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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #87

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis is being positive this week…]

This week I swapped documents with a police officer who is dealing with the same case as me from a different angle. He showed me his and I showed him mine if you get my drift.

Trouble was he forgot to detach his notes on his questions about the case, which revealed that he beilieved every single thing the landlord said and nothing of the tenant becase

  • she had an unspent minor conviction and was therefore a villain and
  • wanted to know why she was living in a house when she owned a caravan.

What made me laugh out loud was his thought that the council were prosecuting the landlord because I ‘enjoyed the thrill of the chase’!!!!

The thrill of the chase wore off around 1992, since which time I have found incidents of harassment and illegal eviction merely depressing. In fact, writing about happenings in the housing world at the moment it is difficult to find things that can deter you from self harming.

Which is why I was pleased to be referred by Samir who wrote on this blog last week, to a new London newspaper “The Positive”. Its not a housing publication but it’s aim is to pick out and report the more positive stories amid all the death, betrayal and intrigue.

Give it your support, we need it in the current climate.

Inspired by The Positive I shall attempt this week to pick out the positive things happening in housing. I’ll ignore the 26% rise in rough sleepers reported on 24 dash and I’ll also ignore the CBI’s statement on the BBC website that London rent levels are damaging business.

Instead I’ll turn to Moneysaving expert who reported on a survey carried out by Rightmove who found that 61% of landlords are planning to freeze the rent for 2013.  This will come as wonderful news to beleagured tenants struggling to make ends meet. Just as long as your landlord isn’t in the 35% who plan to put them up another 5%.

But still, no negativity here….onwards and upwards eh?

The director of Rightmove, the wonderfully named Mr Shipside described rent levels as:-

‘a “vicious circle” means people are unable to get out of the rental sector because rising rents are squeezing the sums they can save for a deposit.’

Where’s the positive in that? Not sure. An agent telling the truth? His Dickensian name? hmmmmm

Relationships between landlords and tenants look brighter. A Tenancy Deposit Scheme survey revealed that over a third of landlords are “Very satisfied” with their tenants.

The things they are happy with are regular rent payments, a cooperative attitude and treating the property with due care.

Nice to know that not all landlords hold the opinion of the Catford letting agent I spoke to last year who said “In my view all tenants are scum”.

Steve Harriot of the TDS said:-

“These findings from our first national survey of landlords show a positive picture of landlord and tenant relations that is very welcome. It augurs well for the private rented sector.”

And I’m sure he is right when discussing the views of the 200 landlords who responmded to the survey. Hang on isn’t a third of 200 just 60 pepole?

Oh well, onwards and upwards eh?. (My face is starting to cramp from holding this smile).

This week saw the chancellor’s autumn budget announcements. Everyone was concerned about the proposed cut to housing benefit for the under 25s. The increasingly essential Huffington Post told us that the Lib Dems had vetoed the plan so its been shelved until 2015 ?

Now a few more people can sleep soundly, knowing they aren’t going to be sleeping in a cardboard box for another 2 years….Hooorahhhh. How positive is that?  I once read a definition of success as “Knowing that when you die at least one other person breathed a little more easily because you lived” Let’s hear it for George Osborne Ladies and gentleman.

I think what I have now is called a ‘Non-Duchenne smile”, the corners of the mouth rise but it doesn’t go any further, rather like Jordan’s. My face hurts.

The Daily Mail ran an interesting story (stop laughing at the back) about a new breed of house made from discarded pallets. Apparnetly the US alone throws away 150 million pallets every year and a house can be built in a week using just 100 of them.

New housing minister Mark Prisk has been on the warpath, following up an earlier warning letter from Shapps to Westminster council, telling them that they have too many homeless families in Bed and Breakfast.

Forget government policies promoting homelessness (That would go against this week’s positive brief) Maybe Pallet-homes could help solve Westminster’s problem.

They were originally designed to help the world’s 33 million refugees as an alternative to those tents that crop up in camps on the edge of war zones and famine areas, providing something more substantial and safe for the displaced. Surely the UK is in that boat now?

The Daily Mirror today reporting that people are walking 10 miles to collect food from food banks in the North-West. Is that so different from Mogadishu? A great idea, my face is returning to a genuine, Duchenne smile.

I never realised how tiring being positive could be.

Floella BenjaminOn a genuine note I had a real highlight moment today. Floella Benjamin is appearing at Catford concert hall in panto. Or Baroness Benjamnin as we should call her now.

I had a massive crush on her as an embasaingly not-so-youngster. I was walking past the concert hall today and saw her through the window dressing a Christmas tree. I stood transfixed for a moment and she looked up, flashed her famous smile and waved at me and I swear to god I actually blushed and waved back.

The man who faces down a hundred violent, baseball bat wielding landlords a year reduced to being a 15 year old geek. I’m so glad she didn’t speak to me I would have turned into Kevin and Perry.

Go see her in Cinderalla. I wont be there, or if I am I’ll be the middle aged 15 year old glowing red at the back, unable to speak or maintain eye contact.

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3 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #87

  1. *Smiling, smiling* Ah, the police and their property law knowledge and their siding with the property owning class… But I wonder how many tenants are happy with their landlord, and how the question is framed? Ie does your landlord…turn up unannounced, drag the heels when it comes to repairs, gleefully undermine nay lingering sense of security? *stop smiling and weeps, softly but audibly.*

  2. All this doom ang gloom and negative thinking! Lets try cheering things up a bit.

    “They were originally designed to help the world’s 33 million refugees as an alternative to those tents that crop up in camps on the edge of war zones and famine areas, providing something more substantial and safe for the displaced. Surely the UK is in that boat now?”

    Nope, the UK is not in that boat, more like in a sunseeker luxury yacht by comparison. It is not in a war zone or a famine area and there are no tented camps.

    “The Daily Mirror today reporting that people are walking 10 miles to collect food from food banks in the North-West. Is that so different from Mogadishu?”

    Yep, completely different.
    Life expectancy in Mogadishu is under 50, in the UK it is 80+.
    The prevalence of child malnutrition of under 5’s in Mogadishu is 33%- up there in the top 10 worst areas of the world. In the UK it is a fraction of 1%.
    They are still recovering from last years famine, the UK doesn’t have that problem.

    ” But I wonder how many tenants are happy with their landlord”

    According to this reputable Scottish survey, about 90% + of private tenants are satisfied with their landlord;

    FFS cheer up! It’s nearly Christmas, go and watch Floella at the panto.

  3. Haha Well HBW believe it or not when I started writing this week’s piece I genuinely meant it to be optimistic but there just isnt much to be optimistic about in housing.

    Reports are that homelessness is rising and people are dying younger because of it. I think it is shocking that people are walking miles to foodbanks and all is about to get much worse when Universal credit comes in. People are screaming at government to back down but they refuse to listen.

    And the government have had to start a new task force to tackle the explosion of people living in sheds, not even pallet houses. The London Fire brigade report 4 fires a week and 1 death a month. In all this I honestly dont think we are million miles from Mogadishu. I dont say that to trivialise what goes on there but to show that we are catching up, despite what successes government trumpets.

    But maybe you’re right. It is time to go and see Floella



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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