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Lawyer’s letter helped me see off landlord’s heavies

25 August, 2017

Human rights lawyer Michael Seifert

• It’s a sad day for civil and human rights when men like Michael Seifert, the human rights lawyer, are no more (A life dedicated to human rights, August 18).

Especially now with landlordism at its sleaziest with its overpriced accommodation and the daily eviction of tenants, along with their young children in many cases.

This period reminds me of the 1950s when such landlordism also existed due to the lack of council homes. They were being built, though a long wait for one was a certainty.

In the meantime, the name Rachman was to become a word in the Oxford Dictionary to describe slum landlordism, with its thugs to intimidate and evict the unfortunate.

It was 1960 and Michael would have been 18. But the legal firm of Sedley existed. I was under pressure of eviction from a landlord who merely wanted the flat to rent out for more money. I had a wife and three young children and it was the street that was facing us during that Cathy Come Home dark period.

My wife and children might be found a hostel while I would have to find my own accommodation. The landlord asked us to leave once more. I obviously said that wasn’t possible.

He resorted to calling in some of his male employees to confront us. I still refused to move. He wanted us out immediately that evening. I prepared for a siege and he backed down.

A few days later I got a letter from his solicitor along with a notice-to-quit. The secretary of my trade union advised me to see a Mr Sedley.

I was to mention who had advised me. I went to the legal firm Sedley and was at first slightly overcome by the fine chambers and its most senior member, who was dressed formally in a pinstripe suit. On a rack were an umbrella and bowler hat.

I explained to Mr Sedley the situation my family was in. He quickly turned to his secretary and spoke to her in legal jargon, which she took down in shorthand and quickly typed up. This letter I presented to the landlord’s solicitor. He read it and put his hands in the air, maybe in despair or surrender.

I will always remember the bill I got a week later. It was for four shilling and sixpence. A very token amount even then. I expect it was sent for some legal reason. The landlord didn’t bother us again. Later we were able to move to better accommodation.

Lulot Gardens, N19


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