Who's right in this sad situation?
A young father was fined for allowing the outside of his residence to get too messy according to his landlord. While that doesn’t sound extraordinary, the dad only had a few children’s toys and seating for them and fenced off the area so a neighbor’s dog couldn’t get in. He says that £900 is far too much to pay for merely trying to keep a space behind his own home clean for his kids.
Despite only being able to pay off his debt a few dollars at a time, the landlords refuse to back down.
Notice in the Mail
Ben Keitch, a 24-year-old father of two young children, was told that he breached his tenancy agreement with West Mercia Homes because of his children’s toys. He moved into the townhome in 2013, and he took it upon himself to install a three-foot high picket fence around his part of the communal backyard area so that his neighbor’s dog couldn’t continue to defecate on his property where his children played.
Since his area was fenced in, he allowed his children to leave some of their toys outside.
Ben and his girlfriend Danielle Newman started receiving letters saying that he had to clean up his part of the communal area, including removing the fencing and bringing the toys inside. He did not take the letters seriously. “I refused to do anything about it, I thought ‘this is a joke,’” he told Metro UK.
Then West Mercia Homes hit Ben with a £900 fine. He knew that they weren’t joking, but he doesn’t have the means to contest the fine.
Going to Court
Danielle is raising the children, and Ben was on Employment and Support Allowance while his back healed from an accident. He is currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance, but he makes so little money for the family that he and Danielle sleep on a mattress on the floor of the living room.
Ben doesn’t think he should have been forced to pay the fine or to remove the fencing and toys. “They stand at the back window now saying ‘can we go outside today.’ I say no. There’s so much dog mess outside. We had a kid’s table, chairs and a little wooden swing,” he said about how the situation has affected his children. “I cleared the garden before I had to go to court. ‘I phoned West Mercia Homes and said ‘I’ve got rid of all the toys, do I still have to come to court?’ They said yes.”
Ben has been trying to pay down the debt, but he is only able to pay £3.70 a week. At that rate, the debt will be paid in full in over four years.
A spokesperson for West Mercia Homes stated that they had been warning him about the breach of his tenancy agreement for over a year before taking legal action against him.
“Throughout this process we kept Mr Keitch informed of the steps we were taking and that we would seek to recover our costs which the court set at £900,” their spokesperson said. “We are pleased to say that we have agreed an affordable repayment plan with Mr Keitch to reduce the financial burden on his family.”
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