Judge To Look Into Why Tenants Are Not Prosecuted For Criminal Damage & Theft

Judge To Look Into Why Tenants Are Not Prosecuted For Criminal Damage & Theft

10:46 AM, 12th October 2016, About 5 years ago 164

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On my flight from Malta to Heathrow last week I had the pleasure of sitting next to a gentleman who was a Judge and also worked for the Ministry of Justice to review the Court system.

We got talking about criminal damage so I asked him how many tenants he had fined or imprisoned for criminal damage to a landlords property during his career as a Judge.

He went quiet for a while, clearly deep in thought, but then had to admit that such a case had never been brought before him. Being naturally inquisitive I asked him why he thought that might be.

He had no answer.

The point I made was that if I were to smash his doors, windows, garage door etc. I would expect to be prosecuted. He agreed.

He also agreed that criminal damage is criminal damage regardless of whether the person committing the crime is a tenant of a landlord or not. We then went on to discuss theft of property from a landlords property by a tenant.

When I explained to him that Police and CPS regularly brush off theft from a landlord or criminal damage caused by a tenant as a “civil matter” he was clearly concerned and accepted that when tenants do commit such crimes they should be prosecuted. I’m not convinced he appreciates the scale of the problem though so I am asking you to provide some examples in the comments section below. I have the Judge’s contact details and he will be signed up to receive notification emails linking to your comments.

If he is true to his word (I have no reason to doubt that he won’t be) then our chance meeting could well prove to be a very useful one in terms of my quest for justice for landlords.


by Robert Mellors

21:07 PM, 13th October 2016, About 5 years ago

I've had many instances of malicious (criminal) damage to, and thefts from, my properties. I tend to find that the police will respond a little better where there is a theft of an item, e.g. cooker, washing machine, etc, but in relation to criminal damage then they simple say it is a civil matter and I should deduct it from the tenant's deposit and/or I should chose better tenants!

In some areas of the country it is easy to find good tenants, but in some areas the only option is to take tenants on benefits or low incomes who cannot provide a deposit.

Even when there is a deposit paid, one month's rent never covers the cost of malicious criminal damage. The police/CPS do not prosecute for criminal damage, so the tenant is not held responsible for their actions, and the law effectively allows them to smash up your property without fear of prosecution.

Under civil law the only option is to sue the tenant, but of course if they have no assets (and are unemployed) then there is no effective way of enforcing any county court judgement, as the law does not allow us to get a deduction from the tenant's welfare benefits. (It allows deductions for utility companies, councils, benefit overpayments, and magistrates court fines, but NOT for landlord trying to get former tenant rent arrears or compensation awarded under a county court judgement). Thus, the tenant has no fear of the civil law either as there is no effective enforcement method for obtaining a judgement debt from a low income benefit tenant.

I had a case where I sent a rent reminder letter to a tenant (he owed about £400) and he took offence at being asked to pay the rent so he smashed up the house and deliberately flooded it as he moved out, and threatened to come to my home and "stick a screwdriver through my eye". The police did nothing.

I had a case where a tenant stole the cooker and fridge, and damaged the carpets, walls, and windows, but the police said the damage was a civil matter so all they could look at was the theft of the cooker and fridge. The CPS only prosecuted them for the theft of the cooker and I was awarded £100 compensation, (not enough to replace the cooker, let alone pay for the electrical repairs due to them ripping the old cooker out roughly), that was about 4 years ago and so far I've only received about £25 of that.

I had a case where tenants had brought in three great big bulldogs, then when the couple split up they left the dogs unattended in the house for periods of time and the dogs chewed (shredded) everything and left multiple piles of dog poo in all the rooms (every single room had dog poo in it). The remaining tenant then abandoned the property, leaving all the rubbish and dog poo behind for me to clear up. The police were not interested.

Perhaps the Property118 "union" should consider taking legal action against police/CPS/Government for not enforcing the laws on Criminal Damage done by tenants to landlord properties, or alternatively, fighting for an effective means of enforcing judgements against benefit tenants. Currently, tenants (particularly those on welfare benefits) are not being held to account for their wrongdoings, and this is unjust and makes a mockery of the British legal system.

by Mark Alexander

21:13 PM, 13th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "13/10/2016 - 21:07":

Let's pick our battles wisely.

by Robert Mellors

21:46 PM, 13th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "13/10/2016 - 21:13":

I agree we need to pick our battles wisely, and if this judge takes the matter seriously and has any influence to change it, then hopefully justice will prevail and no battle will be necessary. BUT, criminal damage by tenants is something that affects (or potentially affects) all landlords, so it is an incredibly important subject and one that is so skewed against the landlord that it causes an injustice affecting millions of people (as landlords costs are increased by incidents of criminal damage by bad tenants so it is yet another pressure potentially causing rents to rise, thus it affects both landlords and good tenants).

by Mark Alexander

22:09 PM, 13th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "13/10/2016 - 21:46":

I agree, and with enough resources we will eventually tackle many more issues affecting landlords.

We are a fledgling organisation at this stage though. When we have thousands of members we will achieve many more great things for our industry.

Just remember, we only have 24 hours in each day, limited resources and only four directors and no staff right now.

by MoodyMolls

7:31 AM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "13/10/2016 - 21:07":

Totally agree Robert

I believe we should be able to get the money from the government then they extract it from the tenant.

This will highlight very quickly the scale of the problem. Its also annoying when suddenly out of the blue a deduction is taken from the benefit payment for an overpayment on another property which the council has just got around to dealing with.

A judge in London use to say to the landlords that they had little chance of recovery of money.

Regarding deposit what I find is if they have paid the deposit then they withold the last months rent , what are you going to do? I think on the deposit forms when it asks the question did you return the full deposit it should provide a box to say the tenants witheld last months rent.

And has you point out a deposit of 700 does not go anywhere when the damage is c 5000

by Robert Mellors

8:55 AM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "KATHY MILLER" at "14/10/2016 - 07:31":

Hi Kathy

While it would be good for the landlord to get the full amount from the government and then leave it for the government to recover the debt from the tenant, I'm not sure that is fair on the taxpaying society as a whole. Personally, I think it would be better (and much easier to implement in law, via a very simple Statutory Instrument), if an amendment was made to the Social Security legislation so as to add in landlords/former landlords as one of the category of people who can obtain a "third party deduction" for debts owed by the claimant, i.e. a direct deduction from the former tenant's ongoing welfare benefits, including tax credits.

If the former tenant can see a deduction from his/her ongoing benefits due to rent arrears or criminal damage (up to the total debt on the CCJ), then this may put them off smashing up the next property (or not paying the rent). They will be held responsible/accountable for their actions. This could improve their behaviour towards the landlord's property, AND have the knock on effect of reducing anti-social behaviour generally, thus saving police time and resources.

Such a change in the law would be simple, it is just one additional category of creditor (former landlords) that becomes entitled to a "third party deduction" from a claimant's benefits, it can be implemented into law by a Statutory Instrument so does not need a parliamentary debate. It would not cost the Government anything, and the knock on effects would actually save the Government money. It concurs with the Government's general principle of making people responsible for their own actions, and being held to account when they break the law. It would help to reduce the need for rent rises, so would be of benefit to all good decent tenants everywhere.

Mark, I know we have to choose our battles and campaigns carefully, and there are limited resources etc, but surely this minor change in the law would be welcomed by the Government and all decent people, because it will save taxpayers money and ensure people are held financially responsible for their criminal / anti-social behaviour. It is good for the Government, good for the landlords, and good for society as a whole.

This would be more of a campaign for change, than a legal dispute, so it should be less contentious and have much wider backing, e.g. NLA / RLA / ARLA, etc.

by Joel Davis

13:09 PM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Most of the damage reported in this thread is not criminal damage. Putting a hammer to the tiles and windows, etc is vandalism and is criminal damage but living in filth is not. Being careless and failing to take responsibility for the property is not a criminal offence but is something LL can seek recompense via civil procedures if it exceeds fair wear and tear.

LL choose this demographic because it appears lucrative. However, there is often a catch as this demographic are higher risk. LL need to stop being so obsessed with yield and look at the overall picture. Simple yield is a fools measure. Real yield = basic yield X risk.

Many of the stories and videos in this thread are humiliating for vulnerable people who may be suffering from mental health disorders and they should not be put before criminal courts. I sympathise for small LL who suffer loss but if this segment is too risky, then go for a less challenging segment and accept a lower yield. 'Middle class professionals' can also have mental issues or be malicious, but at least you can recover damages from them.

LL should show compassion for the vulnerable T who cannot control their own behaviour or take responsibility for anything.

I think build to rent schemes (BTR) will be better resourced to give vulnerable T the care and support they need. If they can afford to, LL who identify such vulnerable T's should offer to help these T's move into BTR housing by paying their deposit and first months rent and then chalk it up to experience. This would help the vulnerable and also reduce risk in this segment of the market for all small LL.

Perhaps property118 could set up a vulnerable T rehousing charity and LL could make donations that may qualify for tax relief? It would also be good publicity to show LL really care.

by Mark Alexander

13:22 PM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Joel Davis" at "14/10/2016 - 13:09":

Hi Joel

By all means set up your charity and I will decide how much to contribute based on the amount you put in.

I can't understand why you think landlords should pay a deposit or first months rent for a vulnerable tenant though. Would Tesco give a couple of months worth of shopping to a thief to persuade them to go to another store if the thief had mental health issues? If not, does that mean they don't care?

by Joel Davis

14:44 PM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "14/10/2016 - 13:22":

Just to be clear, those who are malicious and cause wilful damage should face the full force of the law and should be rehabilitated in their new home at HMP. But, those with mental health problems that result in non-malicious damage are not guilty of a crime. LL cannot solve this problem by criminal or civil procedures so need to find another way to mitigate risk/costs.

As it is now, vulnerable/risk tenants move from one small LL to another, over and over again. Every small LL will suffer a loss sooner or later. Risk Ts will always need to live somewhere, but now there is an alternative destination. It would help LL if risk tenants were removed from circulation and placed in BTR where there are better resources to manage any issues.

I estimate that if a risk tenant can be removed from circulation for the cost of a months rent and a deposit, the investment will pay for itself by reducing far greater potential future losses on average for every small LL.

The govt backed BTR are a social project intended to engineer a new future of housing. They will be heavily subsidised by taxpayers including small LL. It is only fair that they perform a social function and do their fair share of housing vulnerable Ts. Small LL should do their bit and help identify appropriate residents. Giving them a leg up is more responsible than passing them to another small LL.

C.24 is motivation to put rents up, but also to reduce costs. The above will reduce costs. To sustainably increase rents, LL need to reposition themselves to acquire and retain more profitable high value Ts. Refurbishments and improved marketing should accompany rent increases. It would help if risk Ts are housed in BTR. If LL do not change their approach, BTR will take all the premium T and leave small LL with the risk T's. BTR is a social scheme so it is not fair if they take all the profit and leave ill equipped LL to cope with risk Ts.

With the 'Tesko' example, it would be like you have a corner shop and shoplifters keep coming in. Then the govt tax you on your business loan and give the money to 'Tesko' who open a shiny new store nearby heavily subsidised. 'Tesko' can afford CCTV and security tag alarms, etc. and are subsidised by taxes. Alcoholic shoplifters are society's responsibility. If 'Tesko' are given subsidies then they have a greater social responsibility so the risky customers should be shopping there so that they will get caught and sent for rehab.

It is counter-intuitive to pay risk tenants for bad behaviour, but if you have no stick, then use a carrot.

It think that if a BTR is subsidised, they should only get planning and grants if they take a quota of vulnerable Ts. It think it would be a good policy, well supported by politicians.

by Luke P

14:49 PM, 14th October 2016, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Joel Davis" at "14/10/2016 - 13:09":

We are purely the property provider and not their social worker! Our taxes should provide necessary support, not us.

The problem in my local area is that tenants have never been made to take responsibility for ANYTHING. At home they mess around and their parents do nothing, at school they are disruptive, but there's no consequence. When they are arrested, they are let off light/scott-free by the Courts. When they run up debts with big companies, despite the threatening letters, nothing comes of it.

I am disliked in my area amongst tenants (those that have left under a cloud), because I take a homeowner guarantor with every tenancy and they are the ones who ultimately pay and although it's not the tenants themselves paying, it's parents/grandparents/close friends (which irks the tenant that they are being made to take responsibility, albeit indirectly). For the first time in their lives, their actions are being held accountable...and they don't like it one bit.

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