[Ben Reeve Lewis is going to Gleneagles ...]
I’m going to Gleneagles this weekend.
Frazzy, who runs her own business travel consultancy franchise has won an award and the ceremony is at the infamous hotel, all expenses paid by her travel concern….but only for one, not two.
So while she swans it with a tiara on her head and Michelin star food I am staying at a local B&B, having dinner in the bar in Gleneagles (Pizza £9.85) and finding a way to gatecrash the event so I can see my baby get the award she has coveted and struggled towards for 5 years.
Plan A at the time of writing is for her to give me her entry pass and text me just before she goes up for the award so I can walk in like I’m part of the event and get the snaps for the family album.
If that doesn’t work it’s Plan B and I’ll do that ceiling-wire entry like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.
I was a bit irked this week reading posts on a couple of landlord forums that turned into some quite ill-informed rants against councils, so I thought I would kick off with a nice bit of government red tape bollocks that would amuse you as well as providing an insight into the kind of nonsense us council bods have to deal with each day that government impose upon us.
In case you didn’t know, tenants claiming housing benefit can get a top up from a thing called Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). The official guidance notes for council officers making the assessment published last year by central government say it can be granted using two determining criteria, “Further Financial Assistance” and “Housing Costs”.
So far so simple.
The guidance notes are helpfully divided up into sub headings in the form of questions, so the first thing you look for is the definition of ‘Further financial assistance’. The guidance says:-
“There is no definition of the term ‘Further financial assistance’ in law”.
Helpful then. So what does the guidance say about ‘Housing Costs?:-
“Housing costs are not defined in the regulations”.
Great. So the way a council officer calculates a tenant’s eligibility for DHP is based on two things that don’t exist.
George Orwell couldn’t have written better.
Before any council bashers out there stick the boot in bear in mind that by and large we just implement the crap that Westminster gives us.
Where to go for a bit of cheery sanity? Planet Property an old favourite of mine who this week gave us the alarming news that kitchens are disappearing from London’s shoe box homes as people’s eating and cooking habits change.
Estate Agents Marsh & Parsons have been noting the fact that their clients are prioritising living space above kitchens. Director Charles Holland commenting:-
“Londoners today are increasingly following in the footsteps of New Yorkers, preferring to eat out and meet friends in a restaurant than host dinner parties. As such, kitchen size is no longer as important to many young professional buyers, and is often at the bottom of the pile in property wish lists”.
Personally I think this says more about Marsh & Parsons customers than real people.
London may be going through a massive gentrification process as the poor get pushed out to the country but for the vast majority of the capital’s 12 million inhabitants a shared meal is more Domino Pizza than a night out with Heston Blumethal.
Speaking as an obsessive home cook who even makes his own tomato ketchup (yes I am that sad) I think it has more to do with Lidl’s and Aldi’s value microwave meals than a preference for haute cuisine.
The people I know don’t choose homes for living space but for places they can afford without being made homeless. A nice kitchen is simply a bonus.
Being a housing bod I tend to notice things like estate agents boards. I point them out to Frazzy on the drive into work and pronounce from the passenger seat with an accusing finger, “Crook!……money laundering!…….that one is going bankrupt!……the boss of that one has just come out of nick!…..drug dealer!”.
That’s my world I’m afraid. I meet with cops and revenue protection officers all week, we swap information, I know their backgrounds.
So I wasn’t surprised to read on Rat & Mouse that mysterious boards have been springing up in gardens around Islington and Stoke Newington saying “Estate agents, everyone hates you”.
Even to my jaded eye that’s a bit harsh. I know some great ones as well as the crooks but it is a measure of how little trust people have for the industry.
Beware of the suits
I know that most of you wince at the word “Regulation” but lack of regulation coupled to a burgeoning market has brought an army of criminals and nutters forward that I just didn’t see when I first started in this business.
Personally, and I am being perfectly serious here, I think it’s the suits.
I spent a very short while of my life as a letting agent. At the induction course, for which we were all instructed to wear suits, we were told how important they were to convey a professional veneer.
I offered up a personal opinion that everyone I knew thought suits were a sign that a person definitely shouldn’t be trusted. Several others nodded their agreement.
The experienced letting agent running the seminar looked absolutely gobsmacked. This thought had never once occurred to him, that there may be a completely alternative perception of it by customers.
He rejected our hypothesis but two months later I had the chance to reject his when he was prosecuted for money laundering and theft of tenant’s deposits to float his dodgy concern only very narrowly avoiding a prison term from a judge who was obviously a regular at the restaurant the guy owned.
I rest my case and sit typing this in a my standard Hawaiian shirt, jeans and Adidas classics, an outfit I regularly appear in front of judges with without them batting an eye-lid.
As Groucho Marx once said “If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made”
Universal credit? What universal credit?
Finally Inside Housing informed us of stuff I already knew, that the benefit claiming public have no idea what is about to befall them in terms of universal Credit.
An NLA survey found that only 10% know what it is and how it will affect them.
I regularly train tenants and of the 20 souls in the room I am lucky if I get 2 who have even heard of it. When I explain, they look horrified.
NLA chair Carolyn Uphill said:-
‘If tenants don’t fully understand what universal credit is or haven’t even heard of it, more and more landlords will lose confidence that letting to this market is financially viable, especially with the high demand and availability from other types of tenants.’
I couldn’t agree more Carolyn. So where are these people going to go? To the homelessness unit of the council, or “Dahn the ‘omeless’ as they say in London, where we all will be paying through our tax and council tax.
They don’t disappear, we just pay for it in a different way.
I totally understand why landlords would reject people in this position and I don’t expect any of them to be charities. The problem lies with IDS and his rubbish universal credit project.
The article goes on to quote the buffoon saying:-
“The roll out of universal credit may miss its 2017 deadline. “
No shit Sherlock?!?!?! ……It aint gonna happen is it? The whole thing is falling apart and I’ll be the first person to laugh my arse off….or ‘LMFAO’ as they say on Facebook.
See ya next week, after I’ve gate-crashed Gleneagles.