[Ben Reeve Lewis is handing out a few medals this week …]
I’ve been having an Olympic week over at my office, with more than a few of my usual suspects aiming for the gold medal in harassment and generally dastardly behaviour.
Ben’s Olympic week
Monday at 10am saw me attending an illegal eviction that had started late last Friday afternoon. The tenants, 2 women with small children managed to get their little kids to crawl back in through a small window and open the door so I could pick up on Monday morning.
The landlord turned up on Saturday, annoyed that they were back in the property and took away the electricity key and the gas card. Fortunately, because they had toddlers the energy companies got emergency replacements out to them but the landlord has still disconnected the boiler, so they have water but only of the cold kind. He is in my sights.
Wednesday saw me caught up in a case where a long-leaseholder became alerted to a possible problem with her electricity supply when the quarterly bill for the lighting in the communal areas of the flat block, which is normally £7 for each flat owner, dropped on their collective doorsteps, weighing in, like a Russian shot-putter at an impressive £17,000.
I called my contacts in the fraud team of a well know energy company who sent the disconnection relay team around and have discovered the landlord of the row of shops and accommodation opposite, stretching to qualify for the synchronised audacity championships, has managed to hotwire the supply from her communal parts to run the numerous properties he owns down the road.
Police support crime in the community
My week ended with a decent stab at the boxing title with the case of Mr E, a 60 year old man who returned home from holiday to find his locks changed and all his belongings in the flat. He went to the agent’s office to find out why and they asked him to step into the back office to discuss it where he was promptly punched twice in the face. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he went straight to police to report the assault and was told it was a civil matter.
Letting Agent 1: Justice 0:
The reason Mr E was chucked out was because he withheld his rent before going away because after 11 months the landlord had refused to carry out any repairs, including the ceiling that was brought down when the flat above leaked.
Still, another day another dollar in the land that Shapps forgot eh?.
Rent strikes in Baltimore
Maybe he would have had better luck had he lived in Baltimore where tenants have a rent strike system for dealing with disrepair. This article, in an American newspaper, talks of Escrow accounts that tenants use to put their rent in until the landlord does the repairs. Escrow accounts are ring-fenced holding accounts similar to those being promoted by credit unions to deal with LHA payments.
Attorney Kirk Arthur of ACORN, Baltimore’s rent strike programme said:-
“Putting rent in escrow forces the landlord to make repairs if they want to collect rent,”
The difference is, in the US the rent strike is administered by the court and only the courts can sanction the release of the rents, and only then when the landlord has done the works.
Before you get excited that Baltimore sounds like tenant heaven the article also points out that landlords there can sue for arrears once the rent is a day late and they don’t have to serve notice. And if that isn’t bad enough, possession claims only cost the landlord $9 so Baltimore is eviction capital of the USA.
ARLA and the RLA would be beside themselves wouldn’t they?
Decent homes standards for the PRS?
While we are talking about property conditions, I read that former treasury minister Kitty Ussher published an essay through the Fabian Think-Tank this week posing the question of whether PRS landlords should have to meet the same decent homes standards that social landlords have to. In the Guardian she is reported as saying:-
“If they are unable to do so, they should hand over long-term management of their property to a social letting agency in return for a fixed, lower rate of return. The social lettings agency could raise funds on the open market, allocate on the basis of need and have a more supportive, community-based relationship with their tenants”.
I like your thinking Kitty but I think for ARLA and the RLA office its Baltimore 1; Fabians 0. Meanwhile we go over to MP Jeremy Hunt at the Stratford Stadium on the night of the opening ceremony where a little Freudian slip was missed by so many in an interview with the BBC when he said:-
“It was a great show. It was lovely to remember the Windrush generation and also to remember the NHS”
“Remember” the NHS Jeremy? Oh dear, bronze medal for you there, or is it just Andrew Lansley scripting you?.
Britain can’t build enough homes says Shelter
Back on the parallel bars those playful scamps over at Shelter have been busy producing reports again. This time on the housing market, arguing on Housing Excellence, that “UK Market is incapable of delivering enough homes”
They argue that a combination of the fixed amount of land in the UK married to the planning system and the long lead in times before homes get built means we have a system that just doesn’t work.
Shelter’s Campbell Robb, who is fast becoming the Usain Bolt of housing sound bites said:-
“Britain’s housing shortage has pushed up house prices to the point where an entire generation is struggling to afford a home of their own. With house building at record lows, all political parties need to tackle this issue head on and set out a long-term strategy that not only boosts supply now but ensures future generations have the homes they need.”
I’m not taking the mick here either. I think Mr Robb says some very sensible things.
New career path beckons for Shapps :
Finally the triple gold of the week for making me laugh out loud goes to, you guessed it, Grant Shapps. Featured on his own website getting down with the homies.
First we had his pointless gesture of solidarity for the homeless by spending the night in a sleeping bag (so he must really know what it’s like for them then). Now he has expressed his solidarity and support for postman the world over by treading the streets of his constituency with another Grant, this time a postman so he could see what it was like to be, well, a postman.
Our Grant said :-
“Joining our local postman, who has delivered in Hatfield for 27 years, on his morning round, gave me a great opportunity to see the work that goes into delivering mail six days a week”.
Er Grant, did you not figure that one out? You walk around and put things through people’s letterboxes.
Just for the record and in case you missed it, street sleepers have nowhere to live night after night, they live in despair and misery, fearful for their safety and depressed that they will never be able to break out of poverty and homelessness.
Your job as housing minister is to do what you can to stop that, not drive up street sleeping by 38%. But obviously you know that having spent a night out yourself.
I saved the best quote until last, from the luckless Postie Grant Gray who said:-
‘We met some dangerous dogs (Oh I wish) and encountered some low letter boxes. It was a real pleasure to have the housing minister with me and if he ever fancies a career change he would make a fantastic postman!’
The last 6 words says it all Mr Gray.
Ben Reeve Lewis
Ben’s runs Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties, 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.