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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #138

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis has had a shock ]

Right, I’ve recovered from last week’s shock  – Jamie being on the same page as Renter Girl – and attack my column with renewed vigour.

Ben on the Telly

I was disappointed at how few people in my office watched me on BBC1’s Inside Out programme on Monday night (BC iplayer here for seven days )

I was talking about the epidemic I am seeing with gas and electricity fraud among some of our dodgier landlords.

I also did Radio London in the morning, ‘You and Yours’ on Radio 4 at lunchtime and narrowly missed an invite to sit on the BBC Breakfast sofa because they couldn’t get hold of me, ironically because I was at a property arguing with a tenant about their own collusion with a landlord nicking supply and putting their lives at risk. Cheaper bills seemingly more important to them than their lives.

Hey ho.

Finding a flatmate

New to me this week was the concept of “Speed Flat Mating”,  like speed dating but for finding flatmate’s…..”Derrrrrr” as my daughter would say.

I’m intrigued by this development, having once spent 5 years living in Sanford Housing Coop, Deptford, where those unlucky enough to have a space in their house had to interview for 8 hours on a Sunday, such was the demand.

You start out polite and caring but by 7pm and several cans fo lager down, it tended to get a bit gruelling for all concerned, the men voting for the women they fancied and the women in the house doing likewise. So much for quality control, where personal hygiene takes second place over someone nice to look at over the cornflakes.

I doubt much has changed in the intervening years, human nature being what ti is but speed dating seems a more attractive prospect.

A report on Rising Damp

OK, fripperies out of the way let’s look at the big news item this week that has probably passed most of you by, the publication of the Institute for Public Policy Research on housing quality in the PRS, titled “Back to Rising Damp

I think the clue is in the title there. Not an uplifting read. Here are some of the highlights of their findings:-

“The growth of an under-regulated private rented sector (PRS) means that more state expenditure is directed towards property and services which it is unable to influence”…..Hmmmm

“Moreover, a third of privately rented homes failed to meet the Decent Homes criteria. There are serious challenges of quality and safety in this sector, which must be faced if we are to ensure housing is not a barrier to the health and prosperity of individuals and their families”……….OUCH!!!!!

“Addressing housing quality and support for tenants in the PRS in this way will not tackle the root causes of the housing crisis. However, it may help prevent an unregulated sector from exploiting people in need of housing”………KAPOW!!!!

But it isn’t all criticisms though, like all good reports it contains suggestions as well, although most Landlord Law Blog readers wont like them as they include recommending councils start using more licensing powers:-

“Better use should be made by local authorities of existing powers, such as the use of selective licensing, improvement notices, hazard awareness orders and demolition orders, to persuade private landlords to maintain their property to a good standard. We recommend that now local authorities have a ‘general consent’ to establish selective licensing arrangements, and don’ t have to apply to the secretary of state for permission, and that they maximise use of licensing procedures”………….WHAMMO!!!!!.

“We argue that community housing agencies should be established by local authorities using the General Power of Competence provision of the Localism Act 2011. These not-for-profit agencies would be dedicated to working within the private rented sector and would be responsible for operating a system of landlord accreditation, tenant matching and other management services.”……..OOO’ER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And all this by page 2.
My favourite is left for Page 13:-

“Market forces do not adequately enforce high-enough standards in less expensive PRS housing, due to an excess of demand for rental property at this end of the market.”

It would appear that the knives are out and this time not just the tenant’s rights groups or Shelter.

The Party of Hate

How much sway the IPPR has with government thinking is debatable but documents like this do feed cultural discussion, although I doubt that Camo or the current housing minister Kris wotsisname will be poring over it with interest, especially following comments made by Conservative minister Nicky Morgan this week, reported in the Mirror under the headline:

“Our party is based upon hatred”

Quite a few people telling it like it is out there this week it seems.

Mr Morgan playing nicely into Milliband’s limp hands when he announces:-

“If we talk about what we hate all the time, we’re not talking about we like and what we want to do to help people. We never say actually we are on the side of these people, we want this to happen and we think this is great.”

Couldn’t agree more Nicky and the Independent were sharpening the cutlery over the IPPR report, saying in their bye-line:

“Taxpayers’ money is going to private landlords who keep their housing benefit tenants in slum-like conditions”.

I read through the article looking for a “Yes, but”,…… there wasn’t one. I couldn’t even find any dissenting voices among the usual suspects of the Mail and Telegraph who seem mysteriously silent on the affair.


Speaking of the latter, Alex Proud wrote an interesting piece about his hatred of what he calls the “Hipsterfication” of London, by which he means previously downtrodden, working class areas being turned into trendy tapas bar style places

Alex helpfully tells us how to trend up an area:

“You find a previously unnoticed urban neighbourhood, ideally one that’s a bit down on its luck. Pioneer hipsters move in and coolhunters ensure it starts trending on Twitter.

A year later, the mainstream media notices and, for the next 12 months, the neighbourhood is byword for urban cool. Soon property prices soar pushing the original residents out, the bankers (always a trailing indicator) begin to move in and a Foxtons opens.

Finally, the New York Times runs a piece in which it “discovers” the area and the cycle is complete. The last hipsters move on and find a new neighbourhood to play with”.

Spot on Alex, this is exactly how it happens. I was born and brought up in Deptford by the docks at the bottom of the Old Kent Road, nearby East Dulwich where Frazzy and I live now was nothing special, until about 8 years ago, then the process you describe happened.

But do you know what? I LOVE IT. You can keep your scabby old London. Gimme gentrification any day.

See ya next week

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2 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #138

  1. That’ll be the very same think tank that last year seriously proposed compulsory voting at elections for young, first-time voters, enforced with fines?

    Forgive me if I don’t give much credence to their views.

    I was really disappointed to see you sell-out and relinquish your core principles for the sake of a few minutes of fame – where was the Hawaiian shirt?!

  2. Yeah that was my genuine question Jamie… much influence do their reports carry?

    Having said that, being a seasoned housing bod I can see a bit of a change happening in PRS discussion land and I see it. Councils are swinging Newham’s way and more than just Shelter et al are calling for regulation.

    As for the Hawaiain shirts……I got sick of doing 7 different TV shows and ending up on the cutting room floor of all of them. Nobody takes you seriously with a palm tree emblazoned on yer breast, but a sober grey jacket seems to do the job



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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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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