[Ben Reeve Lewis is is eating jellied eels and loosing it a bit this week …]
Well last week I reported that housing stories were a bit thin on the ground, not because nothing was happening but most of the journos were still on Xmas leave and not a lot was being written.
Its all changed now and its business as usual in a week of foot in mouth gaffes, daft government pronouncements, floors made out of leather belts and haunted lighthouses.
My own week began on Saturday when Frazzy and I attended an 85th birthday party in an east end social club populated with proper old cockneys done up in their finest and joy of joys, a washing up bowl full of jellied eels as part of the buffet.
Fantastic, the kind of do you wont see much more of in future as a generation dies out, my particular generation of Londoners being more used to Samosas and Brie de Meaux than Tubby Issacs finest. Happy birthday Matt.
Well its been hanging about in the wings for sometime now but plans have moved forward to criminalise sub-letting of social housing stock. As reported in Inside Housing the government believes that 160,000 properties could be sub-let, costing the social housing world £5 billion. With what I see in my job I would guess that the 160,000 could be a conservative estimate to be honest.
Ben agrees but …
What’s remarkable about this story is that for once I actually agree with Grant Shapps, when he says
“Tenancy cheats are taking advantage of a vital support system for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and getting away with a slap on the wrist while our waiting lists continue to grow”.
Up until now, when a council or housing association finds out that a property has been sub let they take back the property but under the new proposals a fine of £50,000 or 2 years in jail will be the penalty.
Five stars for enthusiasm but only 2 for practicality. How are you going to get 50 grand out of anyone but a banker? And are we really going to clog up the prison system with ex council tenants?
Also, in my experience many offenders are very good at staying off of anyone’s radar. I know, I have to try and take legal action against them when they start harassing their sub tenant out of the property for bringing the council down on their necks.
Shocking news on crisis loans
Prize for the most shocking news of the week, again reported in Inside Housing is government plans to pass the administration of Crisis Loans over to a councils instead of being run by the Department for Work and Pensions.
In short, Crisis Loans do what they say on the tin. It is a statutorily run fund available to people on benefits that they can get when experiencing a crisis. The rules for qualifying are quite tight and it is the most vulnerable and destitute of people who need them.
Twenty organisations have joined forces to write a complaint to the government over this latest rash attempt to cut budgets. At the moment the money for these loans comes out of the social fund but if it falls to councils to decide at a local level it will inevitably be subject to the council’s own budgetary constraints and political leanings.
Yet another austerity measure that hits the poorest in society. To my mind this story hasn’t received the profile it should, probably because for most people those in need of Crisis Loans aren’t part of their daily life so they aren’t aware of how devastating this could be.
Accidental landlords – again
ARLA ran an interesting story on their website this week. Apparently figures are showing that because so many people can’t sell their homes they are instead turning to letting. Creating a new swathe of reluctant landlords, the figure rising in the last year from 40% to 47%.
As usual with their articles ARLA’s approach is one of self promotion but the idea is interesting. As a serving Tenancy Relations Officer I see many cases of harassment and illegal eviction carried out by these reluctant or as they are sometimes also called ‘Accidental’ landlords by mistake.
Because being accidental they often haven’t the slightest clue of the laws and obligations surrounding a letting. They then get into hot water with me for breaching laws and with their mortgage company when not knowing how to deal with rent arrears causes a shortfall on their mortgage. Panic sets in and rash behaviour shows up.
I suppose there is a good side. We need more rental properties and the more there are on the market the supply will push rents down, hopefully.
Rents, rents, where are they going?
And on the subject of rents……you didn’t expect me to let a week go by without complaining about poverty inducing rents did you? Upad cites the Belvoir Rental Index (whatever the hell that is) which predicts that rents will stabilise in 2012 and not continue to rise faster than a hot air balloon with Kylie Minogue as it’s sole passenger.
The index suggests that rents will simply rise in line with inflation rather than the scandalous rates we have seen over the past two years. The article also cites the growth in accidental landlords unable to sell that were picked up by ARLA.
Loosing it …
What does annoy me is the most common double speak used in so many articles written on property, this particular example being;-
“join the growing number of people across the UK choosing to rent rather than buy a property”.
AAAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!!!!! When will these people get it???? Nobody CHOOSES to rent rather than buy. Nobody in their right mind would want to live in permanently insecure and crippling expensive rented property. Most people cant afford to buy, it isn’t their CHOICE!
Its alright….I’ve taken some pills and calmed down now.
[Er, Ben, some people DO choose to rent. In fact this bloke here chooses to live just in hotel rooms … Ed]
Two strange stories
Finally two strange stories of the week. The ever reliable and quirky Rat and Mouse ran a story about flooring made from leather belts. Have a look at the picture, it actually looks quite good, like a Jacobean parquet floor.
The 24 Dash told us all about a haunted lighthouse off of the welsh coast that the owner is looking for planning permission on to turn into living accommodation. It says that visitors to the area regularly see a ghostly old lighthouse keeper on the balcony. Or maybe its just someone sub-letting and keeping quiet about it.
You can imagine Shapps has got a clipping in his wallet about this that he gets out in the back of his limo between meetings and has instructed his assistant to find out how many abandoned haunted lighthouses there are around our costs that could be turned into living accommodation for the homeless.
As we all know benefit claimants are already being economically cleansed from inner London and now the rents in suburbs are rising to meet the influx, forcing benefit tenants further out into the countryside. If this plan comes off they can even be pushed beyond the coast and into the sea.
Imagine that? A whole nation of the dispossessed living in lighthouses around our coast, luring ships onto the rocks so they can raid the wrecks and pilfer stuff to sell on eBay and supplement their meagre universal credit payments.
Sorry………..I think I had too many of those calming pills as a read my morning Daily Mail.
I’ll be better next week.
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.