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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #111

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis is feeling somewhat shattered this week ...]

It’s been a busy week and I confess to being a bit tired and delirious from my travails, or travels, I should really say.

Ben’s travels

On Monday night I went by train from South East London up to Colwyn Bay and spent Tuesday training the homelessness units of several councils from North Wales.

I arrived home at 11pm, grabbed a few hours sleep before getting up at 4.45am to drive to the south of Oxford to train staff of GreenSquare Housing Group.

I got up early to beat the London rush hour traffic but only arrived at me destination at 9am because my legendary absence of anything approaching a sense of direction saw me coming into Oxford from the South west side for some bizarre reason and later finding myself north of the city on the road to Northampton, wondering where the hell I was.

Homelessness unitsI was gobsmacked to see Conwy Council’s homelessness unit, which by any comparison is quite astonishing, especially mine. See the two at the side here.

Talk about sublime to the ridiculous.

A super strike at landlords rights on deposits

The biggest news of the past week in landlord/tenant world has been the Superstrike case on tenancy deposits reported just about everywhere, including Tessa’s august blog.

I’m not going to go into the details of it as you probably already know but the furore is certainly interesting.

Mark Alexander over at Property 118 is determined to rally his troops and put pressure on to sort the situation out  saying:-

“In my opinion it needs to be confirmed that once a deposit is protected, either in a custodial or by an insured scheme, than it remains protected until such time as it is unprotected”.

I agree. It’s all getting a bit daft this deposit nonsense. The penalties should surely be there for landlords who wilfully try to buck the system, the rest (super?) strikes me as band-wagonning …… if that’s a word.

Its bonkers

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a housing law trainer for social housing workers and advice agencies. I have to teach them the laws and will be advising them that Superstrike will allow them to effectively prevent homelessness in more cases by picking up even more defective section 21 notices. I cant withhold that information.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have sympathy with decent landlords getting caught out by the ruling.

Writing on the Guild of Residential Landlord’s blog, Guildy says of the matter:-

“No legislation should be allowed to put any member of the public in such a situation and it is that reason why this particular quarter was surprised by the decision.

It’s my view that the legislation has no choice but to be drastically overhauled now, if not abolished altogether (with some intention to start again after proper consultation and proper research this time).”

Hear, hear! Why is it so hard to draft what should after all be a simple law? Six years in, it should surely be well established and easy to work with.  [Ha!  Fat chance   Ed]

Royal confusion

If tiredness from having travelled about 700 miles in 2 days and delivering 12 hours of legal training in between the road and rail jaunts hasn’t left me a tad vague and confused then this short article on Royals of rent pushed me over the edge

Anoushka and Ciara sit at the glamorous end of the lettings business. Their blog devoted to high end rental issues, with properties in Bayswater and Chelsea more their usual fare. Freely reporting on some pretty swish pads and carrying adverts for those sorts of letting agents that all look like they are attending parents evening at Eton.

Which is why I did a double take this week seeing them promoting Shelter’s anti letting agent campaign and urging that tenants should not be charged fees.

The article even carries a link for anyone wanting to sign Shelter’s petition. Ciara adds at the end of the article, rather mysteriously:-

“I wonder though, would this give too much power to landlords, and some rogue ones even? He who pays for the piper calls the tune?”

If you can work out this comment out, email me, meanwhile I’ll have a lie down.

Could help to buy create a bubble?

Something else I don’t understand, which is nothing to do with being tired, is how the Help to Buy scheme could seriously damage things.

I read this article in the Telegraph  which quoted concerns by the Building Societies association that Osborne flagship scheme could cause a house price bubble in the not so distant future.

The Office of Budget Responsibility has already voiced their concerns, as has the Bank of England and the IMF the latter of whose spokesperson said:-

“This measure may temporarily help boost confidence in the housing market, but there is a risk that, in the absence of an adequate supply response, the result would ultimately be mostly house price increases that would work against the aim of boosting access to housing.”

Well OK but how? I hate it when articles start with the premise that you actually know what they are talking about. Economics was never my strong point, neither is party politics, which I find similarly impenetrable, along with the appeal of golf and the Archers.

The landlord, the walrus and the Sun

So in order to complete my newsround using material I could get my tired head around I turned to The Sun and found a wonderful story about a retired biologist living in Brighton seeking a lodger to help rekindle memories of the most fulfilling time of his life, watching Walruses on the beach in Alaska

The catch? The lodger has to dress up in a Walrus costume for a couple of hours everyday so he can reclaim his lost passion and avoid loneliness.

The landlord who advertised this on Gumtree said:-

“I have, over the last few months, been constructing a realistic walrus costume, which should fit most people of average proportions, and allow for full and easy movement in character. No speaking in a human voice and any communication must entail making utterances in the voice of a walrus.

Other duties will involve catching and eating the fish and crabs that the homeowner may occasionally throw while the lodger is in the guise.”

The lonely landlord added;

“I am a considerate person to share a house with, and other than playing the accordion my tastes are easy to accommodate.”

What are you laughing at? Of course it must be true…….it was in The Sun!!!!

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10 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #111

  1. Hi Ben: the joys of training related travel! I was up at 5.20 yesterday and got back at 10 p.m. (but Huddersfield was delightful and I got to see the statue of Harold Wilson twice). The help to buy scheme is likely to make things worse because it will create new buyers (by giving them subsidy) in places where the supply is not unlimited (lower end of market)and that pushes prices up. So maybe aspiring homeowners had better polish their fish catching skills?

  2. HI Sue,
    I did Merthyr Tydfal Housing Association a few weeks back and thought it would be easy enough to drive up from South London in the morning. 5 hours each way……with a course stuffed in between the trips ouch..

    Thanks for explaining the economics. Still not sure I get it though I’m afraid. But thats my problem not yours. I’m fine with law, I can multi task, I can play jazz guitar but when it comes to economics and numbers I’m strictly in Janet and John land.

  3. I havent had one for ages T but Frazzy wants me to take it up again so I can accompany her with her piano lessons. Anything to get out of hearing her play Green Green Grass of home

  4. Help to buy means more money lent to marginal borrowers, and with no reason to expect supply to increase (banks still won’t lend to productive businesses like housebuilders!) we can expect more upward pressure on prices, pricing first time buyers out of the market and having exactly the opposite intended effect

    It’s honestly one of the daftest, most economically illiterate and wealthy person favouring policies one could imagine!

  5. Speaking as one of the most economically illiterate people I know maybe I could do George Osborne’s job.

    And Ciara? You have me at a disadvantage again.

    I’m gonna lie down this weekend and start thinking clearly again on Monday

  6. Ben,

    Look at the anti-landlord propaganda about the Landlords increasing rents year on year, charging renewal fees, kicking tenants out after six months etc….

    Now, examine the Superstrike case, it was a landlord who has not increase rents since the tenancy was granted in 2007. Now if Superstrike had increased the rent, then they would have had to protect the deposit. Is n’t ironic to you the decent landlord, got stung here. I am not sure why they issued a S21 against this tenant, but it certainly was not to do with wanting a higher rent (since they had the opportunity to increase market rents). Also, note this property is in Wandsworth, London.

    Superstrike outcome is going hurt decent landlords like me, who have long term tenant (pre 2007) with no rent increases on periodic tenancies….

    It is not going to hurt the landlord, whose letting agents charge £150 for new tenancies every six months? And issue now deposit protection certificates after every six months?.




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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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