Though not a regular viewer of day-time television, an episode of Judge Rinder did spark my interest, as it showed how the law around eviction and the help that can be given by the local authority would be viewed by an outsider, not involved in the private sector on a regular basis.
Judge Rinder is a popular day-time television programme, where members of the public can take their cases for judgement from Judge Rinder, a criminal barrister, known for his barbed witticisms.
The case I viewed was of a landlord, taking his tenant to court following legal eviction for rent arrears. The landlord appeared to have had a good standard of property and the tenant seemed a decent person, though had been through some difficulties over the course of his 5-year tenancy.
Things had come to a head in the last year and the landlord felt he must evict. The tenant, Ken, accepted there were arrears and had no wish to cause the landlord greater hassle and expense, but when he saw the Council for assistance due to his pending homelessness, he was told that he must remain until he was legally evicted. This will be a surprise to no-one, but the landlord in the televised case.
Whilst there was no dispute about the rent arrears, the Judge questioned the rest of the claim, making the point that it was not reasonable that the costs added were a third of the actual rent arrears. Perhaps as a criminal barrister, he was not aware how much the bureaucracy around eviction costs, nor that the landlord could do nothing to shorten the process or avoid the costs, no matter how willing the tenant was to move.
The landlord was trying to claim over £700 for the costs of eviction, stating that he had to go to a specialist company as serving a section 21 was complex.
Having completed hundreds for landlords without the confidence to do it themselves, I was in full agreement when Judge Rinder told him it was not complex at all; he was allowed £400 for the basic costs, but the additional sum for the expert advice he claimed was disallowed.
Although he knocked £300+ from the claim, it still seemed hard on the tenant; where a section 8 notice is used because of fault on the part of the tenant, it is acceptable that the tenant bears the cost; a section 8 notice, though a little more complex, is not beyond the means of an experienced landlord and could have been used in this case; but a section 21 is the no blame notice and is it fair to accept the easier option of the section 21 and expect that tenant should be liable for the costs?
The landlord had seemed, to this point, a kind man; the next part of the claim perhaps cast doubt on that opinion.
He wanted 4.25 per cent interest on the debt and had a late payment penalty of £25 and this was being added on a weekly basis, despite a payment agreement being put in place. 4.25 per cent interest, when money deposited even in a savings ISA is attracting interest rates of less than 1 per cent, would allow generous compensation for the landlord and rapidly accrue more debt for the tenant.
The Judge did what he could to help the tenant, by refusing to allow the claim for everything the landlord wanted but the tenant was still left with a debt of £4,000.
The amazement of Judge Rinder at the process of eviction was a sight to see. It is a pity this segment of the programme could not be seen by the decision-makers, those who have no sympathy for tenants desperate to be left with a little dignity and avoid the shame of the bailiff removing them from what had been their home.
Local authorities must be sure that someone will be homeless before giving them homeless status, but there could be little doubt that someone adding £25 a week for late payments, was not going to let the tenant remain. Perhaps it takes a Judge Rinder, to show that there needs to be more humanity in the eviction process.
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