[Ben Reeve Lewis visits Landlord Law Towers ..]
This is newsround number 59 and followed on from virtually a year of writing TRO Confidential before that.
Tessa and I exchange private views and ideas constantly and yet we only met in person for the second time on Saturday, when I stayed the night at Landlord Law towers. She does a mean bacon and waffle breakfast by the way.
We tried to have housing law business conversations but I kept getting waylaid by her husband Graeme’s enthusiasm for military history that matches my own. [Sigh! … Ed]
He even let me show him a photo from my private helmet collection and for the first time I wasn’t made to feel a freak. Frazzy take note!
Full marks to the Unthank Arms, for a brilliant dish of Pork Belly and pork and prawn burger. I only mention this in the hope that next time I go in, the publicity will garner me a free portion.
And so to business.
Albatrosses coming home to roost
Bedroom tax. An interesting notion that I predict will become a bit of an albatross for the government.
Lest we forget, it is the plan of the cold-hearted, loathsome Eton prefects who currently hold sway, to cut every possible outlay they can, to send a message to Greece that they are a bunch of lazy Mediterranean loafers by not buying in to the notion that austerity is all, regardless of the human misery it causes to people at the bottom end of things, whilst leaving your rich mates discussing the sad state of the nation over a £36 bowl of Pasta Carbonara at the River Café.
As a basic example, your kids leave home, you have an unused room, knock £11 -£14 per week off of your benefits. You’re on £74 per week Job Seeker’s Allowance, go figure. You are disabled and need that extra room for your carer? Tough shit, more on this in a minute.
Bedrooms – what are they?
Last week I mentioned this and the fact that social landlords in the North of England have spent the past few years building properties for families. Smaller 2 bed properties are in very short supply. North Lincolnshire Council having just 49 of them, so there is nowhere for people to downsize to, leaving them leaking benefits.
Lord Fraud, architect of much of this misery is seemingly back-tracking slightly. Reported in 24 Dash last Thursday he urged a sensible approach to the definition of a bedroom. Sorry but I thought the definition was a room which holds a bed, in which people……….er……sleep????
Apparently not. He said he would be;
‘Leaving it to the industry to define bedrooms’.
A shed perhaps? Shapps has a task force for that. A sleeping bag? Shapps has plans for that too.
Quoting the article verbatim he actually says at various points:-
“If someone wants to rent something out as a three-bed and when they look at it rather closely, one room is a box room and that they’d better look at doing it as a two-bed – it’s up to them”
“Housing associations are doing a range of things to help their tenants and they’re looking at this pretty seriously”.
What a spectactually vague comment.
“In some cases and to going to the housing association and saying ‘this is not a serious room’.”
Er what exactly is a ‘Serious room’? Somewhere where you read Herman Hesse books? Sorry to be blunt but have you ever heard such a load of waffley old bollocks in your life??????
A week later delegates at a National Housing Federation conference had twigged to the idea that Lord Fraud’s cheese had slipped off the cracker and demanded that he stop calling a spade a shovel and ‘fess up to the fact that Bedroom tax had nothing to do with making better use of housing space and everything to do with an obsession with making the poorest in society pay for the recession.
Quoted in Inside Housing he said:-
‘There are five million families on social housing waiting lists in England, and a quarter of a million tenants living in overcrowded conditions. We need as efficient use of housing stock as we can get.’
But he was brought down to earth by a timely reminder of a record in parliamentary debates on welfare reform in which it was acknowledged by government that it was expected that 80% of people hit by bedroom tax would be remaining in their properties, which kind of matches the points raised by the social landlords.
In the face of such a figure it makes a mockery of the idea that bedroom tax is actually about use of social housing stock don’t you think?????
Court case on carers
Property 118 ran an interesting story about the court of appeal hearing a case put forward by the Child Poverty Action Group, 3 local authorities and the Department of Work and Pensions on the idea that disabled people might need that extra room to house carers. The court’s decision being that the government’s ruling was discriminatory.
Now, buy to let renters can apply to be taken out of the bedroom tax if they can show that they need the extra room.
Putting all of these things together does it look to you like the government has made a pig’s ear of it?
Welsh landlords may be licensed
On a retro trip, the Rugg report on licensing and regulating landlords and agents died a death with Gordon Brown’s government. Frankie Boyle once accurately describing Gordon Brown’s smile as looking like an autistic clown having a heart attack.
Since then government has denounced any idea of supporting the regulation of the PRS but this thinking hasn’t penetrated north of the border or west, beyond the Marches.
This week Wales announced a discussion proposal where they are considering licensing. and ensuring that any landlord is a fit and proper person to be one.
Dogs in Spain
Me and Frazzy have friends in Spain, down near Marbella. They tell us that in Espana, you can’t buy a dog until you have undergone a 1 hour psychiatric interview to determine if you are sensible enough to own one, and if you have a criminal record you can’t own a dog at all.
My inner Alf Garnett likes that idea. If they brought that system in to South East London there wouldn’t be a pooch on the street. The man who said dogs look like their owners obviously spent hours with his notebook, standing outside Wetherspoons in Catford.
Landlords need to learn about the law
But what about landlords? Critics of the old Rugg report suggested that too much regulation would deter people from investing their money in the PRS. I actually agree with that analysis. Is licensing and regulation the way forward? Maybe, to an extent.
As a prosecuting officer for landlord and tenant matters I acknowledge that the PRS needs professionalising. It has a well-earned and terrible reputation as an amateur and shabby industry and in many ways landlords are their own worst enemies but as time marches on I lean more and more towards education as the way forward.
Landlords aren’t by nature rogues, and tenants aren’t by nature feckless. At the heart of the rental business is a legal process, of which both parties are usually, frighteningly ignorant. Everyone thinks it is all about bricks, mortar, rent and profit but renting is actually about the law. [See here – Ed]
I honestly believe that more can be achieved by both landlords and tenants wising up to what is really going on between them.
At the heart of the PRS is a legal process. Lord Fraud however thinks its about bean counting. God preserve us from him and his ilk.
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.
Picture : the Dalai Lama