[Ben Reeve Lewis has an important anniversary ...]
Anniversary time. Last Saturday it was 4 years to the day that Frazzy and I met in room 9 of our interviewing suite.
She had just started her own travel agent business, specialising in corporate and celeb clients which she had done for many years as an employee.
As with all new start-ups she was initially struggling. The mortgage company were less than sympathetic (surprise, surprise) and she sought my assistance to beat them off with a stick.
It took me 9 months to final kill them but in the meantime we fell in love, got engaged and moved in together.
Now she earns more than me and far from being appreciative, elbows me in the back when I snore – my knight in shining armour days long behind me.
I have yet to learn to move my socks and pants from the side of the bed to the laundry basket but I have learnt to put the toilet seat down. Hard won lessons.
Hard won lessons
And there are a lot of hard won lessons going on out there, but the worst pupil in the class seems to be the government, who in a sane world would be placed in a special needs class.
Continuing down this austerity route of benefit cuts is really starting to show up for the false economy that it really is. Looking on the blog, funnily enough called “False Economy” there is an article on a new report from Professor Dexter Whitfield of the Don Dunstan Foundation and the Public Service Association of South Australia.
The report provides a compelling case for the failure of this economic model, saying:-
“how with austerity, government debt continued to increase, reduced demand intensified the recession, negative or weak growth prevailed and the private sector failed to invest”.
I’m certainly seeing this on the front line where we are getting more and more tenants with three kids and upwards who are now £150 – £250 a week down on their benefits because of the benefit cap.
Now before you start saying that its about time, you need to bear in mind the knock on effects of this.
Why austerity doesn’t work
Each of those tenant families has a landlord who isn’t receiving any rent. One guy I spoke to the other day had a tenant he likes but she is suddenly £240 a week short of the rent.
It will take him so long to evict that by the time he gets possession she will be approximately £7,000 in debt and he needs the rent to pay the mortgage on the single buy to let property that he owns, so he may well lose it if his mortgage company is as sympathetic as Frazzy’s.
Then of course the family will have to go down the homelessness route and we will have to place them in B&B because we have nowhere else due to the increasing number of others coming through the front door for the same reason.
For the first time ever last week we had to lock the front doors of the homeless unit because the amount of people in reception exceeded safety standards.
The only beneficiaries of this daftness are of course the B&B owners but an unpleasant light has been shone on them in this week’s Independent by Hannah Fearn in her article on the parlous conditions and dodgy practices of this burgeoning sector of enterprise.
Hannah begins the article:-
“Rogue private landlords are forcing vulnerable homeless people to live in squalid and dangerous conditions as unscrupulous hostel owners seek to turn a profit from the UK’s spiralling housing crisis”
And goes on to point us to the hostel for alcoholics that has a licensed bar, the B&B with a large hole in the roof being used by one council and the B&B where the owner blackmails the tenants, saying if they don’t pay him £10 he will call the council and tell them they aren’t staying there.
When I say Hannah shone an unpleasant light on B&Bs I mean one of those green lights that makes you look like Vincent Price, or that girl in The Exorcist.
It wasn’t me …
Being a council enforcement officer I read with great interest Giles Peaker’s article on Nearly legal about the landlord who illegally evicted his tenant and was ordered to pay a whopping £24,600 in damages.
Adrian Lasrado of Sutton in Surrey found himself on the wrong end of a civil prosecution with the main heads of damages calculated at £200 for every subsequent day that his illegally evicted tenant was out of the property.
His sole defence to proceedings seeming to be that he wasn’t the landlord, a claim rejected by the judge, which Giles helpfully pots down from the original legalese to mean:-
‘it wasn’t me’, ‘I thought she’d gone, and she behaved badly so the damages were wrong’ and ‘it wasn’t fair’.
You may laugh but I have often heard those very words used in defence, particularly “It’s not fair”, as if that has anything to do with a legal defence.
Why doesn’t he just go?
Speaking of which, last month I was in court defending a possession action for a tenant. The agent’s solicitor, when asked by the judge for his presentation actually said “Well the tenant has been served with the notice sir, so why doesn’t he just leave?”.
I failed to stifle a laugh which left the judge torn between giving me a telling off and the astonishment he obviously felt at the solicitor’s naïveté.
The bounds of professionalism obviously prevent me from revealing his name but god preserve any poor unfortunate who has him on their side.
And at the other end of the spectrum I saw that Foxtons are about to float on the stock exchange. The owner sold for £320 million in 2007 but the purchasers BC Investments immediately went wobbly in the recession.
They have bounced back and the flotation will raise £55 million to clear it’s backlog of debts.
I don’t understand why they have debts given the rates they charge landlords and tenants. Maybe they accrued through running those bizarre modern high street offices that can’t tell whether they want to be an estate agents, a media centre or a wine bar.
My local one is the size of a small supermarket and only ever seems to contain 3 bored staff staring out of the windows behind the ranks of glass fridges containing bottled water that nobody drinks, underneath 8 or 10 plasma screens displaying the lunchtime news being stared back at by grinning people watching the faces of the young deluded couple foolish enough to sit in those coloured swivel chairs reading over the contract and trying to cover their astonishment as it dawns on them how much the fees actually are.