By Kevin Canessa
Sometimes, we Americans take for granted the laws established in this country.
Shockingly, one of our closest allies, the United Kingdom, has laws that make us look easy.
Here’s what I mean.
Last week, over the July 4 long weekend, I searched Netflix for something new to watch. Usually, I look for British TV shows. I happened upon one called “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away.”
It’s a reality series that follows what they call “High Court Enforcement Officers.” In the U.K., the High Court is the highest civil court in the land.
But let’s take a step back for a moment.
There are also County Courts that handle similar cases, including the eviction of tenants who fall behind on their rents or mortgages.
So now take this scenario.
A resident falls behind on the rent. The landlord goes, first, to county court to have the tenant evicted. If the County Court approves the eviction, the tenant gets 30 days to get their things in order to either make payments or get out.
But a landlord who has superior finances decides that 30-day period is too long.
He goes to the High Court because he’s got the means to afford to do so (to pay for a solicitor and the court costs.) The High Court issues a writ of eviction — and that’s where the court-enforcement officers come in.
Without notice, the court-eviction officers show up to the place where a resident is to be evicted — and even though the County Court says the tenant has 30 days to get out, because the landlord has gone to the High Court, the eviction occurs … get this … on the spot.
The tenant has, despite having been told they’ve got 30 days to prepare, two hours to get out.
That’s 120 minutes to remove all their worldly possessions.
Then to move on to God knows where thereafter.
When I first saw this show, my initial thought was, “Wow, this is good.” When people don’t pay rent — it really does get them out.
But shortly thereafter, “What the?” was the only thought I could envision.
Some of these people are under the false pretense that they’ve got about a month to prepare to move. And then, out of nowhere, because a landlord has the means to do so, they’re given a mere two hours to get out?
It’s another example of the survival of the richest.
In a lot of the cases shown on the show, it’s often single mums with children — women who struggle to put food on the table — who are the victims here. Sure, they do, indeed, owe rent in arrears. But could you even imagine if a single mum you knew was thrown out on the streets — with no notice at all — and nowhere to go?
It happens in the U.K. at an alarming rate. Fortunately, the High Court Enforcement Officers are extremely kind and caring — and do what they can to find temporary shelter for the evictees. There are councils formed to do just that.
But imagine this.
Oftentimes, the temporary housing is 40 miles away.
So picture a single Kearny mum getting evicted, with two children, only to be told she can get temporary lodging … in Sparta.
What happens to this single mum who has no transport, two kids — and now, no way to get to work?
Let’s be real. Though the law in the U.K. is much more stringent than our laws, this happens to people in our own communities, too. And what happens when it occurs at no fault to the single mum? Or single dad.
Maybe the bleeding heart in me should clot a little. But bad things happen to people — and it’s not always because people are fiscally irresponsible.
Imagine facing what people face in the U.K.?
If you have a chance, check out the show on Netflix. It’s brutal what happens to most (not all.) Of course, there are some who just decide they’d rather spend rent on expensive electronic items. Sympathy or empathy?
Not from me in those cases.
But for the ones who truly feel the pain of it all because of circumstances out of their control?
There just has to be a better way.
There has to be.
And in the U.K., the courts need to communicate with each other — desperately better than they do. Giving two hours to empty an apartment (flat) or home is just not enough time.
Odds & ends
• I really enjoyed reading Ron Leir’s column last week titled, “The world’s a mess, but there’s baseball.” And while I rarely disagree with Ron on, well, anything, I must simply ask: “Oh yeah, what about for Mets’ fans?”
• The Nutley PD had its Junior Police Academy a few weeks ago and the Kearny PD will soon host its own. Not sure there’s any program better for kids out there than what the NPD and KPD do. Only wish these things existed when we were kids. Well done, both departments, indeed. Here’s wishing the best to KPD Officer Jack Grimm and his Jr. Police Academy crew.
That’s all for now. See you in a few weeks!