Sutton Estates, a property management company, have obviously been hit hard. On my recent visits to a bank that shares its premises with estate agents I have witnessed that the staff's day seems to be drifting by like the arctic tundra. Presumably, the same is happening in the buy-to-let market.
Sutton have come up with a brilliant solution to non-payment of rent by serial defaulters: use the News of the World ploy of Naming and Shaming.
The article begins,
- SIGNS naming and shaming those who have fallen behind with their rent will be put up outside dozens of homes across Merseyside in the next few weeks as landlords feel the bite of the credit crunch.
- “They can avoid us, but not their neighbours. Now, every time they walk in and out of their door, the neighbours will be laughing at them.”
- He said those avoiding paying their rent were “taking the food off my children’s plates."
The signs will be ignored by those people who do not wish to pay in any event. Indeed it appears that one of the signs in Birkenhead has been torn down. I question the legality of such a move.
John Tuson of Kirwans solicitors agrees:
He said the estate agent’s signs could potentially open them up to legal action. Among the areas for concern, he pointed out, were the possibility of defamation, incitement to assault or affray, harassment, breach of the tenancy agreement, or even trespass.
Mr Tuson said: “There is also confidentiality, in that the landlord should not expose information about the tenant to a third party, and there’s the issue of privacy under Article Eight of European Convention of Human Rights, along with data protection issues. And I dread to think what the consequences would be if the signs were accidentally put on the wrong houses.”
- Being labelled a rent-dodger is a stigma, certainly, but one which they have brought on themselves by failing to use their housing benefit for the purpose it is intended.
The fact remains that there are legal avenues available, which although lengthy and costly, are the proper solutions to the problem. Given the effect on cash flow of small businesses. I only hope that Suttons are better at paying their own bills than some other professionals I know of.
At first I thought this had something to do with the long-established firm of Sutton Kersh. This surprised as I have had dealings with them in the past and this did not sound like something they would be involved in. Sure enough, their website here, points out in a home page statement that,
- Sutton Kersh would like to point out that Sutton Estates is not part of the Sutton kersh Group.....and are not responsible for Sutton Estates actions and wholly disassociates itself from their actions........and prides itself on professionalism and best practice.
Next week, those failing to pay their window cleaner will be forced to wear a yellow flannel.
A poster on the anorak site claims this could just be a piblicity stunt and that the signs were on empty properties. Not been able to check but there was a video on BBC.