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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #53

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis finds that stories are thin on the ground this week ..]

Tessa and I took well earned breaks last Easter. I ran out of holiday time in December (when you work for councils it all comes in again April 1st) so I have been slaving away at both TRO-ing, training, writing and various other activities for 4 months without a break. So 4 days without having to sort out anyone’s problems was bliss.

I did an Easter Egg hunt for Frazzy coz she looooves chocolate. I had just bought a new pressure cooker and gave her a treasure note saying “If you’re feeling under pressure, help is at hand”, couldn’t be more obvious? It took her half a day to work out the clue and find the egg. The woman has a degree, how hard can it be?

Easter EggsRefreshed I have now returned to my own treasure hunt for housing news. Two weeks material to choose from but no major themes to be honest, now the NPPF thing is dying down it’s a bits a pieces kind of time.

Tiling troubles

The Daily Telegraph award winning Renter Girl blog ran an amusing story which caught my eye about a letting agent’s advice to a tenant about dirty tiling grout in the bathroom.  Its not the pitiful unprofessionalism of the agent that is amusing but the tenants comments.

When advising the tenant about how to clean the grout the agent rummaged in their bag for something which simply turned out to be a photocopy of a cleaning product. The tenant said;

“We are now left with two choices:

a. Use the printout itself out to scrub at the grouting and then phone up confused when the paper disintegrates and achieves nothing
b Frame the print out and hang it above the bath to see letting agents reaction during the next inspection

I would appreciate your input on this.”

Nice one!

Warning – men in suits!

The London Evening Standard ran an interesting article about thieves posing as estate agents who gained entry to flats in Battersea and stole £180,000 worth of jewellery and valuables, even a Merc.

Police have now issued CCTV footage of the criminals and advise people to be on the look out for young men in suits telling you that they are estate agents. They warn that these people are actually criminals intent on robbing you blind.

So you can’t say you haven’t been warned.

Olympic damp squib

Regular readers will know that for some time I have been warning about the threat of fraud that I have predicted around the Olympics. I still think that there will be a flurry of activity on that front but it’s effects may be somewhat limited due to reports that contrary to expectations landlords aren’t actually falling over themselves to rent out for the event and reap the much higher than average yields.

Investor Today (and they are not the only ones) ran a story on how landlords are choosing the long term view instead of a short term killing

Lynn Hilton of Cluttons said;

“It is still unclear the extent to which landlords will benefit from high value, short-term lets over the Olympic period, but at the moment those who have good quality tenants in place are looking at the bigger picture and focusing on securing ongoing Shorthold Tenancy Agreements, thus reducing the risk of void periods.”

Other stories I have read report that the part of the market that has not proven to be as fruitful as expected is the ‘rent a room’ end, where there doesn’t seem to have been much take-up at all. The premium houses near the Olympic site do seem to be going as predicted however.

Bedroom taxBedroom problems

Ross MacMillan’s always excellent articles for 24 Dash ran an informative piece this week about the anticipated effects of Bedroom Tax. Forget Pasty tax folks, bedroom tax is the looming problem for vast swathes of society.

Bedroom Tax is the penalty imposed on people with more bedrooms than they need, for instance where children have left home. This will knock around £14 a week off of housing benefit when the tax comes in next April.

Now before you say “Well why should people be occupying properties larger than they need?”, bear in mind that many council’s and housing associations don’t have those smaller properties to move people to, especially in the North West and North East, where properties have traditionally been built for families. 40% are in this position in these areas and only 19% in London.

Ross says;

“In general, landlords fear a doubling in their arrears due to lost income and not enough available properties – or the right type of properties – for tenants to move into”.

Now before you say “Why should I care of the council’s rent arrears go up?” bear in mind the knock on effects of it. The article reports Wakefield council’s estimate that once it is brought in for their tenants rent arrears will run to £3.86 million. To make up for that loss, which jobs and services will be cut for Wakefield’s residents?

Cuts are never really cuts. They are just paid for somewhere else.

An inspiring story

Habitat for HumanityAnd to finish on an ‘up’ note, I read an inspiring article in the Guardian by the Chief Exec of Southwark Habitat for Humanity about a scheme they are running for the unemployed and homeless by building 18 flats on which the same people trained in construction skills and got homes into the bargain.

The author said;

“I am also certain that training disadvantaged people as a part of a development project should be more widespread. We should be evaluating housing and other local authority projects not only on simple cost terms but also on the benefit to individuals and society”.

I see more and more that where our government lacks vision or leadership in the housing arena the void is at least being filled by motivated people with initiative and creativity. People able to see housing as a whole picture, not just a cost cutting exercise.

Its becoming clear to me that the change that is required needs to come from, and will come from, those on the ground working in spite of government, not because of them.

Northern initiative

For instance news this week that a consortium of northern social housing providers have started an excellent online shopping scheme “Smarterbuys”, through which tenants can buy cheaper white goods at up to 50% discount on RRP and get interest free loans from the credit union as opposed to using pay day loan companies and loan sharks

These kinds of initiatives that understand communities and use joined up thinking that takes into account employment , education, debt and housing as one big picture is the way out of this god-awful mess we are in as a country

Ben Reeve Lewis

Follow Ben on twitterBen’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.

Easter Eggs picture by   praktyczny.przewodnik

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3 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #53

  1. Thanks for the mention Ben. Did you see the astonishing wide-boy agent on Watchdog yesterday. He showed the same house to a procession of tenants, and accepted the same ‘admin fee’ from them all, promisiging the house was theirs (in his weasly words.) Regulation for letting agents. I think many of them don’t even know what they do is illegal.

  2. Oh I have several who do that regulalry. one guy puts cards in locla shop windows advertising properties. He takes rent and deposit from several all at once but then, being simply a postcard with a phone number nobody has yet found him to prosecute




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About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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