Quadriplegic man barricades himself in home to avoid eviction

Posted On 11 Aug 2022 at 6:01 pm

Harvey Cowe and family

A quadriplegic man and his family have barricaded themselves inside their home of 25 years after their landlord sent in bailiffs.

Harvey Cowe lives in a house where the council has spent £200,000 making special adaptions because he has been paralysed from the neck down since a car crash in 1984.

But earlier this year, his landlords Anna and Dean Lashmar told him that they were planning to sell the house to pay an inheritance tax bill after their late father David left them his portfolio of 12 properties.

They offered to give the Cowes the chance to raise £1 million to buy the house in Brittany Road, Hove. Dr Cowe’s mother and sister-in-law sold their homes to help and Brighton and Hove City Council offered the couple a £500,000 mortgage.

But by the time they had put together an offer of £925,000, eviction proceedings were already under way.

On Tuesday (9 August) – two days before Mr Crowe turned 62 – a court granted the Lashmars possession. Just 10 minutes after the court hearing ended, bailiffs were drilling through the locks.

The Cowes’ home in Brittany Road

Dr Cowe and his wife Sheree, 55, their teenage son, live-in carer and Mrs Cowe’s sister, who has moved in with them, are now awaiting the bailiffs’ return.

Mrs Cowe said: “I’m absolutely shook up to the core. I’ve went from being really high, thinking I was purchasing the house, to within a week being evicted and getting the bailiff drilling through my doors.

“We had a court hearing at 10am by Skype because my husband can’t get out of bed. We were representing ourselves. The law’s the law. They won. We lost. The warrant was still standing. The only thing the judge could do was drop the costs.

“We finished our court hearing at 10.20am and the bailiffs were here at 10.30am. They came with a locksmith. They drilled into the locks. They pushed their way into the back of the house.

“It was really really frightening and intimidating because they were at every door and I was running backwards and forwards trying to barricade the doors. It was just disgusting.

“The bailiffs left and said through the window, ‘we will return with a heavier squad and with the police.’ And despite the fact my husband is quadriplegic, they’ll put him in the back of a police van and put him in a police cell.

“I just feel sick to the stomach and I’m really frightened. He’s panicking trying to look for accommodation. We’re trying to be practical about it. We’re trying to find a way through for the sake of our son.

“I’m scared to even go in the garden. I’ve got things wedged against the doors. The locks don’t work.”

The council has this week offered to move the family into student flats as emergency accommodation but the Cowes are unsure whether all his medical equipment will fit – and the family would have to be split up.

The family’s nightmare started when David Lashmar died in 2017. His children assured the family that their home would not be sold but then changed their minds.

Eviction proceedings started in March. Mrs Cowe said: “We had a good barrister who was quite confident that we would win part of this case.

“Then the landlady said, ‘I’ll give you three months grace to buy this place if you drop your legal case.’

“Against our legal advice, we decided to trust the family that they’d be good and honour their word.

“Two family members sold their houses. We loaned some money off a cousin for the remainder.

“We had the money in the bank ready. However, the council didn’t finish their final meeting until the week later so we ran one week over the three-month deadline.

“Just after getting a £925,000 offer to them, they’d already served us with a warrant of eviction.

“That gave us a bit of a shock. Then they wouldn’t even reply to any emails, phone calls.

“This is my last hope. I haven’t got anything left after this, it’s all I can do to broadcast it as loud and as far as I can in the hope that somebody’s got some kind of influence over them to make them see sense.

“The only obvious reason we can think of that they’ve rejected our officer is because somebody out there is offering more – more than we can give – and 25 years of living here doesn’t mean jack to them.”

Mrs Cowe has also lost her father recently. She said: “It’s just all at the wrong time. I cannot even plan to go up to my dad’s funeral when I just don’t know what’s going to be happening next.

“My son was born here. I’ve got my dad’s ashes ready to scatter here under a tree. Every plant in the garden is significant to me.”

The adaptations to the house include a wet room, ceiling track hoists, lifts, platforms in the garden, ramps and wider electronic doors with buttons for accessibility.

Dr Cowe was left paralysed from the neck down after a car crash, in which Mrs Cowe was also a passenger, in 1984. She is now his primary carer, alongside a live-in carer.

He earned a PhD in disability studies at Sheffield University remotely in 2011.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth, who represents the area on the council, said: “It was devastating to hear that eviction is still proposed when it feels like there is still plenty of room to continue discussions.

“The idea of him being dragged out on his mattress is simply scandalous and cannot be allowed to happen.

“The ongoing siege of Harvey’s home must stop and conversations must continue before real damage is done.”

Labour councillor Gill Williams, who speaks for her party on housing, said: “It is beyond belief that despite working with the Cowes and the council to achieve this positive outcome, the owners are now instructing bailiffs to throw the family out and make them homeless.

“This is heartless and wholly unnecessary. We must appeal to them to reconsider.”

The Lashmars did not respond to a request for comment.

  1. Pippa Hodge Reply

    This is truly awful. Can Brighton Council not step in and mediate to prevent this vulnerable family from being evicted? Surely this would be cheaper than having to re equip the Cowes next home – if they can even find one? Even with these funds that have been raised through the sale of relatives homes (in and of itself, this has consequences for them), adapted housing is non existent and adaptable properties are incredibly hard to find, and would uproot the Cowes from their safe community of 25 years. Disabled people need more protection and support when it comes to housing. Please Brighton & Hove Council, support this family and prevent this trauma.

    • Gareth Hall Reply

      It sounds to me as if they have and are supporting this couple I’m not clear what more you think they can do ?

      • Valerie Reply

        Compulsory purchase the house. Google: Lashmar is a Hove based builder. His father had to AGREE for that house to be fully converted to quadriplegic needs. That needs respect from his son, not making a totally paralysed man & his family homeless aftercthey raised close to a million Pounds to buy it.

        • Jane L Reply

          If his father wanted this family to have this house this would have happened. He could have given them a lifetime tenancy in his will. He chose not to and his children now will have had to pay significant probate costs on this property. Why on earth also does one man need a large family home in an expensive area that does not belong to him.

  2. Pa Reply

    Council should never of spent £200.000 on a private rented property for no one

    • Valerie Reply

      I repear: Lashmar’s father agreed the changes or BHCC COULD NOT HAVE PROCEEDED. The father was freeholder& the son with one other inherited 12 properties. Please read the shaming srticle

  3. Shannon P Reply

    At the end of the day circumstances don’t matter here, it’s not their home and they don’t own it. In 25 years they could have looked to buy thier own home and didn’t.

    With the money they have raised they could buy a new home.

    Length of stay doesn’t matter when you rent, it’s not your property, the cost of renting a 1 million pound home must be huge, so it’s not like they could not afford monthly mortgage payments on a home of the same calibre.

    Simply put they feel like this home is theirs, simply because the length of their stay, which is entitled as it was never thier home to begin with.

    If the people that own the property need to sell then that’s thier right. Are they just meant to rent this until the entire Cowe family dies?

    • Valerie Reply

      THEY WERE OFFERED TO BUY THIS HOUSE. Lashmsr reneged.

    • Valerie Reply

      Do you know how libg that would take and then hiw long the adaptAtions? Just sell them the house as originally agreed and don’t be so greedy! They got the money as agreed and got shafted by a family that is publicly shamed here. I hope the Daily Mail exposes this scandal!

    • Helen Reply

      Shannon P
      Putting aside ownership here, the circumstances are dreadful, this is an absolute disgrace on how this family were treated.

      ‘With the money they have raised they could buy a new home.’
      Probably correct, but they had the opportunity to buy this house and the owners took a different direction.

      A few points, who says the house is valued at a million pounds?
      Was the house officially inspected or did the owners just say a figure?

      You say they could afford the monthly mortgage, we don’t know that, the article states, they had to borrow funds and BHCC offered a £500K mortgage

      Of course if the owners wish to sell they have that right, but come on, sending BAILIFFS round just ten minutes after the court hearing finishes, putting a disabled man in the back of a police van, come on think about that.

      Greed is all that is happening here, nothing more nothing less.

    • Jimbo Reply

      Wow, you sound like a nice person to know…

      End of the day a sale was going to be agreed and these scum bags at the last min pulled the plug. Legal or not that is morally disgusting.

      My messages to the tenants, trash the place (water leak). Make that property worthless. My messages to the sellers, your dad would be turning in his grave.

      Shameful story this.

  4. Rrugh Reply

    Burn the house down on your way out. Never let landlords win.

    • Van Diesel Reply

      Crikey.

    • Dog With No Eyes Reply

      I wholeheartedly agree. These vile scumlords deserve the worst possible to happen to them.

  5. P Alayo Reply

    If the council had their final meeting a bit quicker then they wouldn’t have gone 1 week over. These people are very selfish and hopefully they will get their comeuppance/karma. The council instead of paying out all that money on a private property they should have given the family a converted council property year’s ago. I think and hope the council claim their money back from these selfish greedy people.

  6. BAHTAG Reply

    This is a really complex situation for a journalist to be reporting on!

    Such legal complexities, coupled with the need to give readers the facts, but without compromising whatever litigation the Cowe family might need to pursue, and without libelling whomever the actual freeholder/landlord actually is?

    So whatever criticisms of of the reporting may arise it seems that Ms Southwell has not been given sufficient support by her Editor and/or Sub-editor?

    In reporting on real-estate matters it is always desirable to spend £3 with HM Land Registry to download the Title Register of the property. That’ll show who the registered owner(s) is or are, and what debts are currently secured against the property.

    Significant here because it looks like the now-deceased previous owner might have been one David Richard Lashmar, described to Companies House as being active in “Property Development”.

    The significance of that being the likelihood of the Clowe’s house actually veing owned by a property company (quite possibly one registered anonymously in some tax-haven, which the Title Register will show – albeit more might need to be spent with HMLR to obtain the chain of previous ownerships).

    Which potentially leads to the position of a corporate owner not having to pay “Inheritance Tax”, because the company itself has not died (there may well be UK tax due on the transfer of shares in the company to the late Mr Lashmar’s children, but the tax-borderline between corporate tax and personal tax has become exceedingly complex, with a maze of potential ‘arrangements’ to minimise tax due upon the death of a shareholder!

    Which thus might create a situation where Dr. Cowe could sue the estate of Mr David Lashmar, or his inheritors, for ‘Breach of Promise’ and/or for misleading the Courts in 2022?

    Such litigation is unlikely to obtain a Court Order to restore the tenancy, but it might act to ‘encourage’ the owners to grant Dr Cowe a new tenancy, rather than to face having to pay him substantial sums in damages, plus as compensation for the suffering ‘Emotional Distress’ caused so far?

    But if that new tenancy was still an insecure AST Assured Shorthold Tenancy, with no-fault re-possession being possible at the whim of the landlord with only 2 months Section 21 Notice to Quit, then naturally such negotiations would best be aimed at being granted a full Secure Tenancy or, better still, purchae of the house by the Cowes?

    Which brings us to some topics left unclarified by whatever Editor released the article for publication:

    Thus there was a serious car-crash in 1984. From the fact of there being sufficient money in 2022, 37+ years later, to pay for a lie-in carer the conclusion is that Dr Cowe (+ hopefully Mrs Close too) were awarded very substantial damages from the other driver?

    However such awards, sometimes running into seven figures, are usually incredibly complex, because it’s a motor insurer who’s paying-out, and wanting to pay as little as they can get away with!

    So the next open topic is: where and how did the Closes live between 1984 and moving into the current house in 1997? Also bearing in mind that the crash award could easily have taken 5 or more years to finalise.

    And the answer to that then relates to the query of why did the Cowes ever enter into an insecure AST in Hove in 1997?

    Was that prompted by BHCC’s Adult Social Care as a quick-fix? And has BHCC been using taxpayers money to enrich the late Mr Lashman by paying him a rent top-up above whatever Housing Benefit Dr. Cowe was/is entitled to?

    So now to the issue of bailiffs; again the Editor has slipped by failing to define whether those who came with a locksmith were County Court Bailiffs, or High Court Enforcement Officers? The first being court staff (aka Public Servants), with the latter being everyday bailiffs registered with the High Court?

    The Brighton County Court Bailiffs have a positive reputation for mediating between an ex-tenant and an aggressive landlord at the property. So providing the evictee accepts that the bailiff is an employee of the Court, and that any negative behaviour can amount to a ‘Contempt of Court’ then the CD bailiff will normally try to get the landlord to wait for an hour or so for the ex-tenant to remove the most immediate & valuable personal possessions. And the bailiff will also seek to establish an agreement as to when the evictee can collect everything else remaining in the property (a landlord who just puts everything out on the footpath is committing the offence of fly-tipping).

    In our County Court region there is almost certainly a specialised team of CD bailiffs to conduct humane-ish evictions of the disabled and ill. This is likely to involve the Court hiring a private ambulance, with a pair of paramedics, plus a couple of orderlies if needed, whereby the ex-tenant probably gets taken to A&E to ensure continuing medical care, whilst BHCC’s Social Services make longer-term arrangements for care.

    Apparently it’s unusual for (expensive?) High Court Enforcement Officers to be engaged for a residential eviction. If in this case they were then it sounds like they may have broken the law by showing-up 10 minutes or so after the ‘Warrant for Execution’ (of the original Possession Order) was granted – such High Court Enforcement Officers are required to give 14 days notice of the date they’ll evict (hoping that the property will be vacant by then).

    As it’s difficult to conceive that Brighton CC bailiffs would attend within minutes of a Warrant to Execute being granted, and for High Court Enforcers not to give at least 14 days notice, a reasonable conclusion is that the Lashmars (if the true legal owners?) may have sent everyday bailiffs around (which apparently is a criminal offence?).

    Potentially a judge might have ordered or permitted such instant action, which seems highly unlikely as, under the Equality Act of 2010, the judge would have to act ‘reasonably’ towards the party with the greatest disabilities, which appears to be Dr. Cowe?

    If there is solid evidence on record of County Court or High Court bailiffs or enforcers acting in the excessively aggressive ways reported above not only is that unusual, but the High Court Enforcers could easily be struck-off their Register, thereby losing a ‘Nice little earner’!

    Another aspect which a careful Editor should have clarified is what have BHCC’s Adult Social Care team (and Children’s Social Services, if the son of the family is not yet 18) been doing by way of a Plan B since the family (+ the live-in carer) became technically homeless upon being served with a Section 21 two-months Notice to Quit, apparently in January 2022, or earlier?

    Given Dr Clowe’s Masters degree in Disability Rights it seems unlikely he’d not have been closely engaged with the City Council’s Adult Social Care for many years, and thus would have obtained all the support needed (above and beyond that incredible £500k mortgage offer – but there’s also the i360 with a £45 million loan, with only about £3.5m as security!).

    In particular, and as mentioned in a Comment above, how is it possible for someone so seriously disabled to have lived in our City for 25 years with an insecure tenancy, instead of Adult Social Care (so not the BHCC Housing Dept) arranging for appropriate lifetime secure housing (either by allocation of a social-rented house, or by ASC meeting their apparent obligations towards Dr Cowe by simply buying, or long-term drawing-in, a suitable dwelling?

    Also troubling is that BHCC has access, via its Orbis Public Law partnership with surrounding local councils, to almost limitless legal resources so why, when the Lashmars agreed to sell if the Cowes dropped their legal challenges, did the BHCC legal team not insist that the Lashmars must also fully withdraw & annul their possession claim and all Orders obtained up to then, whilst purchase (could also have been a 99-year lease to BHCC?) arrangements were made.

    Fortunately the Probate records of a deceased person can be purchased, so the veracity of the Lashmar’s assertions could also have been examined, to assist with negotiations, surely?

    Hopefully tomorrow, Monday, B&H News will publish a follow-up article to assure readers that at least an initial humane resolution of the Cowe family’s predicament has been found?

    Some readers may notice the parallels with the sad case, several years ago, of the window-cleaner who suffered catastrophic injuries in a fall from his ladder, whom BHCC provided with accommodation in The Grand Hotel, whilst it looked for a long-term solution! So BHCC can act positively, if it really wants to!

    But trying to pop-up after a disaster has been happening far too frequently in our Council in recent years!

    Commenting above Jane L, Pa, Shannon P, and P Alayo, all make very valid points as to why BHCC gave out £200k for adaptations where the tenant appears to only have ever had 2-months Security of Tenure?

    Possibly the late Mr Lashmar might have either stated he’d not seek a possession order whilst the tenant needed the adaptations he was agreeing could be made to his property (which will be vital evidence in any future litigation!), or possibly he may have undertaken to repay an agreed amount to BHCC if he did obtain a Possession Order?

    It also seems curious as to why BHCC gave an adaptations grant when, normally, the award Dr Cowe appears to have received from the insurers of the other driver would include the costs of necessary adaptations?

    One is reminded of a case where BHCC paid out more than £400k over several years to support a stroke victim in a specialised nursing-home, whilst that patient owned a share worth about £300k in a family property – all because BHCC’s Financial Assessment (of the patient’s ability to make a financial contribution) failed to check with HM Land Registry as to that patient’s ownership of any real-estate!

    And whilst City Councillor David Gibson has spoken on BBC Radio Sussex of the Clowe’s situation it seems strange that the voice of Cllr Sarah Nield (as Chairperson of the Adult Social Care Sub-committee, and with a seat on the parent Health & Wellbeing Board, as well as on the CYPS Childrens Cttee) has not yet been heard here, nor on BBC Radio Sussex, apparently?

    Also seeming to stay silent are Cllrs Sue Shanks (Chairperson of the Health & Wellbeing Board); and Cllr Hannah Clare (as Chairperson of the Childrens Cttee, and a Deputy Convenor of the Green group)?

    Or have all these senior Green Councillors gone on holiday without Deputies being assigned to stand-in?

    One is also left wondering as to where both the quasi-independent City Adult Protection Board, and the Children’s Protection Board, stand on this human crisis?

    Or do we taxpayers fund such Boards to only write post-facto hand-wringinging reports, rather than to actually provide ‘Protection’ when and where it’s most urgently needed? Or have they not yet been informed?

    And to bring the Comment above by Rrugh into the real world:

    In auditioned to have put him(?)self at risk of being prosecuted as an instigator, or a co-conspirator, of the arson he(?) proposes the reality is that the Lashmars would very likely be delighted to see the house burnt down.

    Being apparently in the building trade they’d collect the insurance money, and then apply to BHCC for Planning Permission for a larger luxury replacement, possibly even for two or more dwellings on the site! So not a helpful suggestion from Rrugh?

  7. Sooga Reply

    So it sounds like a renter doesn’t want to leave when the owner wants to sell. It appears this is the usual case of BOTH parties being in the wrong but more so on the renters refusing to leave and not investing smartly.

    The elites want us to be reliant on renting as it’s far easier to control people.

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