[Ben Reeve Lewis has a lot on his plate just now...]
I’m in the middle of Hell week.
Not a student rag type of thing, or a series of films on the movie channel, I’m just trying to fit 10,000 bits and bobs from my to-do list into a space smaller than a Knowsley Housing Trust re-classified spare bedroom.
If you don’t get the joke you obviously haven’t being paying attention to housing news have you?
All in a days work …
In the day-job I’m dealing with 3 illegal evictions, 1 with violence and 2 where the landlord has destroyed the tenants possessions, I’ve been out serving injunctions, I’m in court on Monday and fielding sundry advice calls.
On the Easy Law Training Ltd front, I’ve been writing a training manual for Carmarthen council (the course is next Wednesday in Llanelli) and preparing my stuff for next Thursday’s jaunt to Bury St Edmunds for the Landlord Law Conference.
London Llanelli – Llanelli London – London Bury St Edmunds, all in 24 hours.
And I still have the TV crew following me around saying “Can we just film you coming out of the interview room and then go back in and we’ll film you coming out from the other side”
What happened to weekends?
As you read this I will have just got back from Swindon, training housing officers for GreenSquare Housing Association on how to conduct information gathering interviews and haven’t seen a glimpse of a weekend for some time.
All made worse by the revelation mid-week that my lovely Frazzles, who regulars will recall is a self-employed business travel agent for corporate and financial types and celebrities, is being flown out to a resort in Grand Cayman in June, all expenses paid, just so she can recommend them to her clients…………it’s a solo offer before you ask, leaving me to wash my own pants for a week.
Be grateful if you are not on benefits …
So who is having a worse time than me? People on benefits of course. We are only 3 weeks away from the dreaded Bedroom Tax and distress flares are being sent up hither and yon as the clock ticks down to financial disaster.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing South East Conference, Lord Best, as written up on 24 Dash said;
“In theory the bedroom tax is about discouraging under occupation but if you wanted to do that you would concentrate on pensioners and they are excluded.”
Very good point. Lordy, Lordy.
In the same article, Paul Wilding, benefits manager for Oxford City Council who are piloting the direct housing benefit payments fiasco said;
“Rent arrears from the project are running at five percent and they are coming down over time. Having said that five percent arrears would not be sustainable across our whole portfolio, our current level is about two percent.”
Essential differences between the social and private sectors
Now before you comment, as Jamie T did a couple of weeks back to an article by Tessa:
“Welcome to the real world social landlords! Now you’ll appreciate what private landlords who accept social tenants have had to put up with.”
Bear in mind that PRS landlords exercised their rights to move away from benefit tenants, in an entirely understandable and sensible way, to protect their investment portfolios.
Social Landlords have no such luxury and that single factor does not bear comparison to the situation faced by PRS landlords.
At a time when the world and his wife is saying we need to build our way out of the housing crisis, social landlords, who should be in the vanguard of this are cancelling building programmes in anticipation of the financial devastation that will be wreaked by this year’s caps and cuts.
G15 – not a boy band
Having said that, Editor Hannah Fearn at the Guardian picked up an interesting piece of news last Saturday that the G15, (not a boy band – just London’s biggest housing associations) are planning to start investing in privately rented accommodation.
Hannah phoned me up on Friday for my views on this, as a landlord/tenant law enforcement officer who is also happens to be a private tenant, and I said that I thought it was a great idea and I for one would snap one up.
Sure, social landlords often have a dreadful record on the repairs front, both in terms of speed of response and quality of work but what a tenant would be able to shrug off is any chance of harassment, illegal eviction, landlord selling because it suits them, retaliatory eviction, unannounced visits, in short, all that crap I have to deal with as a TRO on a daily basis.
I could live with a leaking toilet quite happily, knowing I was trading it off for a little bit of security and peace of mind. Bring it on baby.
Empty homes problems
I also had a piece of my own in last week’s Guardian on the practical problems of taking advantage of the Empty Homes legislation to fill the widening gap left by the inept procedures aimed at getting Britain building again
Hannah contacted me and commissioned the piece and I immediately called a mate who is an empty homes officer and asked him about his day job.
It was an interesting chat, in which he told me about how many empty homes are owned by the elderly and people in care of one form or another, and the properties sitting idle because someone died and probate hasn’t been sorted out yet so the families don’t know how to advance it.
I got jumped on by David Ireland, the boss of the Empty Homes scheme on Twitter for devaluing the concept in my article.
That wasn’t my intention. The key comment made by my mate which I put in my piece, is “Behind every empty home is a human story, but we tend to presume that behind every home is a greedy property developer.”
Things are never that simple
As is the case with dealing with harassment and illegal eviction, things are never as simple as Shelter or government would have you believe when you are working-it at the coalface.
Take the case of the illegal eviction I dealt with this week. The tenant, a middle aged African man has “ALLEGEDLY” been unceremoniously chucked out for complaining that the heating doesn’t work and had all his belongings destroyed.
I got an injunction and served it personally on the landlady who runs a beauty salon. She emphatically denied having ever heard of him, until I said we had proof he lived there, at which point she completely changed her story and said that in fact she did know him but not as a tenant. He apparently rents a chair from her in the salon.
I replied “Really? What is his specialism? Hair? Nails? Waxing?, Because frankly love, he doesn’t look the type”
As the man said, there is always a human story behind these things. Who am I to stereotype the poor sod?