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To avoid confrontation

The Daily Mail reports,

Ex-wife of top chef Albert Roux is forced out of her £5m Chelsea home after scammers change the locks and start renting it out for £835-a-night online

The former wife of Michellin star chef Albert Roux has been advised to move out of her house after being tricked into renting out part of her £5million home.

A fake letting agency managed to convince Cheryl Roux, 61, to rent out the top two storeys of her mews house to a bogus tenant.

Since June, the three-bedroom property in Knightsbridge, west London, has been sub-let to as many as eight tenants at a time for a cost of £835 a night – with Ms Roux not getting a penny.

The locks have been changed on her £5million home and the rental scheme, which has been advertised on Airbnb and Zoopla, has forced Ms Roux to move out of the ground floor of her property.

Ms Roux said: ‘I’m clearly a victim of crime but the police do nothing and these crooks are still renting out my home.

‘They changed the locks so I couldn’t get in and nailed shut the garage doors. I’m at my wits’ end.’

Police told The Sun: ‘Once a property is let and there is a contract between two parties it is a matter for the civil court not the police if a dispute arises.’

And

Ms Roux said: ‘I’m clearly a victim of crime but the police do nothing and these crooks are still renting out my home.

‘They changed the locks so I couldn’t get in and nailed shut the garage doors. I’m at my wits’ end.’

Police told The Sun: ‘Once a property is let and there is a contract between two parties it is a matter for the civil court not the police if a dispute arises.’

I can envisage a libertarian legal system in which all disputes were civil disputes between the parties and the state had little or no role. That might be a fine thing, in Libertopia. But in the real UK of 2018 it looks to me like the police have failed once again to live up to their side of the bargain in which the people grant the police the right to to take the lead in enforcing the law and then don’t enforce the law.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the social scale, I cannot put it better than this post by Instapundit quoting another Daily Mail story:

YOU’LL SEE MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING IN LONDON, WHERE THE DULY CONSTITUTED AUTHORITIES ARE TOO BUSY POLICING MEMES ON TWITTERS TO DO THEIR ACTUAL JOBS: ‘That’s what happens when you bring ACID!’: Shocking moment ‘vigilantes’ beat man with a bat then pour milk on him while he cowers on London street after ‘spotting he had corrosive liquid.’

25 comments to To avoid confrontation

  • Ian

    I’m not sure what crime is alleged to have taken place. Admittedly Landlord & Tenant law is very far over on the side of the tenant, so if one rents out a place you can’t necessarily regain access till the end of the tenancy, which can result in weird situations where landlords get in trouble rather than their dodgy tenants (who sometimes don’t pay rent), but what are the police meant to do here? It’s admitted there is a rental contract…

    A friend of mine was on a course with the National Landlords Association the other day and was told a story about a landlord who rented out a property to someone who never paid rent and then just disappeared. She re-entered the property without serving the proper s.8 notice, and ended up having to sign over the property to the tenant (who later returned) because the tenant was awarded £15,000 by the court for this breach.

    I personally had a tenant recently who was on housing benefit but didn’t pay several months’ rent to me.

    We need to take another look at Landlord & Tenant, but everyone in mainstream politics thinks it’s fashionable to despise landlords, so I guess that won’t happen.

  • Itellyounothing

    Whilst I am sympathetic to the woman’s plight, which law that Ms Roux is alleging she is a victim of is unclear and not mentioned in the article. Possibly something covered by the Fraud Act 2006 perhaps, but it is not stated whether a crime has been recorded and is being investigated or not. I am no solicitor or judge and the article is clearly light on detail (presumably to sell papers by generating outrage because law is boring as all hell), so feel free to shoot my legal and situational understanding of the situation down.

    The Law on kicking out tenants is deliberately restrictive of action without a court order unless she is the displaced residential occupier. The Criminal Law Act 1977 covers it all, but the short version is the Police are not legally allowed to just go an evicting tenants for landlords. A bogus letting agency may well be guilty of Fraud by Misrepresentation, but that does not change the need for a repossession order from a court.

    Why are you expecting the Police to ignore the law passed by democratic statute? How would the Police breaking (or ignoring for public relations) the law passed by duly elected representatives of the people be anything other than a bad thing ushering in a “Police State”. I appreciate the Police chime in on twitter or with press releases on areas of life that are not their concern or are beyond their purview and it’s stupid, but that is not the same as breaking or ignoring the law.

    A lot of the time, when people complain the Police won’t act or act in a way they don’t like, it’s because the Police are acting in line with either Common law (judges decisions by precedent), a statute passed by Parliament (Your MP), ECHR decision (Judges again), statutory instruments (A Minister of state given power by Statue (Your MP)).

    If you think the law is unjust and should be changed, then I am all for that argument. But I already don’t like the Police breaking or ignoring the law, so I don’t why they are getting critised now when they aren’t breaking the law.

    Could it just be the law as passed in 1977, is no longer appropriate now, or was rubbish to start with? If so, address the complaint to the houses of Parliament, and possibly via Queenie, given she gave it Royal assent.

  • Ian

    @Itellyounothing,

    Re: possible fraud, although as you point out the article is light in detail, since letting agencies act on behalf of prospective tenants as well as landlords, it’s not clear to me there would be any need to disclose the relationship with these people now renting the property, unless they were one and the same and it was therefore a sham. But to prove that? It sounds like these people know the law better than Ms Roux.

  • bobby b

    As a lawyer, nothing is so aggravating as the client who calls you to “please examine this contract I’ve just signed.”

    I imagine Ms. Roux’s lawyer had one of those moments recently.

  • Itellyounothing

    @Bobby B

    “please examine this contract I’ve just signed.”

    The Tell-me-I’m-OK-because-I-pay-you moment”. To which the answer is “No matter how much you pay me, you aren’t ok and your legal options are zero”.

    Followed by, if I can’t win in court, I shall win in the court of public opinion……

  • llamas

    There’s a mass of no-detail here. And it’s nigh-on 40 years since I did landlord-and-tenant.

    But a reading of the reported facts seem to be that she rented part of her property to an agency which is now renting it by-the-night on Airbnb and suchlike, and reaping profits far in excess of the agreed rent to be paid to her.

    That may be a breach of the lease, in which case, as the real lawyers have noted, she will have to seek redress from the court.

    It’s not clear to me whether she has been prevented from entering that part of the property in which she resides, or whether she has been prevented from entering the part which she rented out. If the former – call a locksmith. If the latter – again, to the courts. In any event, she does not have the right to enter at-will into a property she has rented out.

    Struggling to see what crime she is alleging. Even if the renters are not paying the rent, there’s no crime being committed, and there’s no basis for the police to act until there is some form of an order from the court, and maybe not even then – it’s first a matter for the court’s officers (the bailiffs) and not the police.

    his has a whiff to me of ‘rich, white woman rents out property without knowing the law of L&T and is now unhappy when she learns what the law is.’

    llater,

    llamas

  • Ian

    I’ve just been chatting to someone who is both an Airbnb host with several properties and who has stayed as a guest in Airbnb properties around the country. Apparently it is actually quite common for tenants to sublet rooms on Airbnb, perhaps without the knowledge of the landlord (since the vast majority of tenancy agreements forbid subletting). Whilst it might be a breach of contract, I’m not sure this is really against the interests of the landlord in the majority of cases — after all, it would help the tenant to pay the rent, which in some areas is a continual worry. Also it might reduce reliance on housing benefit. It seems Airbnb have delisted that property now this has come to light, and I doubt a landlord would have trouble persuading Airbnb to do the same in similar circumstances. All in all, I’m not convinced this is the horror that the Mail Online suggests. Bit of a storm in a teacup, in my view — much worse is done by tenants, e.g. it’s not infrequent for tenants to totally trash a property before leaving. It’s not being suggested that is the case here. In fact it sounds like these Airbnb cowboys are actually savvy businesspeople who’ve seen the opportunity for a kind of arbitrage… the anarcho-capitalist in me is rather admiring of them, in fact.

  • I’m sure Corbyn will hail this great victory for tenants rights as a splendid example of practical socialism.

    While Labour got the ball rolling, and mayor Khan more than does his bit to keep it rolling, the steady trend of increasing uselessness of the police continued under May as Home Secretary and continues under May as PM.

  • Mr Ecks

    She should have kept quiet and paid a few nasty blokes to have a little chat with the original renter.

    I’m sure matters would soon be sorted out.

    And Police impotence would work for rather than against her.

  • Fred Z

    I’m in the Landlord business and have been since 1969, God help me. I know most of the scams tenants use and I feel badly for the old girl, but Jesus, she needs a minder.

    My guess is that she verbally agreed to a lease and the tenant very helpfully had a form of Lease agreement with him. Or her, some of my worst scamsters were female.

    The best of the Tenant scamsters never told me any lies, they just let me lie to myself.

    As for improperly nailing doors shut etc. Nah, I don’t believe it, whoever did this is a pro and they are only doing what their written lease allows.

  • Snorri Godhi

    OK, i did not read the Daily Mail article, but it seems that i do not need to, because others here have done so. I find llamas’ analysis especially cogent.

    I’d rather comment on this:

    I can envisage a libertarian legal system in which all disputes were civil disputes between the parties and the state had little or no role.

    That, of course, was the system in Viking Iceland; and presumably the Icelanders were following established Germanic, or at least Scandinavian custom. Even murder cases were civil disputes!
    And you better have lots of able-bodied male relatives, or at least male friends, to help you to enforce the judgments of the courts.

    As for this:

    YOU’LL SEE MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING IN LONDON, WHERE THE DULY CONSTITUTED AUTHORITIES ARE TOO BUSY POLICING MEMES ON TWITTERS TO DO THEIR ACTUAL JOBS

    Would it be right to say that this is not due to malevolence on the part of the police, but a consequence of
    1. the police having to fill in a soviet-style quota of arrests;
    2. policemen having to fill too many forms* to have the time to work on cases that require footwork;
    3. the police having to avoid arresting a disproportionate number of people from any ethnic group*?

    * due to the conclusions from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

  • bobby b

    “In fact it sounds like these Airbnb cowboys are actually savvy businesspeople who’ve seen the opportunity for a kind of arbitrage…”

    This. It’s a common thing amongst high-end property and/or high-end event accommodation.

    Whenever one of the big golf tournaments comes around here, it’s common to see this happen. Someone will rent out all or part of their huge house near the big courses for several months, only to find that their lessee is subletting it out on a daily basis, for a much higher daily rent. After it’s all over, the owner returns to a house that held many different guests, with the attendant mess that many different people usually entails, plus their neighbors are mad at them because short-term renters coming for events tend to party quite hard.

    Just make sure that, as an owner, you include no-sublet provisions in your lease.

  • Ian

    This. It’s a common thing amongst high-end property and/or high-end event accommodation.

    Yeah. Actually, this discussion has given me pause for thought. I live in the Lake District where there’s a lot of tourism, and Airbnb is rocketing (destroying the old-fashioned bed-and-breakfast model). It would potentially be a very nice business to rent houses/flats from landlords — being up-front with them about my intentions, and paying extra for the subletting clause — and then putting them on Airbnb, paying cleaners, etc. A very low capital requirement for potentially very high profits, if managed properly. I’ll have to have a chat with some local estate agents 😉

  • pete

    Libertarians are often affluent and live in nice areas.

    They don’t like it when the real world intrudes.

  • Itellyounothing

    We have to keep up with the champagne socialists somehow……

  • Ian

    I’m merely an aspiring prosecco libertarian.

  • CaptDMO

    I’m not sure I understand.
    What is this “according to the law” bit supposed to mean?
    Oh, right, The Merchant of Venice.

  • Regional

    Letting strangers into your home?

  • She should have kept quiet and paid a few nasty blokes to have a little chat with the original renter.

    I have a mate, an ex-mercenary, who basically does that for a living. If the police won’t help he will – for a fee. He doesn’t seem short of work.

  • Itellyounothing

    By chance was this man part of crack team sent into Iraq and or Vietnam to recover a large amount of gold under the orders of a general who mysteriously disappeared? Was he then convicted of a crime he did not commit and have to escape a prison whilst smoking a cigar in the company of a crazy pilot, a smooth talking fixer and a mechanic with a cool van?

    I assume his branding is nothing unsubtle as the A Team?

  • Mr Ed

    I agree with llamas “

    his has a whiff to me of ‘rich, white woman rents out property without knowing the law of L&T and is now unhappy when she learns what the law is.’

    First of all, we are not told what sort of contract the lady signed. She sub-let part of her property. If that was an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, the standard sort of tenancy for private individuals, (which it might not be due to the possible rent levels), then she should have ensured that she was letting to a known individual who had a traceable background.

    Has there been a fraud? Perhaps, but what is the falsehood? Silence as to intention is not fraud, it may be more like an undisclosed agency where the general rule is buyer beware. I think that the police may be right.

    The Police have a very good reason for not getting involved, a messy legal situation with no clarity (AFAICS) as to what legal rights are engaged. There is in England the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which imposes a maximum 2 year prison sentence on anyone who unlawfully evicts a tenant. Many years ago, I was advising someone who had been helped by the police to get a troublesome tenant out, and it turned out from what I saw that the police officers involved had committed the offence under that Act.

    Her remedy (she presumably has a few quid spare)? To seek a County Court declaration that the tenancy be voided for fraud or breach of terms, and to get an eviction notice. Yes the system is slow, expensive and complicated. Which leads me to…

    How did she get the property in the first place? We are not told, but as an ex-wife did she get it in a divorce settlement? If so, she might have obtained it by a form of lawfare. What might have gone around might have come around.

    As for all disputes being civil in a libertarian legal system, that could be absurd. The criminal law acts in personam in England. If the only remedy were restitutionary damages, what is to stop someone as rich as Bill Gates punching someone in the face every day and simply paying damages?

  • Ian

    @Mr Ed,

    If the only remedy were restitutionary damages, what is to stop someone as rich as Bill Gates punching someone in the face every day and simply paying damages?

    The most obvious answer would be “a large award of damages”, either discretionary punitive damages or based on some fixed scale, as with speeding fines, which are now assessed as a percentage of income. Also I would add that the punishment needn’t be an award of damages. I don’t see what would prevent parliament (after leaving the EU, I suppose) enacting legislation that would allow “in kind” penalties such as being punched back, possibly by a nominated person. (This would incidentally provide gainful employment for some of the less reputable elements of society whilst at the same time doing a lot to discourage assaults generally, since being punched can easily result in death.) Perhaps a slightly more sane suggestion would be something along the lines of being placed in a public stocks or pillory. I think a number of people might enjoy the chance to throw rotten fruit at Bill Gates — he has, after all, a lot to answer for. Or how about flogging? I also see no reason why imprisonment couldn’t be a penalty imposed by a court in this thought experiment.

    More of an issue — and perhaps someone here could suggest a clear principle to answer this — would be how to determine who has standing in the case of, say, a murder victim — “kith and kin” (i.e., family and friends), or anyone affected by it? And wouldn’t the Crown have to prosecute in some cases of a “public interest” type where there may be no obvious victim, or if no “loss” could reasonably be calculated, e.g. flying an aircraft below a certain level over a town or not displaying a correct registration number on a car — things both essential to the public good?

    Also I’m not sure what role the police would have in such a society. Interesting thought experiment though.

  • Snorri Godhi

    If the only remedy were restitutionary damages, what is to stop someone as rich as Bill Gates punching someone in the face every day and simply paying damages?

    As a matter of fact, we have a saga which recounts what happened when the richest man in Viking Iceland won a case by bribing the jury.

    The point to note in Bandamanna Saga is that there was a much stronger incentive to sue a rich man, if the charge was serious enough to warrant exile: exile entailed confiscation of all his property, to be shared amongst the claimants.

    Just to be clear: i do not necessarily endorse such a system; although in principle i favor a system in which the State is in charge only of (a) national defense and (b) preventing private law enforcement from becoming a cartel and/or a set of local monopolies (as in The Godfather; which i assume reflects real life).

    Another thing about Viking Iceland: there was only so much a man would take. If punched in the face, a man would feel an obligation, not just to punch back, but to kill the aggressor, to maintain his reputation as what a Sicilian would call “a man of honor”. I understand that even an accusation of homosexuality was a valid excuse for killing the accuser; meaning that you could kill him and pay a relatively small compensation, if any, to his relatives.

  • Eric

    She should have kept quiet and paid a few nasty blokes to have a little chat with the original renter.

    That’s how it works in Japan, where renters have so many rights you simply can’t get rid of them any other way.

  • […] not far off such vigilante justice appearing on the streets of Britain. Then yesterday, via Natalie Solent at Samizdata, I discovered this […]