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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #113

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis has been threatened ]

I haven’t been threatened at work for a while now.  It’s only when it happens that you realise you miss it sometimes.  It’s like the world has gone quiet.

So I was surprised when Frazzy sent me an email about a mid-week news story of a court bailiff and a housing officer working for Metropolitan Housing Association who were shot whilst evicting a tenant for rent arrears in Brixton

Lo and behold not an hour later I get threatened myself by someone trying to negotiate a Sale and Rent Back deal on the home of one of my pensioner clients facing mortgage repossession

The shadowy world of SARB

Sale and Rent Back deals, or SARB as they are known involve a shadow world of prospectors buying leads from an equally shadow world of others who somehow garner details of mortgage holders in financial difficulty who just want the letters and the phone calls to stop so they can get a decent night’s sleep.

People in financial difficulties are known as “Motivated sellers” in the twisted parlance of the game.

‘Motivated sellers’

These are people so brow-beaten by endless letters from mortgage companies and their high profile solicitor firms that they will agree to anything just so that the letters and calls will cease, including selling their properties to ‘instant cash buyers’ who can make the bad feelings go away.

The thing is, they buy the property for a song, clear the outstanding debts and sometimes leave the occupant with a few grand over with which to have a holiday and forget the last 5 years.

Trouble is they then have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy that can be ended at any time so the property investor can sell and evict the tenant without fault. All security is lost in the scramble to get a bit of peace.

A case in point

My elderly client turned up for the hearing to get his warrant suspended accompanied by this SARB guy claiming to be an estate agent.

My client told me in the lobby area that he couldn’t shake the guy off and he had even driven him to the court hearing to see if we were going to be successful in suspending the lock change.

I told the ‘Estate agent’ that I knew what he was up to and advised him to back off. He wouldn’t, and even tried to force his way into the court room itself until I protested to the ushers who blocked him.

Outside the court he physically buttonholed me and told me he knew people who would have me killed if I stood in his way.

That’s the sale and rent back business for you.

Another nice man

Only last week the Guardian reported on a SARB company run by Gurpeet Singh Chadda who was fined by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) who took over from the old Financial Services Authority (The FSA) £945,277, the largest fine ever levied on a SARB dealer and banned him from trading in the financial services industry.

The Guardian’s article reported:-

“While it is not unusual for such schemes to pay less than the market value for a property, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that Chadda had faked valuations and exaggerated legal costs to maximise the amount he made from each transaction. In two cases examined by the FCA, sellers only received 38% of the sale price of their homes”.

I don’t know if the guy who turned up in court today worked for Chadda but he was certainly cast in the same mould.

Of course I’ve been threatened before; it goes with the territory in my line of work.

IRA threats

The first time was as an 18 year old working in a night shelter, telling a drunken Northern Irishman that he couldn’t come in, only to be told in his distinctive brogue “I know the IRA”.

As an inexperienced 18 year old who equated northern Irish accents with intimate knowledge of the paramilitary business you understandably start locking your doors and checking under your car for bombs.

Until it dawns on you that Martin McGuiness probably didn’t have that much truck with a completely bladderred street drinking Frank from Dundalk standing before you trading on the English tendency to stereotype his accent.

After it happens 10 times you don’t even remember it a minute later. During my time working in night shelters I must have been threatened with the IRA more times than Ian Paisley.

The gypsy’s curse

As a homelessness investigator I was also once threatened by a self-professed Gypsy who I had decided was intentionally homeless.

She pointed her spindly finger at me and said something short and meaningful in Roma. I presume it was a curse but as I don’t speak the language I have no idea to this day what it was.

Mind you I started going bald soon after.

Today’s idiot

So I wasn’t worried by today’s idiot.

Just fuming that he considered it legitimate to harass a pensioner with phone calls and visits, drive him to court and try to force his way into the court room in an attempt to steal a home with equity of £199,000 for £40,00.

SARB closed down?

Back in February 2012 the Sale and Rent Back business was effectively closed down by the FSA  following investigations by the office of fair trading who in 2010 said:-

“Effectively, this means the entire sale and rent back market is temporarily shut,”

So if you have friends or family in financial difficulty being approached by these parasites put a curse on them and watch them go bald.

Whilst pondering my run in at court and Frazzy alerting me to the Brixton shooting I started researching other stories about threats and assaults on frontline housing staff.

Assaults on frontline housing staff

I found a report published in 2012 that revealed over the past 3 year period there had been reported no less than 8,989 verbal and physical assaults on housing staff among the 223 organisations who responded to the survey.

High enough figures, but consider that there are 333 local councils alone and maybe twice as many housing associations, so 223 isn’t even half of them.

Plus for staff in my line of work or in homelessness and hostels, threats and even assaults are so commonplace we usually don’t bother to report them (I don’t think I ever have).

A factor covered in another study to the one above stated:-

“A separate, anonymous survey aimed specifically at front line workers, conducted by Inside Housing between April and May this year; found that more than a third of the 134 housing workers who responded do not report all assaults to their employer.

  • One per cent of survey respondents have been sexually assaulted while doing their job
  • a massive 84 per cent have been verbally assaulted, including incidents of racial abuse
  • Six per cent have been taken hostage, most often trapped in a tenant’s home against their will.“

The last figure reminded me of something. Back in the 1990s I recall a housing officer who worked for us, a man we shall call ‘Bill’, who was a rambling and dishevelled character, often pissed, who was taken hostage by a complaining council tenant who rang the town hall and said he wouldn’t let Bill go until we sent a real housing officer around.

You have to laugh, and a thick skin helps too. Not to mention a gun, a very large one that I wear in a shoulder holster.  ;)

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One Response to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #113

  1. Hello, not been on here for a while.

    Yep, SARB is dodgy. But I’ve had some success in representing its victims by claiming misrepresentation and/or unconscionable bargain. Often they don’t give written tenancy agreements when renting back, relying on verbal agreements, and brushing off queries as to security of tenure by mouthing platitudes like, “you’ll be able to stay here as long as you like” or “you’ll be a fully secure tenant.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like intention to create an Assured, not Assured Shorthold, tenancy?

    I also wonder about assaults on housing solicitors. My old boss once told a tale about being followed home by a private landlord after a bitterly contested trial, and my current boss once mentioned about how a little Rachman of a landlord said he was going to “f**k {her} right up, ya c***” when she took out an injunction against him for illegal eviction. Hoogstraten allegedly once trashed the offices of a firm who acted against him as well, I understand, and in the US, lawyers who acted against Synanon (the controversial drug treatment programme) had a rattlesnake posted into their letterbox…



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Tessa Shepperson

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