Where is the Justice for the Landlord

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It is a bad day when a lack of justice causes a law-abiding, tender-hearted person like me to feel prompted to quote Mr. Beadle (Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist) and say ‘The law is an ass’, but a recent story in our local Metro did make me feel that there is something very wrong with our legal system.

It was a story of young love (aaww!) which sadly went wrong. A young man was living with his first-ever girlfriend, sharing what had been her family home and now privately rented house firstly by her, then by them both. As often happens, the reality of living together was not as idyllic as romantic novels and television programmes sometimes show. The young lady decided he was not the one for her and dumped him.

Naturally, the young man was upset. He could have returned to his family, wept a few tears and then started looking for somewhere for him to live by himself. He could have begged and pleaded, sent flowers and tried to persuade her it was worth another go. Did he do either of these things? Would I be writing about it if he did? No, of course not. What he did do was tear kitchen cabinets off the wall, smash furniture and throw paint on the walls.

This seems a substantial amount of damage, but worse was to come. He felt that wasn’t enough justice, so piled clothes in the hallway (I hope his as well as hers) and then ignited them. He put his life at risk and also the whole property. 

Whether he changed his mind is not clear, but he seriously burned both of his hands attempting to remove some items of clothing from the blaze. He was very fortunate that the fire service arrived quickly and whilst the hall and stairs suffered damage, as well as the loss of the clothes, it did not do the damage that a massive conflagration could. This was a terraced property, sharing party walls with neighbours on both sides and putting them at risk.

Admitting arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered were serious charges and should have attracted a sentence from the justice system to ensure he never attempted the same thing again, surely?

Well, apparently not. The Court was told he had been very badly affected by the break-up and was heartbroken. So that gave him carte blanche to badly damage the placed he had lived in. The judge acknowledged it was very dangerous and that a fire started in a terraced house could easily have spread to the house next door, where a vulnerable person lived.

I am not suggesting that a black cap be worn, or that he should have gone to prison and the key thrown away, but a 2 year suspended sentence from the justice system does not appear to me to send out a warning to others that a violent reaction like this can be almost excused because of a broken heart.

There was, of course, no mention of the landlord; insurance may have covered the damage, but not the excess that may be imposed at renewal, or the difficulty there may be in obtaining insurance for a property with tenants. The saddest thing is that there is absolutely nothing a private landlord can do about it when a tenant acts with such reckless abandon, except hope he is not there at the time.

For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon

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