A day in the life of TRO Ben Reeve Lewis.
The case of the lying man.
Explanation: Tenancy Relations Officers (TROs) work for local council’s providing advice on landlord tenant law and investigating allegations of harassment and Illegal Eviction and prosecuting landlords. All names are false but the stories are true.
Julius Adewoyin (not real name) comes in, claiming the landlord is trying to harass him out of the property. He lives in a flat in a row of buildings containing at least 10 other flats, all tenanted.
The landlord has just bought the property from someone else and is taking my guy to court for rent arrears he claims he doesn’t owe. I go to court and ask the judge to adjourn whilst we sort things out. The landlord hands me an affidavit that the judge refuses to consider.
We win the case and buy some time. Julius is so pleased he gives me a lift back to the office in his Merc (curious car for a man on housing benefit) with his mysteriously silent and very youthful wife in the front seat.
When I get back to the office I read the affidavit and see he is accusing my guy of pretending to be the new landlord and collecting the last 2 months rent from all 10 tenants. I see Adewoyin listed as a limited company with a different name, Max Rufus, as director.
On the off chance I call housing benefit fraud where Sharon groans when I mention both Adewoyin and Max Rufus. She tells me to bring my file over.
It turns out that Adewoyin and Rufus are one and the same. Also, a while back the cops raided his flat and seized 20 black bin liners full of fake passports, marriage certificates, birth certificates etc and turned to the council for help because it was too confusing for them to work out alone.
Somehow I inherit the ‘Wedding list’. I gave it a nice RSVP style cover for a laugh and circulate it amongst my contacts in the homelessness unit and find several of his beautiful fake wives going through the homelessness system with equally cute but fake kids.
Still curious and again on the off chance I Googled his other name and find several entries, including photos of him standing next to the president of Sierre Leone. I laugh out loud and ‘little Emma’ (office nickname) who sits next to me looks over and points to the man standing on the other side of the president of Sierre Leone and says “He is one of my clients”.
I call Sharon back in fraud and give her the link and explain what we have found. She goes online and starts laughing, which brought one of her colleagues around to see what the fun was about. She looks at the photo of my client and says “He’s the pastor of my church”.
You couldn’t make it up……….although Julius is having a good go.
About Ben Reeve-Lewis: Ben has worked in housing in one form or another since 1987. He has variously been a Homelessness caseworker, Head of Homelessness for a local authority, a Tenancy Relations Officer and Housing law trainer. He now divides his time between doing contract Tenancy Relations work and as a Freelance housing law training consultant for the CIH, Shelter, Sitra and many more.