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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #132

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis visits room 101]

Have you ever had a conversation where you think you are going mad?

Last week Frazzy and I got a new settee. In my council district you call environmental services and they come and collect stuff from your garden for free but you have to tell them exactly what to collect. So I gave them a call and the conversation went like this:

Me: It’s a settee and a standard lamp.
Him: So a settee and a standing lamp.
Me: No a ‘Standard lamp’
Him: – surprised A standard lamp? What’s that
Me: Well it’s a lamp that stands
Him: So a standing lamp?
Me: Well in effect yeah but it’s actually called a standard lamp.
Him: How do you spell that?
Me: S.T.A.N.D.A.R.D.
Him: So it’s not a standing lamp then but a standard lamp.
Me: Yeah, it’s a lamp that stands.
Him: So its NOT a standard lamp?

RRRRRAAAAARRRGGGHHH. Please try to understand before one of us dies. It was a bit like the “Stay here and guard him and don’t let him leave till I get back” sketch from Monty python and the Holy Grail.

Had a lovely jaunt to Cardiff again this week to train for the Chartered Institute of Housing. Possession proceedings for housing officers.

I’ve been doing this course for about 10 years now and a particularly glazed look comes over the delegates faces around 3pm when you are on to court form number 19 but it has to be done, the devil is in the detail and if landlords get any bits wrong people like me will jump on it in court and you slide all the way back down the snake to zero, only to start again.

Don’t shoot me….that’s my job.

GolfRoom 101

Oddest figures of the week came via Planet Property who let us all know that we use as much land for golf courses in the UK as we do to live on

The story was triggered by Mole Valley council giving permission to developers for a 12th golf course in their district. What amazed me is that there are 192 golf courses within a 20 mile radius of the area and 627 within 50 miles.

How many bloody golfers are there out there?

I have to say golf is the biggest mystery to me. I always think if I ended up as a guest on Room 101 with Paul Merton, golf would be the first thing I would resign to the room.

A golf playing friend once badgered me so much to give it a go that I gave in and tried my hand at 9 holes. I have to say that it is unique among the many things that I have done in my life in that it is even more tedious to play than it is to watch, and don’t get me started on those daft clothes.

Itzy bitzy spider

The second thing that I would put in Room 101 would be spiders. These disgusting things are part of the reason that I don’t believe in God, I mean what sort of triple idiot would invent something with 5 eyes? It’s perverse.

Rat & Mouse pointed me at a story of one London home which became infested with things called “Brazilian wandering spiders” that inveigled their way into a house cunningly disguised as a bunch of bananas

Consi Taylor’s family had to evacuate their home while the council’s pest control team went in to get rid of them but could you ever really feel comfortable there again? What if they missed one and it grew to the size of a cow? And it’s not just the look of them, they are apparently one of the most venomous in the world.

The article said:

“However, the spiders that invaded the Taylor’s home were only baby spiders and for the time being did not pose any major threat to the family as the baby spiders are unable to open their jaw wide enough to bite a human.”

It’s the last bit that makes me shake me head. Jaws? ….5 eyes?….8 legs? Also notice the line there “And for the time being did not pose any major threat”….That sounds like a threat in itself. For the time being my arse.

My mate Wolfie told his spider hating kid sister when she was little that spiders come out at night, sit on the bedroom furniture and just watch you sleep ha-ha.

The Regime of Destitution

Apart from Spiders, golf and the man from Southwark council who doesn’t know his standard lamps from his standing lamps I would also put in Room 101 the DWP reforms, or as the Housing Excellence article calls it “The regime of destitution”

The article was prompted by a new report from homeless charity Crisis, “Dashed hopes, lives on hold” which states:

“Too many are being punished for mistakes made by the Job Centre, or by the Government’s Work Programme providers.”

Don’t I know it. Whatever you may think morally of welfare reforms this monumental pigs arse of a policy is made all the worse by the legendary inefficiency of the DWP systems.

We all make mistakes but when the DWP makes one the person on the other end has nothing to live on while it gets sorted out. I get involved in these cases all day long.

So. Welfare reform, spiders, golf, …….spiders playing golf and Mr standard lamp. What goes into room 101 last?

Landlords as immigration officers

Well apart from David Cameron, a man who I couldn’t loathe more if he had 5 eyes I would say, in this housing version of Room 101, it would be the daft idea to turn private landlords into immigration inspectors. This ongoing wandering spider of an idea.

Remember, like Ms Taylor’s creepy crawlies the idea is “Too small at the time being to pose a major threat” but if the idea becomes law…………….

Red Brick covered concerns ably  saying:

“Harper (immigration minister) either has remarkable faith in or is staggeringly complacent about the measures which the Home Office says will address these problems.

There will be an advice service for landlords with a target turnaround time of up to 48 hours and a ‘code of practice’ which landlords are expected to follow. “

Too right. Ever tried calling Lunar House? I never get through, despite hanging on for 40 minutes at a time only to find I am through to the wrong person anyway.

Labour are sensibly calling for a pilot scheme before it gets introduced but it wont happen. All that WILL happen is that normal landlords will simply not let to anyone with a foreign accent for fear of getting whacked with a penalty if they get it wrong and the criminal underclass landlords will access this ready market like wasps on pint of lager.

Another thing for Room 101, both the criminal landlords and the wasps.

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the incredible complexities of immigration law will find it hard to shake the look of astonishment from their face at the thoughts of this latest piece of madness.

Anyway. I have a new settee to sit on and I’m never buying bananas again.

See ya next week.

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5 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #132

  1. Landlords as immigration officers….

    It’s not just anyone with a foreign accent, I have recently had a few possible tenant tell me they don’t have passport as they have never been able to afford to go on holiday outside of the UK.

    I am stating to think that ID cards for everyone was not that off a bad ideal…

  2. Really enjoyed the Cardiff training for housing officers, was excellent. Yep, coffee was in order at 3pm in preparation for the dreaded court forms :)

  3. Thanks Rowena. “The housing officer in court” is a difficult course to teach, based as it is on so much paperwork. The only way to do it really is to pepper it with anecdotes, jokes and real life stuff, otherwise it would be as dry as the Mojave desert.



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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