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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #106

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis thinks its impossible…]

Well the Queens speech announcement was interesting wasn’t it?

Landlords to be responsible for vetting the immigration status of their tenants.

And how the hell is that going to work then?

Mission impossible

Immigration law and the various entitlements that go with the different documents and passport stamps is notoriously and headache inducingly complicated.

Citizens of different countries have different rights depending on where they are from, why they are here, what they are doing whilst they are here, who they are married to, where their children were born, when their children were born etc etc.

queens speechDid you know that under the British Nationalities Act 1981 you could have been born here 32 years ago but still not be a British citizen?

Depending on whether your foreign national parents became naturalised, when they became naturalised and whether or not, at the time you were born your parents spent more than 270 days out of the country.

You can find stories about this written up pretty much everywhere. Inside Housing is one of the many.

Forgeries and frauds

If the complexities of even managing a basic grasp of immigration rights is bad enough there is also the question of what to do if you are presented with a fraudulent immigration document.

I’m based in a homelessness office where fraudulent documents are presented every day.

We have special and regular training on the latest crop of scams and forgeries, we have access to an expensive website which tracks the newer generation of forgeries and we have specialist optical equipment with which to examine stuff waved under our noses.

Fake immigration documents range from evil genius to the downright comically inept, that look as if they have been created with crayons, and even we aren’t sure half the time.

Unworkable and unfair

The new proposed law is understandably alarming the landlord community but I can’t see how it would be workable. And if a landlord did accidentally let to an illegal immigrant what are the authorities going to charge the landlord with?

Not understanding a forgery? Making an error between the working rights of someone from Sierre Leone and Burkina Faso? Just think of the legal defences.

Playing games

I loved this piece on Planet Property this week  A light hearted look at private renting as a variation of Monopoly. It’s a mock up but maybe a renting version of Monopoly could sell.

I don’t think I have ever won a game of Monopoly in my life, which I have always taken as a sign that I shouldn’t dabble in the property game for real.

I’ve always had a flair for buying and selling at the wrong time, which is why I am renting privately now, whereas my mate Dolly, late of the Socialist Workers Party, persistently managed the opposite and now has 2 homes with no mortgage.  Bleeding socialists.

The turning of the tide?

Jules Birch ran an interesting article about the tide slowly turning for private tenants  He points to recent small changes, such as the Enterprise Bill nudging in the regulation of letting agents.
Jules also says:-

“The case for more protection for tenants was being made not just by the usual suspects but by trade organisations like the RICS and British Property Federation (BPF).

The Communities and Local Government committee is in the middle of an inquiry on the sector. The Labour Party toughened its position. And a report from the Office of Fair Trading in February highlighted a growing number of consumer complaints.”

Shelter and similar groups have for some time been calling for rent control and more security than is offered by Assured Shorthold Tenancies, although we are a long way from either Jules is right to highlight the fact that more than the usual suspects are at least beginning to talk about these issues instead of dismissing them out of hand as socialist poppycock.

So as a PRS tenant I am quietly hopeful. Although full marks to my property developer landlord who decided not to increase my rent this year. Presumably a nod that Frazzles and I are good and valued tenants. A Christmas card is in the post to the Georgiades brothers.

Where’s a surveyor when you want one?

I read an interesting piece on Money Marketing blog about a different kind of housing crisis….a 20% shortage of surveyors to value homes for sale, which is causing longer than usual delays in the conveyancing process.

Nigel Stockton of Countrywide Financial Services said:-

“If gross mortgage lending in the UK grows at 10 per cent this year and next then we will have an issue with the numbers of surveyors available to value houses.”

So there you go. Fancy a career change? Surveying could become very lucrative. Either that or start a company capable of carrying out immigration check for PRS landlords. (a possibility that has not escaped my entrepreneurial brain).

Councils? Proactive?

Stepping swiftly into rather stranger territory I read this funny and provocative piece on the excellent CLES website  about how council’s need to be more proactive in getting out there and building communities that will generate life back into themselves, as opposed to waiting around for private developers to rescue them.  David Boyle says:-

“The answer is they must look around the world and see how they are linking new co ops in Mondragon, or linking this to the way they use their procurement powers in Cleveland Ohio, or how they are setting up community banks that act as bartering hubs for small businesses in Brazil”

Brazil? Ohio? How glamorous but David’s piece is actually inspired by Croydon’s god-awful Wellesley Road, of which he says:-

“The vacant sites are overgrown. The IYLO building-the tall flats planned as a gateway to Croydon – is abandoned with plastic fluttering in the wind, a monument to the property bubble”.

Wellesley Road, is an unprepossessing piece of a frankly unprepossessing town that even the most enthusiastic keen, young Foxtons estate agent would struggle to describe as anything other than a “Shithole”.

But it is home to Lunar House, the headquarters of the Borders Agency, an address all you PRS landlords are going to becoming very familiar with if the government’s new immigration bill goes through.

I have always thought that their call waiting tune should be Blondie’s “Hangin on the telephone”. Have plenty of 20p’s ready is all I can say. That’s if the staff when you get through will even talk to you, what with Data Protection and all.

News round changes

Finally, after 2 years of writing Newsround I have chatted to Tessa and will be starting to morph it.

Once a month I will be writing ‘Ben’s Public eye’, in which I will be illuminating you all about news stories breaking in the world of social housing.

This year is going to be one of the most tumultuous I have ever seen and a lot of it is going to be kicking off in my particular Conch Republic of the housing world.

Next week my eye will be open

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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

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