A day in the life of TRO Ben Reeve Lewis.
Explanation: Tenancy Relations Officers (TRO) 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.
The case of This Charming Man
Phil comes in for advice. He has been renting a small flat off of his landlords Mr and Mrs Wilkes for the past 6 months since he was released from prison.
He falls behind with his rent but catches up sporadically and although not in arrears his rent payment date is a bit flexible shall we say. The landlords aren’t a bad couple but they get frustrated because they are new to renting and have their own mortgage to pay and Phil’s late payments cause them stress when they get letters from their lenders hassling them about mortgage matters.
They rented the property out through a local accommodation agent, Property 24 where the boss, Mr Peter Gunnerslake claims to be an expert in renting.
Gunnerslake is a bit of a maverick and less amenable than Mr and Mrs Wilkes, he often goes around to the property in the evening and gets aggressive with Phil.
Phil doesn’t handle things very well and although he has no problems with the Wilkes’s he takes offence at Gunnerslake’s manner and stops paying the rent altogether. The landlords are understandably miffed but take their lead from their agent and go with him to the property to remonstrate with Phil.
Things get a bit heated during this late night row and words are exchanged. Gunnerslake pushes Phil to the ground and picks up a nearby ornament, one of those large conch shells with spikes sticking out of the rim and lamps him one in the face with it, causing extensive cuts and bleeding.
Poor old Mr and Mrs Wilkes are horrified and jump in to protect Phil. The next day they end their contract with Gunnerslake but he won’t let it go. Phil comes I to see me and I begin the process of putting an injunction together to get Gunnerslake off of his back.
Phil is still not paying the rent, the Wilkes’s have gone into supreme embarrassment mode and Gunnerslake is still phoning and harassing Phil. I am ready to go to court to float the injunction application in front of Phil when I get a phone call from the police. It transpires that the Wilkes’s went to the property to talk to their tenant directly and find him in the act of moving all of his belongings in a hired van…….including their furniture.
Phil is mightily embarrassed but admits he was nicking his landlord’s things. Result????? Banged up again because he was out on licence.
However he is released again a few weeks later and wants to pursue Gunnerslake for the assault, which he is entitled to do, so I begin putting together a criminal prosecution case under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
We manage to get a summons issued but by this time Property 24 are no more and I don’t have any real address for Gunnerslake apart from 3 addresses dotted around London that come my way through housing benefit fraud. I visit them all and draw a blank and the case sort of dries up.
About 6 months later I am in a meeting about an unrelated matter and the cops are there. Somehow Gunnerslake’s name drops into the conversation and the cops tell me that they are prosecuting him for rape………….a charming character.
I tell them about my problem finding him and give them my addresses. One of them smiles and says “No they aren’t right. I know where he really lives but unfortunately, because of data protection I can’t tell you. However, if I was to leave my file open while I go over here to get a cup of tea I can’t be responsible for your actions” and that’s how I found Gunnerslake’s address.
I went there to serve the summons, still Nada! So the court paperwork sits in my bottom draw gathering dust. But last week I bump into my friendly, helpful copper at another meeting and we reminisce about Gunnerslake. I ask him what happened and he tells me that they never got him for the rape. I tell him that I didn’t get him for the harassment either. However he does tell me that Gunnerslake has disappeared off the face of the earth after ripping off a group of Nigerian gangsters in a cheque fraud scam for £40,000 and hasn’t been seen since.
Maybe he is sunning himself on the Algarve but maybe, …..just maybe, he is propping up a flyover somewhere near you!
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 TRO 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. Read more about Ben here.