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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #97

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis has Christmas late this year…]

I spent the tail end of last week In Norwich with Tessa and Graeme, mapping out our master-plan to educate the entire country on housing law, in an Easy way, devoid of jargon.

It snowed, it was cold but very inspiring and Umberto’s does a mean Sardine Agro-dolce. Graeme’s Glenlivet was a nice late night, open fire addition too, as the ideas flowed freely.

Christmas in February

Saturday and Sunday I was down in Portsmouth with mates having a belated Xmas meal at Brasserie Blanc, where I had Steak Tartare (Chopped raw fillet steak with raw egg).

Afterwards we hit a club for a bit where I danced like a lunatic without taking my hat or coat off.

Ben the individualOne young clubber said to Frazzy “He’s certainly individual isn’t he?” and the next day we took an appropriate photo in Titchfield Village to prove it.

I came home to a text from HMO Landlady telling me that her book (with a tiny contribution from me) had been reviewed on Landlord Zone.

The story of how this book came into being is a plot worthy of Eastenders. Collar her at the Landlord Law conference in Bury St Edmunds on the 15th March and I’m sure she will entertain you with it.

Its been a busy week back at the coalface

On Wednesday I took out an injunction for the illegal eviction of a guy whose landlady runs a beauty salon and claims £1,100 in rent from three tenants whilst at the same time living herself as a council tenant claiming housing benefit, income support and disability living allowance.

She is nothing if not creative. Part of Cameron’s aspirational big society no doubt, and about to move into the worst year of her life if I have anything to do with it.

More problems for landlords wanting to let to tenants on benefits

Property Tribes picked up on an interesting development. One of the UK’s biggest buy to let mortgage lenders, Mortgage Works, part of Nationwide Building Society, announced that they would no longer be granting BTL mortgages to landlords with tenants on benefits.

Outrageous you may say but certainly not the first into the arena. A damning indictment of the looming Universal credit and the singular lack of faith that anyone really has in it.

Shelter, Homeless link, the CIH and now even the banks are telling government You are Sooooo wrong on this nonsense but in their eagerness and haste to be the party of frugality they are tipping the country further over the edge.

Makes you smile

Having said that, I have been reading this week about the electoral campaign of Italian stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo who stands against austerity and miraculously nabbed huge number of votes at the same time as causing a crash in shareholder confidence if he actually gets anywhere.

Economics???? not my bag I’m afraid. Ebenezer Scrooge or John Maynard Keynes? I have no idea myself.

Some lists for the Chancellor – but will he take any notice?

But what I did understand was an open letter from the Chartered Institute of Housing to the chancellor George Osborne, telling him that if he wants to salvage the UK economy he needs to put housing centre stage.

The letter, hoping to be referenced in the upcoming budget sets out a 4 point plan:-

  • A Stamp Duty holiday for landlords bringing empty homes back into use as rented housing
  • Creating the conditions for landlords to secure around £3 billion a year of new private finance to invest in continued supply of new homes
  • Amending local authority borrowing rules so they can invest more in developing new homes
  • Increasing the Discretionary Housing Payments budget to £250 million per year to better support the transition to the government’s welfare reform programme

Straight away you can see this has nothing to do with Government’s increasingly noisy, empty vessel about promoting new builds, whilst at the same time doing nothing of the sort. New builds having fallen to an all-time low at a time when we need them most.

The CIH letter gives 4, clear, practical solutions without the political waffle and prejudice that backs up all the government’s ideas

Not wanting to be left out, national housing charity Homeless Link have come up with their own set of bullet points to tackle the growing homelessness crisis. Homeless Link’s report is backed by 300 homeless charities who have to mop up Cameron’s mess on a daily basis.

The report calls for:-

  • Consistent help by councils to prevent those at risk of homelessness losing their accommodation in the first place, regardless of their legal duty
  • Steps to increase housing supply so that if someone becomes homeless, they spend no more than six months in emergency accommodation
  • New forms of long-term accommodation that support people with complex problems to get back on their feet and avoid homelessness in the future
  • More effective pre-employment support to help those who have been homeless to get and keep a job
  • Action from health, criminal justice, education and social care services to prevent their clients from becoming homeless
  • A welfare system that is focussed on preventing homelessness and covers basic necessities

A slightly wider net than the CIH are casting but the main thrust is the same, that government should stop pulling serious faces and actually do something a government should do and tackle a crisis using policies that work and abandon mad, suicidal plans based on the assumption that all poor people are lazy scroungers, that are going to see millions in debt, made homeless and laying the tinder down for more riots.

The large families problem

Finally, a break of sorts for homelessness units across the land was reported on Nearly Legal – The Case of Sharif v. Camden LB.

It concerns the small but insistent numbers of large families seeking homelessness assistance and wanting a single dwelling to house them all in together. Not as big a problem as The Sun would have you believe but regular enough to make you roll your eyes and tut when they come in.

Camden’s complaint upon originally losing in the court of appeal was that in insisting that large families can only lawfully occupy a single dwelling a “Terrible burden is placed on local authorities” was backed up by the Supreme court albeit not unanimously.

So now, within certain specified guidelines separated accommodation could be ok. Lord Carnwith saying:-

“s.176 would be satisfied by “two units of accommodation if they are so located that they enable the family to live “together” in practical terms”.

Of course now the various challenges will start again and probably a few months from now a family the size of the population of Iceland will appeal and we will be back to square one.

Such is the nature of housing law but for now, homelessness officers from Cornwall to Cockermouth (it IS a real place honestly) are toasting their good fortune and waiting for the suitcases to arrive in reception so they can be the first to break the bad news.

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2 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #97

  1. I’m more outraged that a suppsed building society is involved in the BTL investor/chancer/rent seeker market, helping undermine first-time buyers and the need for secure homes.

  2. True but it’s the two evils thing again. We need the properties. I don’t think BTL is solely responsible for the lack of affordable homes to buy, although it is a component.

    Same thing with Property Guardians, they are legally all over the place and tenants have their rights trampled on but they offer affordable accommodation to people in need and utilise what would be empty properties.

    Any port in a storm and all that



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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