I feel like a spare part at a funeral today - we have the builders in taking out the bath and putting a shower cubicle in for us along with an extractor fan, new tiles and a new floor. So I'm relegated to a different part of the house and can't really do much.
Returning to my ramblings from being a Housing officer - I left it where I moved on into a temporary team leaders position - I did these temporary posts at different offices for 4 years - I enjoyed it because different areas have different issues and I learnt a lot from moving round.
The first office that I moved to was in a poorer part of the borough and had had a manager that had been dictated to by the councillors for the area. As I moved there a new Manager was brought in, same as me on a temporary basis. We hit it off immediately - she was forthright, up front and didn't suffer fools - her language in those days could be....lets say colourful - shes still a good friend even now but not so 'colourfull' now that she is a Head of Housing for a large authority. T. introduced specialisms within the teams and I was given the arrears team, we did well in reducing the arrears and then from then on for the next 9 years I was given arrears to lead in different offices.
I enjoyed arrears - I enjoyed the methodical way of working and keeping files correct for court and then there was the challenge of getting people to pay their rent - you would be amazed at how many people do not prioritise the roof over their heads - over the years I must have done hundreds of arrears evictions.
Evicting somebody for arrears has never bothered me - when I started doing this role, I was a single Mom with 3 teenagers still at school , a mortgage and a car loan. I did this job from 9 til 5 then on 3 nights of the week, I worked from 7 till 10 as a bar maid at a local golf club and for 2 months of the year, the council staged a nightly event and I worked on that as well as a cashier and then a team leader so on the nights that I wasn't at the golf club, I was at the local park - I worked Monday to Friday in the office and then every night including Saturday and Sunday either on the bar or at the park.
The tenants that I evicted were all the same as me - healthy (never evicted anyone that was ill or disabled) 2 arms, 2 legs and 1 head - I didn't have a university education - just the local comprehensive the same as them - if I could work and pay my way, (day and night) when I had to then they could get off their backsides, go into the CAB see a money mentor (who would have helped them with it all) and then turned up to court to tell the judge why they hadn't kept to the terms of their court order - the best of it was that the judges were so 'for' the tenants and so against the landlords - they could have told the judge that they preferred to spend their income in the bingo/pub etc., and the judge would have probable turned round and said 'of course you should spend your money on bingo my dear'!
The majority of them weren't working and the rent was being paid by housing benefits and all they were expected to pay was less than 10 cigarettes to maintain their court orders
As far as I'm concerned life's tough, get over it and get on with it! So tears didn't sway me either - I've heard every reason why someone couldn't pay their rent - every sob story going.
When T and myself started looking at the arrears at that first office - there was a number of accounts which had court orders that were behind or non existent with the scheduled payments - so they were all processed and put forward for eviction - we had 9 evictions come through for one day and we did everyone one of them - me and the bailiff ran round them with two teams of locksmiths and safety technicians and wiped thousands of our 'live' arrears figures.
The day before one of the tenants came in and T. went in to interview her first to see if they were going to cough up the arrears - I used to follow T into the interview if nothing was forthcoming to explain what would happen on the day of the eviction.
That day T. came out of the interview room and said cheerily, she's all yours - we're going ahead with the eviction tomorrow.
I went in to the interview room and this woman was sitting there and she kept saying oh! oh! oh! in a high pitched tone - I looked at her and she said ' Oh! I've just been told I'm on shit street tomorrow! Obviously T. had been in full flow and told her a few home truths - all I could say to her was 'Well you are - aren't you my dear because we're evicting you tomorrow' How I didn't laugh out loud I don't know.
Early in 2001 T. poached me from another office she'd taken on an office in the worst area of the borough (the previous manager and some of the staff had been told that if they didn't get out the area, that they wouldn't be going home one of the nights - management took the threat seriously and moved them out!) T. said that the arrears were in a right mess and she needed someone to sort them out - she was a good friend so off I went to help her.
At the end of my first day I went into T's office and said to her do you know that you've got one that owes 5k and the arrears are still going up - she said something to the tune off 'Flippin hell!........only it weren't flippin!!!
It turned out that Mr A had had all his benefits stopped because he'd been caught importing cars and then selling them on for profit and not disclosing the profit to the benefits agency - each time the office had taken him to court for an eviction, he'd turned up with a new solicitor - the solicitor would say that they had only just been instructed by their client and as his English was so poor that they would need to instruct an interpreter to take his instructions on the case - the judge would then adjourn the case - by the time the case was back in court Mr A had changed his solicitor again - this had happened three times.
I called Mr A into the office to explain to him that we were going forward and would be undertaking an eviction in the near future. Mr A. (the one with such poor English) kept talking over me, telling me that he wasn't going to be evicted, how benefits had got him all wrong - he'd only brought one car into the country to help a friend and to add insult to injury kept calling me 'Darlin'. After 20 minutes of being talked over and been called Darlin - I yelled at him 'Don't call me Darlin - I am not your Darlin!' - Ian said that I yelled that loud that they must have heard me on the bridge' (it's a black country saying!)
So we proceeded to request an eviction - we were advised by the legal and fraud team to not attend court - they were concerned for our safety - they believed Mr A to have links to some not so nice people and that the solicitors would deal with it. On the morning of the hearing T. and myself were pacing the floor not knowing what was going on in court. Half way through the morning a caretaker dropped into the office, T. saw him, jumped up and said to him 'have you got your car with you' and he said yes - T. turned to me and said 'come on we're going to court' She grabbed the caretaker and said 'come on you're taking us to the courts and we'll need you to fetch us back too and promptly when we ring as we won't be able to hang about' the poor bloke didn't have any say in the matter as T. hijacked his car and time!
We raced into court and T. told the legal team that we weren't prepared to sit in the office not knowing what was happening when it was our case. It turned out that we'd got there in the nick of time - Mr A. was doing his usual trick of making out that he couldn't speak good English. I was able to go into the court and tell the judge about the conversation that I'd had with Mr A. and that he had conversed with me with no difficulties at all. Judges don't like being made a fool of and we walked out with an eviction to be undertaken in 7 days time (normally 28 days - he had upset the judge!) We rang the caretaker to come and fetch us and stayed with the security guard of the court until we saw the caretaker pull up and then me and T. legged it out of the court as quickly as we could.
On the day of the eviction I had the police come out with me to do the eviction but Mr A had disappeared, he owed approx 6k in rent arrears - he would never be given council accommodation again until the debt was cleared plus he had a court order round his neck and was known to benefits as a benefits cheat. But we got that 3 bed roomed house back for a family to reside in, who would pay their rent and not see the council as a free hand out.
Tell you more about some other evictions another time
Have a good afternoon, keep safe and warm