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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #99

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis had a week off last week – well sort of …]

Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that Newsround didn’t run last week.

We put on a show …

Tessa, Graeme and I were running the first, inaugural Landlord Law Conference in Bury St Edmunds. All of us a bit nervous, having never done this before.

It was a bit like throwing a party that you hope goes really well, without any gatecrashers or naff DJs. It went swimmingly and sold out.

Tessa did the first presentation whilst Graeme and I scoured the venue to find extra chairs and tables to stick at the back so everyone could be seated  [Didn’t half put me off too – blokes lugging tables in when I’m trying to make a legal point – Ed].

Landlord Law Conference 2013If any more people had turned up we would have been stacking up in the car park.

It was nice to meet several people who until last week I had only known through the internet and new projects were set in motion as a result.

What particularly surprised me were the delegates who came up to me saying how much they enjoyed reading Newsround. Not everybody who reads makes a comment, and you don’t really know how it is received, so it was nice to get some sense of a thumbs-up.

Ben on the radio

On Tuesday I was invited to speak on BBC Radio Coventry’s breakfast show about the impact of bedroom tax.

The researcher called me the day before to brief me that they wanted a précis of the statistics and legal background to the hated penalty.

I duly boned up so I could reel off the figures in my 7.20am slot with Shane O’Connor, only to have him simply ask me how I thought the government would cope in the increasingly vocal backlash that is mounting.

I think I said something about a coming blood-bath and it being a policy that the government might have wished it had never started.

Bedroom tax blood bath

During my research on the subject I found that, while I was getting into conference mode, Ian Duncan Smith, (the man who is increasingly looking as if he doesn’t know if he is holding the vessel with the pestle, that holds the pellet with the poison or the chalice from the palace that has the brew that is true), had been busy backtracking on bedroom tax in a desperate attempt to maintain a semblance of decency and humanity.

……..and losing the fight, it has to be said.

Writing in the Guardian Patrick Butler pointed out that whereas the recent turnaround which saw families with disabled children being exempted was vaunted as a gesture towards decency and common sense, it was in fact the case that the government had been forced into an embarrassing climb down in the case of Gorry v Wiltshire and the Secretary of State where they fought tooth and nail to not have disabled children exempted.

Such is the nature of their compassion.

I imagine that IDS was held in front of a roaring fire by the upper boys until his trousers turned crispy for that one. The knighthood slipping tantalisingly further away, as his wife ruffled what is left of his hair and assuring him that his cabinet post is the 21st century equivalent of the 1970s secretary of state for Northern Ireland in the popularity/career building stakes.

I can’t help thinking that when bedroom tax starts to break the coalition apart, that IDS is going to approach the press and claim he was against it all along but was forced into it by Cameron. I for one will not let him off the hook.

The pope’s portfolio – an interesting item …

Also, while I had my conference head on, a new Pope was chosen.

Why would I be interested in this, given it isn’t a housing story and with me being a million miles away from being a Christian?

Well it was the fantastic story that ran on Planet Property about the Vatican’s investment in an apartment block that houses a cardinal, 18 priests and the biggest gay sauna in Europe

Apparently part of the new Pope’s portfolio is a £21 million investment backing a club which hosts ‘Bear night’, where various men wear priests garb to ‘Expose body and soul’.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, who lives above, has declaimed homosexuality, saying it can be cured through the sacrament of penance.

What intrigues me, is that on Bear Night, how can you tell the difference between one of the genuine 18 resident priests and their body-waxed, amyl-nitrate sniffing counterparts ‘Avin it large on the dancefloor?

Boris is backing boats

Perhaps even more bizarre than the notion of the Catholic Church investing in gay saunas is the announcement in Housing Excellence of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s backing for the UK’s first floating housing developments.

He wants to turn the Royal Victoria Dock in London’s East end into a village on the water, similar to established projects in the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

In a barely disguised bid to become the first Viscount Newham, the London Borough of Newham’s Mayor ‘Rockin’ Robin Wales said:

“This venture will provide a major boost for the local economy and further cement the area’s reputation as one of the capital’s must-visit places. Investment in the borough encompassing the Olympic Park and Stratford in the north through to Canning Town, Custom House and the Royal Docks in the south reflects Newham’s status as London’s regeneration priority for the next 25 years.”

Sir Robin Wales, scourge of PRS landlords around the country, champion of landlord licensing seems hell bent on getting his borough in the press by hook or by crook, regardless of where that reputation comes from.

Why did he do it?

Finally you may recall a few months back that I reported on Irish property developer Kevin McGeevor, who was found wandering by the roadside, bearded, wrapped in plastic sheet with the word ‘Thief’ written on his forehead, alleging he had been kidnapped and held for 8 months in a shipping container.

Well things got more funky after my report.

It turns out that he may well have faked the whole thing. He was wanted by officials in the United Arab Emirates for a string of dodgy deals in Dubai. The article says:-

“Dozens of investors have come forward to the Irish media, claiming that he took millions of euros from them to invest in Dubai, only to disappear with the money or claim that he lost it in the 2008-2009 Dubai financial collapse.

McGeever is said to have bought and sold more than 200 flats in Dubai, including in Sports City and International City, and also sold commercial property in Dubai’s Business Bay, Sobha and Mayaza districts.

I can understand criminals covering their tracks with hair dye or a nose job but every now and again these attempts spill over into the surreal.

Why did he spend months growing a long flowing beard, with matching fingernails? A pretty elaborate scam don’t you think?

IDS – the final solution

Maybe this is the way forward for Ian Duncan Smith.

When bedroom tax goes titties up he could be found wandering by the side of the A4 with a raggedy beard, long fingernails and the word ‘Unbelievable’ written on his forehead.

He could say he was kidnapped by a bunch of Eton prefects and forced to support and implement housing policies against his will that would see 660,000 people reduced to penury and made homeless in the name of fairness and “What is right”.

Not to mention bankrupting a few councils and housing associations along the way and seeing the cancellation of building programmes as the rent arrears make investment a pipe dream.

I’d believe him, wouldn’t you?……..come on….where’s your humanity?

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6 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #99

  1. Sir Robin is already very busy on dry land, administrating 26,000 good landlord licences.

    Then there are 9,000 unlicenced naughty landlords to track down and prosecute.

    How will he cope if they can up-anchor and sail away ?

    Its a tough job creating bureaucracy.

  2. Haha maybe unlicensed homes occurring on floating developments could be regarded as piracy. That would be an interesting development. Cap’n Wales swinging through the rigging, cutlass clamped between his manly jaws as he drops injunctions and summonses hither and yon

  3. Great to meet you on Friday at the conference Ben. Always love reading your weekly round up.

    How would the floating houses figure under housing legislation? As houseboats are let under licence not AST’s.

  4. Hi Sandra. Good question – they cannot be ASTs so would be licenses.

    Which is bad news for the occupiers as the landlords won’t be bound by the tenancy deposit legislation. Or the statutory repairing covenants.

    I wonder if Boris has thought of that. Someone ought to tell him.

  5. I got the impression it is to be a development of floating houses but talking about it now you have to wonder about the legal dividing line between floating house and boat.

    I seem to recall a case a couple of years back in Barnstaple I think, where someone tried to claim tenancy rights by nailing their boat to a dock and claiming it was a fixed structure.

    It’s these kinds of weird conundrums that makes law so interesting.

    Nice to meet you too Sandra



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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