[Ben Reeve Lewis is having problems in the shower…]
Hot and cold shivers in the shower
Have you ever tried having a shower where the water alternates cold and scalding hot every other minute? That’s been the backdrop for my week as something has gone wrong with our boiler.
I jump in when it is cold enough to wash the shaving foam off of my freshly shaved bonce and when it changes to a temperature hot enough to smelt iron I scream and back into a corner waiting for it to go cold enough to step back in before it swings alarmingly back to the land of hyperthermia.
Frazzy gets in after me and I hear her alternating screaming with swearing. Trouble is we’ve both been so busy we have had no time to stay in for the repair man so this ridiculous dance continues.
Could rent control be good?
Getting a temperature balance right is important in so many areas of life. I read an informative piece in The Guardian Housing Network this week by Islington Councillor James Murray about the balance needed between the landlord’s need for a profit and the tenants need for security.
This seems to be a growing call from many areas.
One of the advantages of constantly surfing housing news stories, which I have been doing since I started this Newsround series, is that you see trends developing.
A month ago the only person commenting on the poor lot of tenants was Penny Alexander, on her Renter Girl blog and Guardian column of the same name but lately more voices are being raised, expressing concerns about run-away rents and lack of security.
James Murray’s piece talks of the spectre of rent control, citing the fierce restrictions that were in place before the introduction of Market Rents with the Housing Act 1988 that disincentivised investment in the PRS. However he suggests that there are different ways to control rent that aren’t so punitive.
This is called ‘Second Generation Rent Control’ and is operational in many countries, whereby the rent level is limited to the rate of inflation but landlords are given tax breaks to make up for it.
Ben to teach the lawyers
I’ve been interested in this all week. In December I am booked to do a presentation at a lawyer’s conference on the law as it relates to rent increases, and during my research for the notes was surprised to read that government in the UK introduced rent controls several times in the 20th century.
Most recently in 1972 when rents were capped for a short period as a counter-inflationary measure.
Most rent control was related to conditions thrown up by the two world wars and when restrictions were in place for too long, property standards started to decline as landlords lacked the funds to maintain them. So balance has always been a tricky point to find.
Shocking London rents rise
The tenants Information Service produced figures this week showing that London rents have risen a staggering 23% in the past 2 years Over the same period incomes have risen only 6%, so rents are running at virtually 4 times that rate.
I remember the recession of the late 1980s/early 90s where mortgage rates went up to about 15%, a paltry sum by today’s rent standards. That was bad enough but the effect then was on home owners not tenants. Everyone at that time sympathised with borrowers. I was one myself back then but few seem to be sympathising with tenants up until now.
Is ‘supply and demand’ an excuse for profiteering?
I am communicating regularly with several good landlords who I respect greatly but we never find agreement on this matter, the vast majority of landlords simply citing the law of supply and demand, as if it is nothing to do with them, just an accident of fate.
I can’t help feeling that the uncontrolled forest fire of rent increases isn’t doing anything to help the image of landlords in this climate of low mortgage rates, in that it seems like profiteering rather than profiting.
My research for the upcoming presentation brought to my attention the case law of Bankway Properties Ltd v. Penfold-Dunsford where the landlord had set a rent review clause with stated rent increase from £4,680 per annum to £25,000.
Although pre-determined rent increases are perfectly acceptable the courts in this case took the view that the landlord was trying to trap the tenant into future rent arrears and overruled it. Cheeky bugger. [Yes that was an interesting case, the Judge used abuse of process rather than the Unfair Terms regulations – Ed]
And in the world of social lettings
Wandsworth council, who were the first and loudest to jump on the notion of evicting squatters in the wake of the riots, soon followed this with a pronouncement that they are going to re-jig their housing allocations policy to give priority to people who have been in work for the last 2 years.
This week they got all proactive again and launched their “Housing into Work” strategy. A scheme whereby new tenants could lose their home if they fail to look for work and this is picked up by ‘Periodic reviews’.
Now this is announced in the same week that youth unemployment has passed the 1 million mark. The Centre for Economic and Business Research predicting that unemployment will rise to 2.8 million by 2013 [Bah Humbug, I can remember when it was 3 million, and the population was less then – Ed] So how is that going to work then? If you get priority for a council house by being in work or lose it if you can’t find work?
Not so welcome in the valleys
Changing direction and driving across the Severn Bridge, it would appear that Wales is getting hit big time by the recession with a 300% rise in people facing mortgage repossession. Shelter Cymru’s Director John Puzey saying
“Many thousands of people in Wales are struggling with a toxic combination of rising living costs, high inflation and stagnant wages. All it takes is one misfortune such as illness or redundancy for people to find themselves in serious financial difficulties and at risk of losing their home”.
I do a lot of training in Wales, it’s a lovely place but I suppose you cant eat scenery as they say.
Finally a heads up to HMO Landlady for introducing me to a new blog that looks great fun “What Sam Saw Today”. A blog run by a property professional that highlights some more unusual aspects of the housing world. Worth keeping an eye on.
Pantless in Birmingham?
Right, me and Frazzles are off to Birmingham this weekend for a stay at the Hyatt hotel for a travel conference (she is in travel) So a decent shower with no fluctuating heat for 3 whole days.
Entertainment usually comes courtesy of failed X Factor stars. We have had the scary bleached opera singer Rhyddion and some faceless, cloned, shaven headed kid who the women threw their pants at last time, maybe, as a faceless, shaven headed middle aged man, flushed by a decent heating system and some free champagne I may throw my pants this year. Be warned, police may be called.
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben has started Home Saving Expert, to share his secrets to defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties and catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.