[Ben Reeve Lewis starts the year...]
It’s 2013!!!!!! How did that happen?
As the song “16 Tons” goes “You load 16 tons and whaddya get? Another day older and deeper in debt” Well that’s certainly what 2013 holds for many of the citizens of this green and pleasant land.
Frazzles and I had a forward looking Christmas. I bought her a Kindle fire to re-kindle (pun intended) her interest in books which she says she lost after doing her degree, where book reading was compulsory and destroyed her passion for reading.
She bought me a juicer to re-kindle my passion for a 32 inch waist. Go girl…..God loves an optimist I am told.
The spirit of Christmas
The festive season did little for the good people of my borough.
I dealt with an illegal eviction on Christmas Eve if you please, how ‘Nativity-esque is that????? and New Year’s Eve brought me a domestic violence victim whose nutbag partner had thrown her out of his sole council tenancy and proceeded to murder the first born of all residents in the borough………Oh hang on…..I think I’m getting a bit confused. The illegal eviction happened though.
And a happy New Year to one and all!
Universal credit beckons
2013 is the year that Universal Credit comes in, plus the 30th percentile cap on housing benefit, bedroom tax and housing benefit increases linked to the consumer price index instead of the retail price index, in a sterling attempt to massage the figures for the Daily Mail.
I have an insider’s tip for you, (Tapping the side of my nose and winking a lot). Invest your shares in cardboard box companies…..No….trust me, this is where many people are going to end up this year.
Alan Ward is worried
Don’t take my tired, world weary opinion on it. Listen to Alan Ward, head of the Residential Landlords Association quoted on Housing Excellence where he says;
“Already before this measure is introduced, Shelter has reported that 1.4 million people are falling behind with payments on their rents or mortgages. The Government’s reforms will serve only to increase the number of families struggling to cope.”
Alan goes on to say:-
“It is clear that the housing benefit changes are having a severe impact on those in desperate need of housing.”
Bear in mind this isn’t ‘Bleeding heart’ me saying this, but a landlord industry insider.
But some people are trying to get ahead of the game and, if not exactly averting disaster, at least attempting to wrap a few cotton wool balls around it.
Some technology solutions
I came across Allpay on 24 Dash who are using technology to do what they can to alleviate the oncoming, slow-motion car crash and issuing cards and drip feed payments, monitoring where grant monies are going.
The report says:-
“Some organisations are experimenting with using new technology to reduce bureaucracy in grant-giving. It cites a partnership where The Big Lottery Fund is working with payment specialist’s allpay to pay out grants with a prepaid card.
This, says the report, “enables the donor to then monitor where the money is spent online and in real time, rather than through a retrospective, paper-based system”.
Perhaps the light in all this is the tried and trusted principle that people get more creative when restrictions are imposed upon them, than when they have free budgets and carte blanche to do what they will.
It’s a weird inverse principle and I think many people and organisations are going to be taking advantage of it this year. Human alchemy, turning lead into gold.
Licensing in Liverpool
Inside Housing carried an interesting story last week about how Liverpool City Council plans to introduce mandatory licensing for all their landlords.
However the article is light on detail so I can’t figure out what they mean by licensing.
Many people equate licensing with HMO licensing, which isn’t the same as the Welsh White Paper or what seems to be driving Liverpool in this, so I can’t report accurately.
Regular readers will know I am a big fan of the Welsh licensing proposal. It would make my job as an enforcement officer 100 times easier but landlords seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to the very name, mainly it seems because they merely think of Newham and what they are trying to achieve there. But the Welsh model isn’t the same animal at all.
Councils have many powers but they can’t exceed those powers. To do so is known in law as ‘Ultra Vires’….going beyond their powers. On that basis I wonder what Liverpool are up to and I haven’t yet found anything that can clarify that for me.
Watch Liverpool though. It will either be a wonderful example of tilting at windmills, worthy of St Jude himself, or they may have just found a loophole, and if they do, watch the other councils following suit.
Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, hardly the champion of tenants’ rights, they ran an article last week saying that renting doesn’t work for tenants. Calling the British rental system:-
“The most dysfunctional rental market in the Western world”.
Mention rent capping to today’s landlords and they immediately, automaton-like, point to the rental market of the late 1980s, where it is held that too much rent control destroyed investment in the private rental sector. But the article’s author, Matt Hill says:-
“The system is no longer fit for purpose”.
Matt ends his article saying:-
“Like a neglectful landlord, we have trouble understanding that a rented house should still be a home. The private rental market is falling into disrepair: it’s time to carry out some essential maintenance work.”
I get fed up being pilloried by landlords for simply writing about what I see on a daily basis and being accused, as one landlord did on twitter this week, of not living in the real world, simply because I didn’t accept his arguments.
So it heartens me when Alan Ward of the RLA and journalists from the Telegraph also start to point to the Emperor’s new clothes and say the un-utterable, that the UK PRS rental market is a broken system that is dragging landlords and tenants down with it.
Its a new world now
The only arguments put forward in its defence are tired, 25 year old ones. Its 2013 folks and the people who make up the rental market are not the same ones as a quarter of a century ago. We need new systems to reflect what we are facing, not depressing, knee-jerk reactionary conversation killers about licensing or controls disincentivising investment.
We are not our parents and we need solutions that accurately reflect the world of today’s landlords and tenants if we are not to drag on with this god-awful shitty mess.
I don’t pretend to have the answers but I am willing to enter into proper 2 way debates in an attempt to find them. My hope for 2013 is that I will find more landlords willing to ditch the old arguments and have open discussions to find a system that works for landlords and tenants in the world we live in now.
Well, that and my perhaps futile search for a 32 inch waist. Don’t tell Frazzy though. She has spent 3 years just getting me to put the toilet seat down. One step at a time.