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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #102

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis talks to the NLA …]

My mate Phil today used the term ‘Gavvers’, when referring to Police officers.

I hadn’t heard that phrase in donkey’s years. Londoners of a certain age will probably be familiar with it. Gavvers is a derogatory term but I have yet to meet anyone who knows the origins or what it actually means.

As a typical ‘Yoof’ growing up on the streets of South East London I had frequent but minor runs ins with the ‘Old Bill’ and like many, developed a knee jerk dislike of ‘Plod’ but as an adult enforcement officer for a local council I have come to know many of them and work closely with them to this day.

Landlords …

I find 99% of them to be decent and nice people, with the odd arse’ole thrown in so you don’t get bored. The same as any group of individuals, including landlords.

NLAMy news round this week is prompted by a meeting I had with Richard, Ken and Marion from the National Landlord’s Association.

My day job is to nick landlords for harassment and illegal eviction. I am, I suppose, a ‘Gavver’ of the private rented sector but I hold the same view of landlords as I hold of the cops. 99% are nice, decent people with the odd arse’ole thrown in so you don’t get bored.

The trouble with basic presumptions is that we tend to evaluate and interpret any actions in line with our core views of the person or their place in the world.

It has always troubled me that landlords and tenants don’t seem to like each other much, when they need each other to live. I have always wondered what landlords think about when they can’t get back to sleep after a 3am tinkle.

A visit to the NLA

I got an insight into their concerns when I came away from the NLA office clutching a copy of their magazine ‘UK Landlord’ (cover price £12…..sorry guys. I nicked it……you can take the boy out of South London but you can’t take South London out of the boy).

No links this week as it is a hard copy. Buy your own, or pop into their office and nick it yourself. 22 – 26 Albert Embankment…..(the door latch is sticky, just nudge it with your shoulder and keep Big Ron on look out)

UK Landlord mag

I read a nice review of the NLA hosted National HMO Network Conference which covered presentation by NLA bods, landlords and people from my lot, local authorities, held in London at the end of 2012.

Licensing is obviously a hot potato on both sides of the fence but it was heartening to read of the various affected parties sitting around a table and discussing the conundrum.

NLA Chief Exec Richard Lambert talking of the importance of landlord accreditation as an alternative to licensing as a way of addressing bad practices.

Bad apples on show

What surprised me in the magazine is the open articles exposing bad landlords and running stories such as Chase Devonshire Ltd’s 9 year disqualification from the lettings industry for routinely failing to protect tenant’s deposits and Mehmet Parlak’s £40,000 conviction by Haringey Council for breaching HMO regs, or Plymouth Council’s prosecution of David McCabe (£28,000) for causing tenants to live in ‘Dickensian Squalor’. They aren’t sweeping their bad apples under the carpet.

Safety also seems to be paramount in UK Landlord with several articles on boiler flues, illegal gas work and warning Hampshire landlord members of a scamming electrician issuing safety certificates that aren’t real.

It is the kind of articles I would more expect to see in a tenant’s advice magazine or on Shelter’s website. NLA Director of operations Richard Price even writing on how landlords can deal with their tenants when accusations of anti-social behaviour get lodged.

The whole thing made me think that landlords and tenants aren’t, or certainly shouldn’t be, as polarised in their positions as they inevitably are.

Its just life …

Writing this is a difficult position to put myself in. Tenants may well criticise me for being a turncoat and landlords might not trust me, given what I do to the bad ones for a living, but I can only tell it how I see it.

I simply don’t have a moral problem with people making money renting out properties. People need places to live, landlords provide some of them.

There are bad landlords, there are greedy landlords, there are arrogant landlords, there are nice landlords…..hell I even know landlords who care very deeply about their tenants……Serena come on down!!!!

I also know tenants who treat a property with the utmost respect and I know tenants who are nutbags and have no intention of paying their rent or keeping a property in good order.

When you have been stuck at the coalface of landlord and tenant disputes for as long as I have you can’t maintain the cartoon images of evil, moustache twirling, greedy landlords or doe-eyed victim tenants. It’s just people at the end of the day, with all the complexity that brings.

The weekly pop

Finally, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a weekly pop at Bedroom Tax. I know you PRS types aren’t interested but I refuse to let a day go by where I don’t do my bit to highlight this nasty and pointless piece of legislation that I sincerely hope will bite government on its arrogant arse cheeks.

Glaswegian social housing tenant Alan Smart has ramped up an unlikely YouTube hit with his colloquially titled song on the subject “Ye canny have a spare room in a pokey cooncil flat” (watch it below – Ed).

Alan said:-

“The skyscraper wean song is a similar theme about social upheaval and people with council housing getting mucked around and screwed over so it wasn’t just a good sing-along tune it’s directly relevant to the matter at hand.”

Music has an honourable, central and relevant place in social protest. Think of Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife ..a comment on fascism. Billy Bragg’s chart topping anti Thatcherite opus “Between the wars”  and Graham Central Station’s 1974 funk commentary ‘Hair’, on society’s prejudice against the afro

Don’t mention the …

I tried not to, but a reference to Thatcher crept in at the end didn’t it? I don’t wish to comment, I know she divides opinion…………………………..but I admit I had a drink or three.

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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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