In case it’s not obvious from the lack of engagement on my blog over the past two or three months, I am back in London.
It has taken more than a year but I finally regained control of my home from the family of erratically-paying Colombians who had been living there. Apart from the cost (more than £8k on legal fees alone, plus lost rent, storage charges for my possessions and a not inconsiderable amount of damage caused by the occupiers) it is the toll it has taken on my health and wellbeing over the past year that is the main price I have paid. Anyone who tells you that renting out your property is easy money is clearly not doing it in the UK.
After finally winning our court battle it was still illegal for me to enter my home. Instead I got to spend a further £1,200 to escalate the case to the high court and there was then a painfully long three-week wait for the bailiffs to come. This three weeks went by at the speed of an asthmatic snail on crutches.
The bailiffs went in at 7AM in the morning to remove the occupiers. I arrived with a locksmith and a team from Channel 5 who have been filming the last three weeks of this battle for TV.
The ‘boyfriend’ who shouts and screams his rights whenever he sees me, flexing his muscles in my face, changed in front of my eyes into a meek little lamb saying ‘yes sir, no sir’ when confronted with the presence of two men telling him to leave. Like many bullies, their bravery comes from dealing with someone they perceive as weaker than them.
However the fact that they hadn’t even bothered to pack demonstrates the arrogance of these people; they still believed that waving their baby in the air would stop this eviction from going ahead.
The relief that I finally had them out of my life was immense, although it was short lived; they still visit various law centres and I get phone calls from time to time asking me to let them in to remove ‘some items they forgot’ (they stripped the house bare, even taking the lightbulbs, curtain rails and toilet seat, so it’s hard to imagine what they could have forgotten) or accusing me of stealing or breaking various imaginary items of theirs. And don’t even get me started on the piles of bills they left behind which somehow now appear to be my responsibility.
I don’t talk (or write) so much about it because I get very angry. The system has treated me very unfairly.
I am angry with a system that let me down when I needed it, at a legal system that costs so much and takes so long to demonstrate the obvious. At a local authority who refused to accept me as homeless because ‘you have a home and should go live in it’ yet simultaneously send me letters warning me of dire consequence should I go anywhere near my home without permission of the occupiers.
I am angry with (housing advice line and charity) Shelter who, when I was staring at the reality of being homeless in London after spending all my money on legal fees, advised me to ‘get a loan’. Would a tenant facing eviction be advised to ‘get a loan’? No of course not, they would be advised to stay living in their home because there is nothing the landlord can do for six months.
I am angry that virtually everyone who heard about my situation over the past year has said something like “ Oh I wouldn’t put up with that shit; I would just go round, change the locks and throw them out” (as if I am somehow a passive victim of this). Do please note: prison and/or a fine in the region of £20k to £50k is not unheard of if you do this.
How to Evict someone from your Home
In case you are interested in the system you have to follow to remove someone from your house in UK, it goes something like this:
- Serve notice on tenants giving them two months to leave the property
- Wait 2 months
- Serve notice seeking possession and apply to court for possession order
- Wait for court date (in my experience takes about 6 weeks)
- The court either grants possession or doesn’t. Reasons for not getting possession can be extremely petty; something is spelt incorrectly or the tenant pays off some of the rent arrears the day before going to court. If possession is not granted you go back to step one.
- Assuming the court grants possession, tenant will receive a date by which they must vacate the property.
- Wait for the end of this notice period
- Arrange for the court bailiffs to come and remove the tenants
- Tenant receives notice telling them when the bailiffs will arrive. They can appeal for more time.
- Wait for bailiffs
- Finally bailiffs come at pre-arranged time and remove tenants
Remember that whilst all this waiting is going on the tenants continue to live in the property, often systematical destroying the place, paying nothing, running up bills, and there is nothing you can do about this.
It’s hard being a tenant in London; I get it. I was a tenant for years; rents are high and there is little security of tenure. However the assumption that landlords are all rich landowners who can ‘afford to lose it’ is insulting. Many landlords are, like me, relying on the income from their house in order to survive.
Anyway I wrote this as a way to draw a line under it all. We shall never talk of it again. I’m going to be stuck in London for about another three months sorting out the mess they left behind. Then I am going to leave and start a new life in a new place. More about that nearer the time.
Meanwhile, over the next two or three months, expect posts about free/very cheap things to do in London.