Landlords should prepare for the worst – Paul Shamplina

The landlord has been waiting months for this day. They’re nervous and apprehensive, waiting outside for the bailiff to turn up. Landlords that have never experienced evictions before do not know what to expect once they get in to the property. When the bailiff does arrive, usually after already attending many evictions that morning, he does so with the locksmith near me. The bailiff bangs on the door, but there’s no answer. With the landlord not having the keys to the property or the tenants having potentially changed the locks, the locksmith goes to work. After a gruelling wait, the door opens and reality hits home.

The landlord has to be prepared to see the worst. Not only have they taken a hit with regard to unpaid rent and legal expenses but the six million dollar question is: what state is the property in?

A Landlord has to obtain a possession order at court which is generally a 14 day period possession order. A landlord cannot change the locks himself after the 14 days if the tenant is still in the property and he has to employ the court bailiff to carry out the eviction process on his behalf.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, we’re still in a recession, even though the government disagrees. The county court bailiffs have never been busier with regards to mortgage repossession, with landlord and tenant evictions having increased meaning that the court bailiffs are working flat out. For years they’ve been overworked and underpaid and have not been incentivised to try and collect county court judgements on behalf of claimants at the courts to try and seize goods, which is an extra workload on top of their current eviction work.

From being a former bailiff to setting up Landlord Action in 1999, we have dealt with thousands of evictions all over the country. We’ve had numerous instances where the place has been completely trashed, where tenants have left in a hurry and left some of their belongings, where there’s been rotting food left in the house that fills the air with its stench. We’ve even had one instance where turning up to an eviction in Blackpool, the tenant stole the conservatory! Even more recently, only last week we handled an eviction in Sheffield where the tenant left his parrot in the property. This has been a problem in the past where tenants have cruelly left animals behind, forcing the landlord to contact the RSPCA.

At Landlord Action we run hundreds of cases at a time, and we find that approximately 50% of the possession orders we obtain, the landlords will still have to apply to a court for an eviction date as tenants refuse to leave the property. It’s extremely frustrating, as when you try to explain that even though they have the order, there is still another procedure to go down and can still take a further 6-8 weeks. The quickest eviction date we’ve obtained is 3 weeks, whilst the longest has been 10. A word of warning for landlords: you must attend the eviction. You must first make sure that you send the confirmation slip back to the court, acknowledging you will be attending the eviction. If you fail to do this, the bailiff will not turn up. Once sent, and you have your eviction date, do not go to the property and confront your tenant; wait for the eviction date. Ensure that you turn up at least 15 minutes before the time of eviction, and employ a qualified locksmith to attend with you, because on one occasion we have had a landlord who thought he could get in to the property and change the locks himself but once he found out he could not the bailiff had to move on as he had other jobs to attend, and the landlord had to reapply for another eviction date, meaning he had to wait for another 5 weeks.

I recently attended an eviction in North West London where we issued proceedings against 17 unauthorised occupiers living in thirteen bedsits. I was informed by the agent that the situation could potentially turn violent, so we attended on the eviction with a police presence, who would purely oversee that there is no breach of the peace. During the eviction, we found that the occupants had all left but the inner doors had been locked and the locksmiths were hard at work securing possession of the property and rooms. The place was left in a complete tip and in one of the rooms, dare I say it, an occupant had attempted some Banksy-esque graffiti on the wall. Our job is to get the landlord’s property back as quickly as possible, and on this occasion it was for a redevelopment project, which clearly would be delayed due to the amount of mess.

Landlords need to be prepared. Not all cases will be worst case scenarios. Some tenants will leave the property in a reasonable state. Approximately 5 years ago, I went to Barking in East London at 7am to do some filming for the ITV program “Tenants from Hell”. I’m there waiting with the client, film crew, agent, bailiff and locksmith, but when we turn up to the property I see the tenant standing outside. I approach the tenant and asked why they were still here. His reply was he wanted to give the key back personally to the landlord! I was astounded. After doing this for many years, I know from experience that most tenants will usually do a moonlight flip and be nowhere near the property. Not only was this tenant still here, he offered to pay back his debt and also advised that he’d paid for a cleaning company to clean the 2 bedroom flat, which I was quite amazed by.

When we entered the property, it was immaculate. You could have eaten off the floor. Unfortunately, on that one occasion, out of all of the evictions, I wanted there to be a mess, as I was with a film crew who needed prime footage for their show. Of course, they never used this story.

So Mr or Mrs landlord, be prepared and make sure you have a game plan and the finances to put your property up to a sellable state and get it back on the market, because you’ll need to act quickly to recoup some of your losses.