Police called after sub-letting row leaves innocent man sleeping in his car
A Norwich landlord has finally reclaimed her house after a “nightmare” sub-letting saga.
Susan Orme has battled for months against tenant Annette Jones culminating in the police being called to the house in Kerrison Road on Tuesday night.
Despite Mrs Orme, 59, an experienced landlord, discovering Mrs Jones was sub-letting the house back in February, and pursuing her legally, the tenant has allegedly carried on.
Sub-letting is not illegal but in this case Mrs Orme says the sub-letting was in breach of the tenancy agreement.
After months of wrangles, the final straw for Mrs Orme came when Mrs Jones – herself the director of local real estate firm Touch Base Properties based in Cranes Croft Road, Sprowston – had apparently allowed a man to stay at the property this week.
According to the man Mrs Jones was going to charge him £550 a month but after Mrs Orme was alerted by a neighbour she intervened and called the police.
It resulted in the man, who does not want to be named, sleeping in his car on Tuesday night because he had nowhere else to go although Mrs Orme is trying to resolve this for him.
Mrs Orme said: “The whole experience has made me ill, put me in hospital. I can’t sleep, I just want justice to be served, I cannot believe the cheek of the woman, I just want the nightmare to be over.”
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She said Mrs Jones has not paid the £835 monthly rental for the past three months.
However, a solicitor for Mrs Jones said they would be taking legal action including requesting the return of a deposit.
Mrs Orme said she had never agreed to the house, a three-bedroom terrace near Norwich City’s football ground, being sub-let to strangers and just wanted to reclaim it. Mrs Jones denies this.
Neighbours have been contacting Mrs Orme about the number of people coming and going in the house over the past months with one householder, who has lived in the street since 1984, complaining that they no longer felt safe as a result.
The saga began when Mrs Orme, a member of the Eastern Landlord’s Association, rented the house to Mrs Jones, 65, who replied to a Gumtree advert just before Christmas.
Mrs Orme said she did not know it was going to be sub-let and was horrified two months ago when she found her house advertised on Booking,com and other sites.
It was priced at up to £500 a night on one site and £160 on another and described in a professional manner as a place where “every guest feels like they are getting the experience they are promised and everyone has a welcomed, warm time from the moment they open the door up until the same moment that door is closed”.
When this newspaper contacted Mrs Jones back in February, she claimed she did not know why it was advertised. She later said she would be moving out on March 30.
The man, who had stayed in the property this week said he had no idea that the house he was offered by Mrs Jones did not belong to her.
“I had rented a room from her six months ago but when my girlfriend and I broke up, I needed somewhere to stay and contacted her again. Mrs Jones gave me the keys and said I could get settled in. I slept there one night and then yesterday I got home from work to find Mrs Orme there who told me it was her house. I had no idea.”
When contacted by this newspaper Mrs Jones admitted she also uses another name Anouska Taylor-Devlin. Under this name, she has run property firms Compass Directions, Jag Rentals and is currently listed on LinkedIn as director of T&D Properties. She said she believed Mrs Orme knew her intention was to sub-let Kerrison Road. She said she spent about £2,500 on the property making improvements and had made a loss on the property.
On letting the man stay there this week, she said: “He was a family friend and I was going to give some of the money to Mrs Orme.” She also maintained she would have returned the keys but because Mrs Orme had put the matter in the hands of lawyers, she had been legally advised not to do so.
Tessa Shepperson, a legal expert with Landlord Law Services in Norwich, said landlords are very limited in what they can do when a tenant is in breach of their agreement. She advised an eviction notice followed by a court injunction.
However, the law has changed recently regarding a landlord’s ability to evict a tenant. Under the new Coronavirus Act, landlords cannot start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three month period. However, this only applies for new eviction applications made on or after March 26.