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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #100 – on a Thursday

Ben in Winter[Ben Reeve Lewis on a Thursday?  Well I told him I was closing the blog over Easter but he’d already written it …  He’s 100 now you know …]

Yes that’s right……#100!!!!!! Blimey.

At the time you read this I should have been in the Lake District, celebrating Frazzy’s birthday but we cancelled at the last minute because of the snow.

Personally I cant get enough of the stuff and would happily live in Alaska or Norway for the rest of my life but Frazzy’s Caribbean blood doesn’t countenance any temperatures that cant support a pineapple or two. A gentle breeze causing her to drag out her cardy and press ‘Over-ride’ on the central heating timer.

The changed photo to this week’s newsround is me in my natural state. I’m happy to visit the sun for 2 weeks but I don’t want to stay there, although Spain is proving mightily attractive all round for people in my line of work.

I read this week on Sky News  that since 2008 there have been over a quarter of a million mortgage repossessions down there, 75,000 of them last year alone.

Costa del SolFollow the sun …

I got into a twitter exchange with people from TC Young, a firm of housing solicitors in Glasgow, pondering on whether we should take Lord Fraud’s advice and follow the work, opening a mortgage repo defence firm on the Costa del Sol.

Ok we would have to learn Spanish, and the Spanish legal system first but details, details. What’s the difference between a Spanish judge losing their temper with you for clutching at straws with a half arsed argument, trying to save a family home and a British judge?

One thing you quickly develop when defending mortgage repossession claims is a thick skin. I would imagine my Spanish counterparts are not far removed from Rhinos by now.

But seriously …

On a more serious note, apparently Spanish newspapers have been covering an increase in suicides over home loss and families of dead mortgagors camping out on the street. How long before we follow suit here?

I was in front of a judge on Monday on just such a case where my client collapsed on the floor of the court room from the shock and the judge had to re-list the hearing for the next day to allow her time to recover. Such is the state of modern British housing.

No concessions here

Apparently in November the Spanish government announced a 2 year freeze on evictions where the families earned less that 1,365 Euros a month and have children under 3.

No such concessions here when you take into account our government’s fight against having families with disabled children exempted from bedroom tax.

HMO humour

HMO Landlady made me laugh, and not for the first time  with her latest instalment about the ups and downs of running properties where people live what are termed ‘Chaotic lifestyles’.

Including the guy dumped by his girlfriend in the street wearing only his pants and a hilarious misunderstanding in a conversation where a resident told her he had been living at ‘The Downs’, which she took to mean an exclusive resort, only to realise he meant ‘the Downs’, as in the sweeping hills of Sussex.

Johnson savaged by Mair

Like many people I particularly enjoyed the extraordinary savaging that Boris Johnson received at the hands of Eddie Mair on BBC 1s Andrew Marr show last Sunday.

In some ways it was a questionable interview, Mair on Mayor choosing to drag up age old stories from Johnson’s past and a spurious topic on a phone call regarding the beating up of a journalist that may well have been a joke and didn’t happen anyway.

I have read several articles that make a valid point that it may well have been cheap journalism but damn it was enjoyable to see a major politician completely flummoxed for once and drop all pretence of arrogance.

Its what they are paid for after all. Even Boris himself admitted that people in his position are fair game for that kind of thing.

Its all about to get worse

Writing in the Guardian, Homeless-Link’s Jacquie McCluskey trotted out the latest figures on homelessness.

Between just October and December last year 29,060 homeless applications were made to local authorities. That’s just 3 months worth of applications folks.

This represents a 22% rise in London alone.

There are 4,000 families living in bed and breakfast hotels because there is nowhere else to put them.  Councils relocating families in boroughs away from their home area due to the unaffordablility of market rents has risen 32%.

Jacquie’s article points out that:

“In the last quarter, almost one in four households became homeless because their short-hold tenancy comes to an end. This is the highest number ever recorded.”

That thorny old issue of tenant security v Landlord assurance just wont lie down,

Much hoo-haw has been made about the chancellor George Osborne’s plan to introduce the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme to support homeownership aspiration but what is being done to address this growing homelessness crisis? Jack shit, that’s what…..and this particular Jack we’re talking about isn’t a back-bench Labour MP.

And it’s not as if something cant be done. Over the same period Scotland’s homelessness application figures dropped 12%. Jack obviously isn’t as influential north of the border.

Demolishing ‘help to buy’

A surgically precise demolition job on the implications of this shameless crowd pleasing initiative was drafted by Bristol’s own Professor Alex Marsh.

I like Alex’s Archives, he makes the points I would like to make but with him being an academic he makes them articulately whereas I, with my mere Poly-study certificate in Social Anthropology from Thames Polytechnic circa 1983 can only rant or be sarcastic.

So all I can say is ‘I agree with him’ when he says:-

“like any scheme that boosts demand in the face of inelastic supply – is also likely to push up house prices. That in turn would increase indebtedness.

Providing lenders with a guarantee against loss from more risky lending almost ensures that prices will be pushed up. Unless it is very careful with the detail of the guarantee, the Government is building substantial perverse incentives in to the scheme. We may find ourselves back on the fast track to subprime central.”.

Before I put this to bed for the Easter break I have just received the strange news that Frazzles has decided that as we cant do the Lake District now she has bought tickets to see a West End musical, ‘Jersey Boys’ instead.

I just Googled it to see what it’s about… Oh dear……………the things you do for love.

Costa del sol picture on Flickr

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7 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #100 – on a Thursday

  1. Tenants need to be able to have the right to stay as a ‘default’ not an Accursed Short Term Travesty. Tenants meekly go when given notice.

    Fashion news just in – you look like a right pillock in that hat.

  2. Those homelessness figures will just get worse and worse… especially when the main cause of homelessness is the seemingly innocent ‘PRS tenancy ending.’

    Ben does, I am sure, sleep all night and work all day. Up here in the frozen north, those hats are BOGOF in camping shops. Mine is waterproof. With extra ear warmers.

  3. I don’t think tenant’s should have the right to stay as a default (whatever that means exactly?).

    The law already provides flexibility for whatever length term is suitable to both parties. We have everything on our books from 6 months to 6 year ASTs and everything in between with lots of Assured Tenancies too.

    The problem partly lies with mortgage lenders insisting on a max 1 year term. So perhaps the answer is not to change the law but to either a) change the requirements of mortgage lenders, or b) change the make-up of the PRS by encouraging/incentivising institutional investors instead of accidental landlords with mortgages who would rather sell as soon as the sales market picks up.

    I must say, this column and the comments it generates are starting to become a regular bash agents/landlords/government (delete as appropriate) tirade. Yawn. Has anyone actually got any sensible ideas and solutions we could talk about instead?

  4. I can’t find any figures which show the number of homeless people actually housed in Scotland. Has anyone analysed the figures beyond the number of applications? I do wonder how much of the reduction in homeless applications in Scotland is down to temporary accommodation and gatekeeping? If the improvements are real and not simply massaging of figures, what are they doing that’s so different? Has abolishing priority lists really made that much difference?

  5. Jamie I agree with all points you raise. Lender covenants contribute greatly to the insecurity experienced by tenants. I’m surprised and heartened to hear you have 6 year AST’s.

    I see nothing in this week’s column that bashes letting agents although I do admit to doing so on occassion. And I say that in the sound knowledge that I have several letting agent friends and contacts, some of whom I met at out recent conference, who take no umbridge at all at my column, merely reading it as the playful banter is is intended to be.

    I am not anti agent by a long chalk. The good ones perform a valuable service and should quite rightly be looked to as the professionals in the business. When I launch into letting agents it is the scammers and crooks I highlight, whose job is made all the more easy by lack of agent regulation, something which most decent agents are also calling for.

    The purpose of my column is to give a heads up to various stories floating around in the news and above all, to entertain. Whereas I am not everybody’s cup of tea many still respond favourably and enjoy what is meant to be lightheartedly provocative. It isnt the aim of Newsround to provide solutions to complex social and legal problems, nobody can do that in 1,000 words a week. I spend all week trying to find solutions for real world problems of landlords, tenants and agents. Writing Newsround for me is just a relaxing tongue in cheek conversation with others hanging around on the housing internet.



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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