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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #105

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis has been silenced…]

I’ve completely lost my voice this week. Not just hoarse, I mean a whisper at best.
Came from a chest infection I went down with, having returned from Spain.

Not that I blame the Spanish, I think it was just what happens when you relax for a bit after a long stretch of holding things together. You find all this other stuff waiting behind the walls when you let your guard down.

The Landlord Whisperer

I went back to work for 1 day and got threatened by a violent landlord in reception.

Although I teach conflict management for a living I’m not one of those people who thinks you should simply let people do that in order to come across as professional. I think it sends out a bad signal, and I have to stay safe when I am visiting their properties.

But have you ever tried to front something out and go nose-nose with a thug when you can’t make a sound? I doubt even Marcelle Marceau could pull that one off.

Luckily our security guards got him out before my squeaking became too comical.

So, in the absence of being able to talk, I’ve had ample time to read.

Nearly Legal comes out of the (anonymous) closet

A small thing but I couldn’t help noticing this week that the infamous Nearly Legal, has finally outed himself on the eponymous website as none other than Giles Peaker, of housing solicitors Anthony Gold (I’ve known for years – Ed).

It wasn’t exactly a secret. If you looked at the Anthony Gold website he has been open for quite a while but not on Nearly Legal, where for years he has posted simply as ‘NL’.

Welcome out of the closet Giles. Being a mere 5 miles away from my office, tucked away at the top end of the

He also discreetly sends me a direct message when I have tweeted out a message that isn’t factually correct, allowing me the space to correct or retract. I admit I don’t always read completely through stories I tweet out. Giles’s diplomacy gives me an out. I owe you a pint.

Ben gets a press release

I got a weird email this week from a PR company working in housing. I suppose its normal stuff for journalists but this is the first time somebody has approached me with a press release and I confess I don’t quite know what to do with it (Bin them – Ed).

This is the coup.

A West Midlands based housing concern known as ‘Bullock’, has partnered up with Cardiff Community Housing Association and Cardiff Council, both of whom I have delivered training courses for, are using Bullock’s help to renovate 40 empty properties and utilise them for homeless people.

Scott Brassington of Bullock said:-

“The 40 homes we’re working on have been empty for some time now. Renovating them and bringing them back into use will not only regenerate communities, but importantly will support Cardiff Council in bringing empty properties back into occupation.”

So there you go. Is that what I am supposed to do with a press release? [No, you bin them – Ed]  Let’s hope so. I quite fancy journalism and it’s great when people just give you the stories.  [If you can call them that – Ed]

Shelter get a kicking

On a more serious tip I read an astonishing article in social housing headliner Inside housing about the Residential Landlord’s Association kicking off about Shelter’s report that families living in privately rented accommodation is damaging children’s lives

I have a lot of time for Shelter, as a campaign group but lately they seem to be being a bit reckless with their scattergun approach to issues.

Their understandable and laudable attack on dodgy letting agents resulted in a withdrawal of support and funding from agents groups that have knackered several Shelter jobs.

Now this.

It’s not 1984 anymore and the old adage of 2 legs bad, 4 legs good = landlord bad-tenant good doesn’t really cut the mustard.  Shelter Chief Exec Campbell Robb said:-

“The findings of its report Growing up renting proved ‘that today’s volatile rental market is simply not fit for purpose”.

I actually agree with him when he talks about the current rental system but I don’t think painting PRS landlords into a corner is the correct analysis of the situation. The system is the problem, not the landlords on their own.

PRS landlords, tenants and councils are all in the mix together and a solution needs to be found that addresses all these vested interests. Not simply demonising people who might otherwise work with you to create a new system.

Ben to blog

In fact I am shortly to start a blog in an attempt to concentrate on this one area and try to bridge the gaps between all of the concerned parties.

So watch this space.

ContainerShipping out the homeless?

Ben Brandt’s ever eager eye over at Rat & Mouse, pointed me to this article on the BBC website about Brighton’s homeless being homed in shipping containers as move on accommodation from supported living.

Now before you raise your eyebrows I can actually say I’m a big fan of these guerrilla home ideas. In an ideal world I would prefer everyone to live in places like John Lennon’s ex Weybridge home, currently up for sale but for many struggling to get off the street, a roof is more important than a south facing aspect.

The containers will be stacked from 3 – 5 stories and have walkways linking them, with balconies and stairs linking the different levels.

Reminds me of exciting tree houses when I was a kid and I like the shared aspect of it too. 5 of the best years of my life was spent living in a shared housing coop. OK, it didn’t allow the privacy I want now, but for people in certain circumstances at certain times of their lives it can be the best thing ever.

Housing need is not as simple as homeownership v renting, which is the only alternatives being pushed by our politicians.

Ed MillibandEd Milliband speaks out (well, sort of)

Finally Ed Miliband attacked government this week with a fool’s bladder on a stick, saying:-

“We would pass legislation to tackle the rogue landlords and letting agencies who pack people in sub-standard, overcrowded accommodation or charge extortionate fees in the private rented sector.”

Great Ed…..and exactly WHAT would you do?

Apparently the details are coming out next week. I’ll report back

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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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