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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #115

Ben in the sum[Ben Reeve Lewis enjoying the sunshine ]

Summer is here at laaaaast!!!!!!!!!!

What are we Brits like in the complaining stakes?

We all moaned incessantly about the 10 month winter we have just been through and yet this week the main topic of conversation I overhear or participate in seems to be complaints about how hot it is.

What I love though is the inbuilt sense of restraint that causes everyone to end the gripe with “Not that I’m complaining mind you”.

Frazzles and I even had a day off from the usual work madness and went to a festival in Guildford to see Soul II Soul, Chic, Beverley Knight and Jamiroquoi.

The keen eyed among you will have noticed a seasonal change to my usual accompanying picture that was taken as we arrived at the gig.

Brit male meets the sun

Again it’s a Brit thing. It gets hot and we feel it’s suddenly expected of us blokes to dress like a tit. It’s also a Brit bloke thing at festivals and the first signs of sun to whip off your shirt and get bladdered within an hour of arriving.

It seemed every few minutes we saw a St John’s ambulance member picking a semi-naked, Lobster-red, bleary eyed bloke off the floor and walk him off to the ambulance, followed by his equally red girlfriend carrying his things and tripping over the tartan rug dangling from her arms.

But what’s been happening in housing?

Green deal gone wrong

Keeping the summer vibe going I read on Planet Property about the darker side of the government’s Green Deal.

Scientists at Loughborough University’s Civil and building engineering team are declaring that there is a danger of people, particularly the elderly, dying from overheating caused by living in super-energy efficient homes fitted with turbo boilers and airtight double glazing. The houses becoming airless and too hot “Not that I’m complaining mind you”.

Before we worry too much it’s important to note that lives will be saved simply because so few people are actually signing up for the Green Deal.

How indifference saves lives

The article goes on to explain that since its introduction 6 months ago, of the 38,259 people who expressed an interest, only 241 have said they are interested in continuing and only 4 people have actually put ink on the dotted line.

Good old British indifference wins the day and will save thousands of lives. We should all get the Nobel Peace Prize don’t you think?.

On the same topic of the lack of interest in the Green Deal 24 Dash ran a piece proposing a number of policy instruments that could be used to boost numbers.

The Sweett Group produced a report suggesting a number of incentives including tax break and council tax concessions. Phil Birch of Sweett said:-

“The results indicate that well designed incentives could effectively stimulate extensive retrofit take-up without creating unreasonable complexity or cost for government.

Further work would be needed to translate these proposals into policy, however this analysis provides a robust and encouraging starting point.”

But hang on a minute we don’t want 5,000 pensioners a year dying in houses too hot to live in “Not that I’m complaining mind you”.

Horses help the homeless

Cornwall is a place I have fond memories of. We went there for family holidays as a kid and my sister ended up living there when her and her husband were in the Navy, so I know it fairly well.

It’s a forgotten place in the winter but can be just as beautiful, in a bleak kind of way and suffers from seasonal poverty, so I was pleased to read of a new initiative down there for the homeless. E.A.T.S. is a project teaching the homeless to work with horses.

Reported on Housing Excellence  the scheme uses our equine chums to help address personal and relationship problems. Operational manager for Coastline Housing Association Derek Mace said:-

“Since beginning the programme we’ve seen some remarkable changes in those that have signed up, particularly in their levels of self-confidence.

We now want to make the therapy a permanent part of what we do at the homeless service so we’re looking into funding options to make that happen.”

That’s what I love about working in housing, it isn’t just bricks and mortar and not every problem requires bricks and mortar style solutions. It’s a wise organisation that recognises that.

Too much of the time many councils and housing associations are so pressured that the focus gets narrowed looking for traditional solutions. Long may the sideways approach rule.

Landlords on the BBC

On Thursday night the BBC treated us to a documentary on landlord and tenant world, catch it on BBC iPlayer called “Meet the landlords”.

This was the programme that was following me around for the first couple of weeks earlier this year, so I was interested to see how it turned out after they stopped coming to my office.

For the 5th time in 18 months I ended up on the cutting room floor. Maybe I just don’t have a TV face, or maybe it’s my shirts.

I have to say that I thought Holly Challinor the producer, did quite a good job. She said to me she wanted to tell a balanced story and I think she pretty much pulled it off.

We saw HMO Daddy Jim and his empire building, cramming as many people as possible into the crappiest of properties and then moaning that his tenants treated the places like shit…..I wonder why,

We saw lovely landlord Anna (who Frazzy charitably said looked like Cher gone wrong) and her god-awful tenant who eventually left owing £7,000 in rent arrears and several holes in the ceiling and even more holes in her mortgage account.

Nutty “Hercules” in Newcastle with a landlord with more patience than sense, well I wouldn’t have taken him on and the tragic story of the woman with cancer who had moved 3 times in 4 years, merely because the landlords didn’t want to continue her assured shorthold tenancy and nobody would touch a woman with cancer on benefits.

It was a fairly decent snapshot of the realities of renting in the UK in 2013. Loathsome landlords, small amateurs getting ripped off by the tenant from hell, complete piss-heads and the two women who keep having to move through no fault of their own.

Of course it didn’t tell the stories of the vast majority of decent landlords and tenants who just get on with getting on, but that wouldn’t make good TV would it?

Also the role of the homelessness unit wasn’t properly explained and as usual the council got demonised.

Not that I’m complaining mind you.

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6 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #115

  1. Yes wasnt he just. The polar opposite of Serena Thompson, HMO Landlady who gets involved with her tenants and tries to give them the best environment she can. Apparently he runs a workshop on making money out of HMOs.

    The landlady with a tenant who didnt pay is very common and very typical. She was playing it by the book but it takes a long time to evict tenants. I felt for her, she really got ripped off. It was a local case to me and the tenant may well have been one of our cases but if the landlady had tried to evict without using the legal procedure she would have had me on her back. Its one of the aspects of my job that I hate, defending bad tenants from decent landlords, just because the law is on their side.

    Having said that I could enjoy taking HMO Daddy to task for his appalling property standards and evident contempt for his customers. I cant believe the programme opened with him looking at that tiny 2 up 2 down and pronouncing that he could turn it into 6 studio flats.

    Holly Challinor said to me that she wanted to tell a true story that reflected renting in modern Britain for landlords and tenant. 2 months in she rang me at home one night and said she was struggling to get what she wanted. My tenant clients didnt want to appear on film because of fears of reprisals and because they felt embarassed to be shown as victims. Although disappointed that my stuff didnt make the final edit I think she did pull off her remit

  2. The program was unsurprisingly sensationalist, just like most TV these days. You were better off out of it.

    It may have balanced a good/bad landlord against a good/bad tenant but (just like a lot of the people clammering for regulation and registration) it ultimately portrayed the entire PRS as a complete crock and ignored the fact that the majority of tenancies go off without a hitch.

  3. Haha true Jamie but landlord meets tenant – they like each other- they get on – they stay together for years, does not a documentary make, despite it being more the norm. I was just pleased that it didnt go for tenant from hell or landlord from hell, it did both so there was a balance, which matches my experiences in the frontline.

    I suppose its a case of Luther v Dixon of Dock Green, which is the more watchable?

  4. I am HMO Daddy’s mailing list. He mentioned a couple of points in the programme. They did n’t show what the property looked like before the tenant moved in and they did n’t show any of the nicer units / high end units.

  5. I’d like to have seen those other properties before voicing an opinion. What came across to me, as someone who sees properties like his all week long is that the attitude of ‘Cram them in and get what you can out of them’ is picked up by the tenants, who use the property with similar disregard.

    HMO Landlady is an entirely different ethical approach. You dont have to know her to understand that, just read her blog. She treats her tenants with respect and care and despite their various problems they are very supportive of her.

    You get out what you put in I’m afraid



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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