Its been a week of surprises:
Arsenal winning 5:2 after a disastrous few weeks and even managing to beat Milan on the night, which compared to the embarrassing performance in Milan itself was nothing short of a miracle.
I was pleasantly surprised in the form of a tax rebate that I was expecting to be £50 which turned out to be £882.
Further surprised by a power cut on Sunday when the roast was halfway through cooking. The bin ate well that day and just this morning surprised and momentarily terrified for the umpteenth time by encountering one of Frazzy’s numerous hairpieces tucked away in my sock drawer. Like discovering a head in a Hitchcock movie.
Black women will do this. She has so many different ones I often don’t recognise her for a minute. She drops me off at work with a long straight ponytail and when I come home its some weird afro concoction, as if her ponytail has exploded.
Quite a few surprises in housing land this week too.
Human rights threat to section 21 evictions
First out of the gate was an announcement on Nearly Legal, a short piece about a county court decision of Khela v Dainter which has been given leave to apply to the court of appeal for a fuller hearing of the facts.
Without getting too technical it basically relates to a human rights defence against a Section 21 claim for possession. Regular readers will know that Section 21 is the standard route for gaining possession against assured shorthold tenants whose fixed term has run out. There is no defence to proceedings brought following a section 21.
Article 8.2 of the ECHR prohibits a public body from interfering with a persons home or family life but you may say neither Khela not Dainter are public bodies surely? That’s right, but the courts are, and following a decision in a case called Manchester v Pinnock that was big news in legal circles last year courts have to consider whether evicting someone without them being able to mount a defence is a proportionate solution.
Again without getting too technical, proportionality looks at whether it is reasonable and just to evict without the resident being able to mount a defence.
Not only the decision surprised me but also how few people seemed to catch onto the story or it’s ramifications. I don’t want to scare monger and we are all a long way from final decisions but hovering in the background is the concept that if private tenants can argue that Section 21 claims are a breach of their human rights what will happen to the cases when they go into court? How would a landlord then get rid of AST tenants?
Even in a worst case scenario it doesn’t mean that all Section 21 claims will be voided but it is worth following this case closely.
The Green Party get real on housing myths
My favourite article of the week was on the Guardian Housing Network, authored by Green Party member of the London Assembly, Jenny Jones who exploded 10 common renting myths currently doing the rounds.
It certainly chimed with me, both as a tenant myself and someone who hears the complaints and views of countless tenants throughout my working week.
I cant go into all of them but the 2 that caught my eye were # 1, ‘people choose to rent privately’. Well done Jenny for exposing this piece of nonsense when she says;
“research suggests that many more people might prefer to rent if the sector guaranteed a decent home, security and stability, and freedom to change and improve their home, the guarantees that social tenants and home owners enjoy”.
Nobody in their right mind would freely choose to rent privately. If a person cant afford to buy and doesn’t qualify for social housing then renting privately is inevitable so where is the choice in that? Mind you, if the Khela case sets a precedent, maybe the human rights article on Section 21s might just provide the security of tenure that so many tenants want. How would a landlord evict a tenant if they cant use a mandatory ground and there are no arrears or tenancy breach?
And secondly #6 ‘Landlords don’t want tenancy reform’. I am in contact with many landlords, both in person and online and this is far from true, particularly when it comes to regulating letting agents.
HB tenants more lucrative than working tenants?
Nice surprise (although not as nice as my tax rebate) this week came from John Paul of Castledene Property Management who is about to begin writing a series of articles for Property 118 on how he finds renting to tenants on housing benefit more lucrative than renting to working tenants.
This weeks article is just a taster but I look forward to the ones to come and I’m encouraged when he says:
“I have personally built a successful portfolio by letting to LHA Tenants and the profits and cash flow exceed those I could have achieved with working tenants. In some areas rents are as much as 30% higher than market rents in the private rented sector”.
There has been enough demonisation of benefit tenants and we need voices like John’s to encourage others to work with LHA claimants.
Worrying legal aid amendments
Finally this week, despite some nice surprises I end on a worrying note. As some of you may know there are many cuts to the legal aid budgets being discussed. The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishing of Offenders (LASPO) Bill, has been slowly working its way through parliament and some very serious housing amendments are being discussed this week. At the time of writing I don’t know the result but have my finger’s crossed.
You can read about it in more detail on the LAG website but in a nutshell, if the bill goes through without alteration then neither a tenant nor a mortgage borrower in difficulty will be able to get legal aid to help defend their case if there are benefits issue involved.
Rent and mortgage arrears often accrue because the person is on benefits of one kind or another. Most times they can successfully be defended by either lawyers or lay people like myself. However lawyers need funding as do many of the people who operate the numerous county court desks and organisations who do great work like the Community Law Advice service.
There are many other scandalous cuts to legal aid going through but this is a housing website so I can only report on that aspect of it.
A landlord can accuse a tenant of being in arrears but the tenant has the right to defend themselves against the accusation. Courts can be intimidating places to speak if you aren’t used to it and the millions of tiny court rules and points of law are beyond most people.
If they cant get representation what will happen? As with so many government cuts they just push the problem around. Look at it logically. A person loses their home because they couldn’t get help to defend it. Where do they then go? To the homelessness unit, so their bill goes up to compensate.
Also, if people lose their homes through rent or mortgage arrears it raises the spectre of intentional homelessness. If a person is found intentional by the homelessness unit they don’t have to provide assistance so, in the case of families, social services take the kids into care and the adults have to fend for themselves, usually by sofa surfing.
Welcome to modern Britain.
Lets hope next week, when votes on the amendments have been taken that I get pleasantly surprised again.
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben’s runs Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties, catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.