that need replacing from a broken water tank and the stairs have needed replacing for two years, bad wiring plus other minor repairs that need doing.

I would not have given notice until all these works had been done and they could not be done with us in there otherwise they would have been done already, so they managed to stop that conveniently. Not that I would consider that that was their reasoning as the repairs would have been done had we been prepared to live with the ceilings down, up plastered etc but with a disabled wife and 4 year old we wouldn't of been able to cope, we needed to be out to get the repairs.

They had a bit of a turn around today though as they are now telling me I can have the keys back but I already have another arrangement I would have been gone anyway just not yet and not without giving my notice. They now want me to give 28 days notice and have the key and of course I will be responsible for the rent for that period and of cause the removal of everything that I had paid for already.

I will not be doing that now as I felt disgusted knowing someone had entered our property and taken pictures, you will obviously know how disgusting a place looks when you have had people removing you goods, it's bloody embarrassing, not to mention the shame of your neighbours knowing it's happened, it looks like we have been evicted and that's very embarrassing, we have to see these people around the village, why should we have to explain that we have done nothing wrong, people don't believe you, hence statements like you must be missing something out, I don't blame you but that's what this violations is like so many bad landlords and the council can be the worst it seems, I never had a PSR Landlord do that, section 21 for asking to have repairs done at every property I have ever rented but not entering my home like that.

It seems from perusing landlord based forums that the average landlords response towards tenants is very aggressive and often very violent with most believing that non payment of rent is a reason for physical violence towards a person which is very worrying really. I have read on this very board of people bragging about there violent threats to tenants for non payment and others congratulating them. It would seem to me that the council in this instance is merely a reflection of the wider PSR where this is seen as expectable.

Anyway thanks for your advice, it's helped to get it of my chest but I'm sure as always noting will be done, I'm afraid this country is just not the place to be if you have been raised respectable, honest and hard-working and maybe the landlords who come on here should keep in mind that many tenants would probably like to get violent with them when they have no heating for 6 days in winter with a 1 year old child.

"landlords you have been paid your rent now honour the contract, we're paying you bloody mortgage and can easily stop"

by

16:01 PM, 7th February 2013, About 9 years ago

It is IRRELEVANT what the LL uses the rent for that you pay.
He may spend it on prostitutes as he has an unencumbered property.
That is his CHOICE.
You are paying for a service; it doesn't matter what the LL uses the rent for.
It is none of your business.
It seems you have been ostensibly treated appallingly and would suggest complaining to the LGO but first send a letter to the CEO of the council.
As far as your belief that it is commonplace amongst LL who post on this site to use threats or violence against their tenants; I don't think that is the case.
We as LL know only too well the hazards we would face; particularly as advised by Ben in numerous posts about the wrongun LL he has dealt with.
As far as I am aware we all abide by the law and as a consequence get s---ted by the system at great loss to ourselves.
I am one of those who could so easily have felt perfectly justified in using violence to rid myself of criminal fraudster tenants, but I didn't. Two wrongs don't make a right!
so we don't stray outside the purview of the law as we have too much at stake.
Our good names are our stock in trade and without those good names our businesses could well suffer.
We therefore do NOT take the risks.

by Mark Alexander

17:37 PM, 8th February 2013, About 9 years ago

Hat, where is this property? I'm not asking for the address, just the town

by

1:21 AM, 14th March 2013, About 9 years ago

hi

i got back into my student accomodation...room im renting with the landlord, no written only verbal agreement...and ive been told to leave at 11pm and should get my stuff out by 10am....is this even legal?

by Steve Tracey

6:16 AM, 12th March 2014, About 8 years ago

Ben .. My (nightmare) tenant has REQUESTED I "Give him an eviction notice". "I can move on". Only 'proof' I have is a text stating it clearly. He thinks it will help him get rehoused. 1/ He well known to Police 2/ He was recently caught stealing Electric from another flat in same building (evidence > iphone pic) .. Police will prosecute if I press charges 3/ Tenant previously caught stealing Gas, and interfering with supply, a HUGE fire risk. Police indicating eviction no problem... they will attend. Are they right in this situation? Am I exposed under illegal eviction law ? Steve (The Officer mumbled something from which I took it Police can 'evict', and remove a person, if they consider a breach of the peace will ensue). A pattern of Theft of Electric, messing with Gas appliances thus creating a major fire hazard, is pretty strong factors. There's a very old and very ill gentleman upstairs (recent triple heart bypass... I worry for him). S

by Jerry Jones

21:56 PM, 6th August 2014, About 8 years ago

This story is a friend of mine, and it's got bizarrely worse with the assistance of the police to the landlord! Hope she will pop in there and give the full story shortly:

http://www.landlordlawblog.co.uk/2014/08/05/our-hmo-landlord-is-threatening-to-withhold-our-deposit-and-evict-us-what-can-we-do/

by imran younis

18:09 PM, 19th August 2014, About 8 years ago

Hi I just need some advice and help as a little confused,

Situation my father had rented a room to a lodger, my father lives in the same home shares facilites, and has his bedroom on the upper floors of the property next to the lodgers room. The lodger intially moved in and was paying cash and then fell into arrears and then got help via council to pay for the room.

I am aware if a landlord is a live in landlord, then this means that the lodger does not have eclusiuve posession. My father has kept a key to the lodgers room and inspects the room and cleans it when he sees fit. So from the whole arrangement the lodger cannot ever actually in reality have a tenancy as he will be classed as a lodger in subtance.

However the problem is that my father mistakenly or in error gave the lodger a Assured shorthold tenancy,as the lodger was acking for some form of agreement so that he can get help from the council to pay for the room.

Well the arrears continued and the lodger has caused trouble after trouble, threatened my father, been abusive and lied to the council in an attempt so that they give him a seperate flat.

He lied to the council saying my father was harrasing him and that my father was turning the lectric off which is simply not true, the council sent us letters stating that we are not allowed to evict him as he is classed under law as having a tenancy..

However after looking at the law and facts I beleived that this person was a lodger in the eyes of the laws regardless of what label my father has put onto the agreeement. the fact is the court would look at the substance, and not the label..

Ok well I advised my father to give him notice, which we did and we also sent this via email to the council.

After the notice expired, the lodger left or so we believed.. but left his possessions in the house.

My father changed the lock, and then one day the lodger tried to return.. and has lied to the coucil that he lives alone in the top half of the house and my father does not share any facilities with him,,, a complete lie as my fathers bedroom is on the upper floors...

His solicitors have stated that we have evicted him unlawfully, however we have told them of all the situation..

today we had to attend a hearing as they sought an injuction to allow him back into the property,.. they called my father in the morning and said they were applying for an injunction and that we should attend.

I accompanied my father to the hearing, in which I stated my fathers case, however the judge said that he would have to allow a ajournment as we needed time to prepare our case..

I did tell the judge that exact facts which would normally prove that the person is a lodger but however the judge said that because my father has given a assured shorthold tenancy then he has to look at the best ... and has allowed 7 days for us to prepare for the injunction ... but has meanwhile granted him permission to re enter my fathers home. and said if my father does not allow him back in he will be breaking the law.

My father has agreed to this.. so the whole issue comes down to the fact that my father gave the incorrect agreement in error or misunderstanding...

He never intented for the person to be anything other than a lodger ..

Can anyone please advise us as to the best course of action..

I believe the courts actually look into the subtance and not the actual wording of an agreement.. they looks at the facts..

What can we do to prepare for the hearing in 7 days.. any advice will be greatly appreaciaited as my father suffers from diabetes and mother has heart condiition and would like this resolved without causing them more stress as they have suffered a lot at the hand of this lodger.

by Mark Alexander

18:41 PM, 19th August 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "imran younis" at "19/08/2014 - 18:09":

Hi Imran

Where is the property?

Are you seeking professional help or a bit of free advice via the forum?

If it is the latter then I agree with your thoughts on the case. Presumably your father can provide irrefutable evidence that he is a live in landlord, e.g. he pays Council tax at this address, is on the voters roll at this address and can provide copy utility bills, driving licence etc.?

If you want professional representation in court I can also look into arranging that for you as I am a Chairman of a barrister's chambers. I think the costs may be recoverable from the other side in the event of a win but please don't hold me to that - I am not a lawyer.

Please take a look at this member profile as Farah would make a good advocate in Court for you >>> http://www.property118.com/member/?id=3380
.

by imran younis

19:17 PM, 19th August 2014, About 8 years ago

HI Mark , thank very much for your prompt reply.

The property is in london, Yes my father can prove irrefutably that he is a live in landlord. as he has all utilitie bills, and everything as he does live at his his home address.

The only issue is regarding the Assured Shorthold tenancy that my father mistakenly give to the lodger.

by Mark Alexander

19:25 PM, 19th August 2014, About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "imran younis" at "19/08/2014 - 19:17":

With proper advocacy your father stands a very good chance on winning in my humble and unqualified opinion. Farah services the London area so she seems ideal for the job at hand.

Please let us know what happens.
.


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