Yesterday, we got her letter confirming what the landlord had reported to her, and why she was minded to find us intentionally homeless. So here's a copy of the key paragraphs.
I already knew it was going to pan out this way. But still...it pissed me off. So I wrote my response, thus:
I am in receipt of your letter dated 10th July 2015 and I note your intention to find us “Intentionally Homeless”.
I am however, absolutely shocked at the way you have misrepresented the discussion we had in our meeting, and would like to comment upon it as follows:
1) At no point during our meeting did I ever say that I was verbally abusive towards members of M*****s staff in their office. You have completely misunderstood and misrepresented our discussion in that regard.
2) At no point did I ever tell you that M*****s had issued us notice as a “direct consequence” of abusive behaviour. You have completely misunderstood and misrepresented our discussion in that regard, too.
I am not in the least bit surprised that M*****s have told you they issued notice as a direct consequence of verbal abuse. I am also not surprised that you're minded to find us intentionally homeless, but I am surprised that you have so utterly misunderstood and misrepresented our discussion.
What I told you in our meeting, and will tell you again here is this:
I had a dispute with them in their office on 18th December 2014, which led to E***** stopping me from going in the office. I honoured that, and shortly before the tenancy came up for renewal, there was no suggestion that E***** wanted to evict us. Quite the contrary. She said she was more than happy for us to stay on a periodic tenancy henceforth.
On the 18th May 2015, I swore under my breath as I walked past them in the street AFTER they'd already given our eviction notice, therefore the notice was not given as a direct consequence of abusive behaviour.
These are the specific details:
We moved into the property on 21st November 2014.
On the 17th December, M*****s wrote to us to arrange the first inspection, which they wanted to conduct on 8th January 2015, between 1pm and 5pm. They explained in their letter that they would bring their own keys in case we weren’t in.
Given that we live above their office, I felt that between 1pm and 5pm was not satisfactory and I was also deeply concerned that M*****s would let themselves in without permission. A copy of their letter is attached for your reference.
I emailed M*****s about this, and even took some advice from Shelter about it, who confirmed that I was correct in what I was saying. Both emails are attached.
Our landlord is E***** managing director of M*****s. When she got my email, she knocked on our front door to speak to us about it but I was on the school run, and Sarah explained we’d come see her later.
I went in on my own, and got into a dispute with E*****. She didn’t like being told that what they had proposed to do was not lawful. AT NO POINT WAS I VERBALLY ABUSIVE, and nor have I ever been accused of being verbally abusive during this dispute until now.
I was assertive, all right. I may have even become impatient and frustrated. But I didn't shout, despite later making an apology for doing so, and I most certainly did not become abusive.
After they'd had their say, they wouldn't let me speak and even told me to get out of the office. When I pointed out the unfairness of this, they told me to get on with it and have my say, but by then I knew it was futile, so I was frustrated, yes. I accept that they may have found me intimidating. I’m a big man with a big voice and a serious passion for standing up for my family‘s rights, but I do not accept that I shouted at them. I do not accept that I behaved aggressively. It was never my intention to intimidate, I simply got frustrated with her because she and her two staff barely let me get a word in edge-ways, reflected in my email of apology to them at the time.
I did not accept being verbally abusive to Emma in my meeting with you either, and to say that I did is wholly and manifestly incorrect.
After that meeting, Sarah persuaded me to apologise to E***** which I did, and for the sake of a quiet life, I even “accepted” in my apology that I shouted, simply to try and smooth it over. E***** had expressed a desire to only have dealings with Sarah from that point onwards, but at no point did they ever say that they were frightened of me or that they wanted us to leave.
The next cause for dispute was a letter they wrote dated 10th March 2015. Our fixed-term ended in May, and M*****s wanted to establish our “intentions”. They wanted to know whether we wanted a new fixed-term, or to leave, or to let the tenancy roll on.
They said that in order to let it roll on, we would have to pay £80 + VAT per person for their RENT GUARANTEE INSURANCE.
Sarah went down to speak to E*****. She expressed that we wanted to stay and let the tenancy roll on as a Periodic Tenancy, and E***** agreed that she was fine with it. But Sarah also said that she wasn’t happy to pay Rent Guarantee Insurance. I reflected this concern in an email, having once again taken advice from Shelter, and they later withdrew their request for it.
The final issue that I told you in our meeting, which I believe was the catalyst for the eviction, was our gas bill. I was quite clear on this.
On signing the tenancy agreement, we had agreed to pay 40% of the building’s gas bill. M*****s agreed to pay 60%. There is only one meter in the entire building, and the account is a BUSINESS ACCOUNT in the name of M*****s.
In April, they dropped the bill through. The bill was calculated for the period 8th January 2015 to 8th April 2015. During that period, in excess of 22,000 kilowatt hours had been used at M*****s agreed Business Rate Plan, and the bill was for £1,260. M*****s worked out that 40% of this was £518, and that was what they wanted from us.
I challenged it. I conceded that we had agreed to the 60/40 spilt, but having had no information presented to us when making the agreement to contextualise what we were agreeing to, we never could have expected that a three month bill was going to cost us £518. It was so excessive as to be ridiculous, believing now that the agreement we made on signing the tenancy may constitute an UNFAIR TERM.
We got into a backward and forward email exchange over it. I told you in our meeting that I could provide these emails, and you agreed that I should do so, and therefore I have.
We also contacted B***** at the Council, and discussed the matter in detail with her. She also agreed that the bill was excessive, and emailed me with advice that I should offer M*****s £200, and I followed her advice.
You will see that there are NO episodes of abuse in these emails. At one point, they asked me to send Sarah down to discuss the matter with E***** face-to-face, but this dispute had gone on long enough. B***** had advised that everything be done in writing anyway, and all I wanted was a swift resolution, but I always absolutely insist on having any negotiations and agreements reached put down in writing, too. It is important to me.
I remember even, that you yourself commented that they probably found me to be “not a run-of-the-mill tenant”, in that I will challenge unfairness and will not take on face-value anything they say. I specifically remember you said that.
So I refused their request to speak to Sarah, not only because I wanted this in writing, but because by inviting Sarah only, it was excluding me (the lead tenant) from said negotiations, which isn’t fair. I am also a lawful party to the tenancy agreement, after all.
Although E***** had expressed a desire to have no contact with me back in December 2014, we were now in April/May of 2015, some 5 months later. During all that time, I had honoured E*****’s request to have no contact from me. I had given them no reason to fear me. To dislike me, even. N*****, the member of staff who conducts the inspections had been into the flat on several occasions by this time and had displayed no behaviour suggestive of fear or apprehension. I was always welcoming and polite and civil on each of those occasions so that we would stand and chat quite friendly.
From my perspective, I had no reason to think that any member of staff had feelings of apprehension about me. Indeed, I had taken it more that they felt they couldn’t communicate with me because we couldn‘t see eye-to-eye, and that they simply didn’t like me as a person.
But Sarah didn’t want to go see them in the office anyway. She agreed with me. She wanted everything in writing and didn’t feel it was fair to ask her alone to a face-to-face meeting having excluded me. So having refused their request, THAT was when they issued notice.
It was as a direct consequence of that email exchange, not as you, and not as they say, as a direct consequence of abusive behaviour.
The only episode of abusive behaviour, and which I was quite clear to you about, was a few hours AFTER the eviction notice had been given.
And here again, M*****s have proven themselves to be somewhat forgetful, or even dishonest.
E*****, J*****, and N***** were walking past Lidl in Crewkerne into a nearby car park. I happened to see them, and I was walking past them to get where I was going. As I walked past, I muttered to myself the word “cunts”. I didn’t really care at that stage whether they heard it or not. I felt aggrieved. They had just evicted us over a gas-bill dispute, after having previously stated that they were content to let the tenancy roll on.
They didn’t react to it, so I didn’t even know whether they’d heard me.
The next thing I knew, Sarah’s parents were on the phone saying that E***** had phoned them accusing me of standing in the middle of the street shouting abuse at them, and that she had two witnesses to it. The way she was portraying it was that I had begun some sort of abusive tirade at them in the middle of the street in full view of the public.
Sarah went into the office to speak to E*****, and again (in front of her staff) E***** accused me of standing in the middle of the street and shouting abuse at them. I had already told Sarah what happened, and she put this to E*****, who denied that I had simply muttered it under my breath, reminding Sarah that she had two members of staff with her. But rather CRUCIAL to this issue, she also acknowledged that it had happened AFTER giving us our notice, which essentially is 100% contrary to her recent claim that they gave us notice as a “direct consequence” of abusive behaviour.
Sarah recorded this discussion for evidential purposes.
Having been given our notice, M*****s were advertising the property as being available from the 21st July, which is false advertising, as there is no way M*****s can promise prospective tenants that the flat will be available then.
They contacted us and asked us to allow a viewing, which we did. Sarah was out that afternoon, and N***** came up with the two prospective tenants and showed them around. They seemed to like the place, and as they were leaving, I asked N***** for a quick word.
I also recorded this discussion for evidential purposes.
During this discussion, I asked N***** how it was ethically correct for them to show tenants around a flat that they were advertising as being available from 21st July when legally, we had no obligation to be out by then. I went on to discuss with her the accusation that E***** had made, and I said to her: “You know as well as I do that I didn’t stand in the middle of the street and shout abuse.”
To which N***** agreed.
There was no effort to “correct” me, or to stick up for E*****. E***** lied about the incident, blowing it out of proportion and even worse, she dragged her staff into it, presumably hoping that they will lie for her. And I have no doubt that they would back her up; they will want to look out for their own jobs. J*****, the accountant, is also E*****'s sister.
But the truth is that I didn’t do what E***** has been saying, and her staff KNOW IT.
As well as providing you with the recordings, which I say help prove my case, I will also provide two transcripts of the most pertinent points, one being the conversation between E***** and Sarah on the 20th May, and one being the conversation between me and N***** on the 5th June.
In summary, the facts are these:
Not only have you completely represented our conversation together so incorrectly as to have a fundamentally distorted effect of the things I said to you, but E***** has told you that our eviction notice was issued as a “direct consequence” of “abusive behaviour”, and I never once admitted that this was so.
Furthermore, I utterly refute the assertion that our notice was issued as a direct consequence of abuse behaviour. No behaviour that could be called abusive occurred until AFTER THE NOTICE WAS ALREADY GIVEN, and the notice was simply given because they were sick of negotiating with me.
I also remind you that the gas bill negotiations were done not only off my own back, but with the advice of B***** in the council.
Are you to now state that standing up for your rights is enough to find a tenant intentionally homeless?
Are you also going to say that following the advice of a housing options officer is enough to find us intentionally homeless?
I personally believe that to fully investigate this matter, and given some of the accusations against me (upon which you are minded to make your finding), that a more thorough investigation would include speaking to those other members of staff present on any occasion when I have been accused of behaving abusively.
20th May 2015
SARAH: (Walking into landlord’s office...) Hi, I’ve just had my parents on the phone.
SARAH: Why are you ringing my parents?
LANDLORD: Because Wayne shouted in the middle of the street - in front of my two staff at me - on Monday.
SARAH: I don’t, no…I don’t believe he shouted at you.
LANDLORD: He swore at me, actually.
SARAH: Yeah, he told me he swore at you. He said he muttered it under his breath.
LANDLORD: Well, hardly. Two of my staff heard it.
SARAH: Well, that WAS the day you gave us our notice.
LANDLORD: Well, not…that doesn’t excuse his behaviour.
SARAH: I’m not saying it does.
LANDLORD: I’ve actually rung your parents because I don’t feel like I can come to the front door of the building I own.
SARAH: Oh that’s - no.
LANDLORD: Well, it is. I asked to see you, and he turned it down.
SARAH: That’s because we wanted it in writing…we weren’t getting answers.
LANDLORD: Well, you’re only upstairs.
SARAH: Yeah, but we wanted it in writing. We weren’t getting answers.
LANDLORD: Yeah, but it’s not conclusive now.
SARAH: I know.
LANDLORD: And it’s just ridiculous.
SARAH: I know it is. I know.
LANDLORD: It’s…it’s…life’s too short!
SARAH: I agree. It’s a total, absolute mess. But…all we were trying to get the other day when we chased up in the email, we just wanted to know if that was acceptable, because we don’t believe that £500 for three months’ gas is fair.
LANDLORD: But I’ve got to have an opportunity to let someone come in.
SARAH: Well, they can. We said they can.
LANDLORD: Yeah, I know but I’m yet to arrange it. So you’re asking me for a decision - that’s why I said to come down.
SARAH: Yeah, but the question that wasn’t answered in the email was whether it was part-payment. Is that…you know?
LANDLORD: I’ve always said all along in the emails that it would be a payment on account, I’ve been very clear about that.
SARAH: Well, I’ve seen the emails and it says “on account” once.
LANDLORD: Well, it still says “on account”, Sarah.
SARAH: Yeah, but only on the very last one.
LANDLORD: Yeah, I know…but you’re only upstairs.
SARAH: I know, but something like this needs to be, I feel, on paper, because if we’d stayed there how could we go on to the next gas bill…
LANDLORD: Yeah, I know, but whatever’s agreed can be on paper, but I always feel that communication is really paramount. And I’m a face-to-face person, and then I confirm it in black and white when all parties have agreed to it. I’ve never had this problem in all my years, and I’ve never had to stop someone coming in my office because of their behaviour. And I do not…you’re lucky I didn’t phone the police, because the next time it happens, I WILL be calling the police, because that’s aggressive behaviour.
SARAH: Okay, I’m sorry.
LANDLORD: It’s really rude.
SARAH: I agree he shouldn’t have done it.
LANDLORD: I was convinced yesterday on the phone you didn’t know it had happened, and even your parents said that. I’m actually quite upset that you knew and no-one came down to apologise.
SARAH: Well, that’s because you’re saying he shouted at you in the street. But he told me he muttered it under his breath.
LANDLORD: Hardly. I had two staff.
SARAH: But it’s the first I’d known you were aware of it. He told me he walked past you and muttered it under his breath.
LANDLORD: Oh really! Hardly muttered.
SARAH: But he didn’t say you took notice of it. Maybe if he said yeah, they -
LANDLORD: Because I don’t like confrontation! And I shouldn’t have to be walking round to my car and have someone abuse me in that way.
SARAH: Well, you should have sent me an email.
LANDLORD: Well, I can’t, because…
SARAH: You’ve got my email address…
LANDLORD: Yes, we have. But I’m even worried that Wayne…that it’s not even you on the emails now.
SARAH: Of course it is!
LANDLORD: I don’t know.
SARAH: My email address is me.
LANDLORD: Yeah..? We’re in a very difficult situation here…you know. You ask for things in writing but we’ve already got in writing from you that you did agree to the 60/40 split…you know…
…It’s like I said to your parents. I’ve got no problem with you. I’m even happy to give you a landlord reference, when really I should be advising somebody of your partner’s behaviour. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer that unless they were a male, that’s you know, happy to go through that. He hasn’t…he has…he probably needs some kind of help, I would say, with the way that he is, unfortunately. And I said to your parents that I have no problem with you, or your children, and that’s the only reason I’m happy to do a landlord’s reference, but I do not think that behaviour is acceptable and I needed to contact them because I have nowhere else to go.
5th June 2015
ME: Have you got a minute, N*****, I’d like a word with you if that’s okay?
LETTING AGENT: Sure… (A few minutes pass). How can I help?
ME: Okay…how’s this going to work, because we can’t guarantee we’re going to be out of here by the 20th July. You KNOW that.
AGENT: Have you started looking?
ME: Well, yeah.
ME: But how can you take a holding deposit off of somebody, when you can’t say to them look, the house is going to be empty on the 21st July?
ME: And I said this to [the landlord] in an email - and I know they don’t like me…I know NONE of you like me, but the point you’ve got to understand is I’m sticking up for our legal rights as a family.
ME: Okay? Now, have you ever been evicted?
AGENT: No. I haven’t, no.
ME: Do you know how stressful it might be?
AGENT: I can imagine.
ME: Yeah. Well, it’s really fucking stressful.
ME: And to be evicted over a gas bill - which is what it was, because at the time…I don’t know what you know, okay. But we were negotiating the 60/40 split.
ME: We agreed to pay 40% but without knowing how much that was actually going to cost us at the time the gas bill comes in. My point is that the tenancy agreement says Fair Proportion, and that over-rides the 60/40. We’ve paid £200. But we’ve been evicted because of this gas bill, so I am extremely angry about it, which is why I said the word “cunts” in the street the other day. But you know as I know, that I did not stand there in the middle of the street and shout at you.
AGENT: Yes…but I think…with regards to the gas bill, I think that whatever property you got to you’re not going to know how much it’s going to cost you, are you?
ME: Except of course if you’re pre-paying on a meter.
AGENT: Right. Okay.
ME: Because then you’re in control of it…
So on it goes...where will it stop? Well, it's not likely to stop where it should, that's for fucking certain. And where it should stop, is with my landlord and letting agent exposed for being the fucking crooks that they are.