[Ben Reeve Lewis is laughing manically this week as he plans a defence against a rogue landlord …]
Its been that rarest of things, a fairly quiet week at work. Its given me time to catch up with some background stuff, like the delicious case of Ms M, who’s landlord illegally evicted her a month ago for rent arrears.
We got a locksmith to change the locks and got her back in. She came in yesterday brandishing a defence form for a section 8 claim he is making on the basis of rent arrears, blissfully unaware of the counterclaim we are putting together against him – cue demonic laugh.
He hasn’t protected her deposit either – cue more demonic laughter as the damages start stacking up.
I make no apologies for enjoying the process, nor for imagining in advance the look on his face when he comes out of court realising he owes her more than she owes him. The woman and her 2 toddlers returned from a family funeral to find the locks changed. She does owe him rent but its all part of a housing benefit cock-up and doesn’t give him the right to just throw someone out on the street, nor to ignore deposit protection laws that have been in place for over 5 years.
Section 21 frustration
I do have sympathy for landlords who try to do the right thing but through a combination of ignorance of the law and the arcane nature of much of the paperwork they lose their case, which is why my fevered eye alighted on an article in the Law Gazette this week, written by Judge Neil Hickman from Milton Keynes County Court who talks of his work on section 21 cases and the frustration he feels with the nonsense of the end date requirement of the section 21(4) a, that is used for ending periodic tenancies.
You see landlords? Judges may shoot your case down but it doesn’t mean they enjoy it, they have to follow the law too.
The Law Commission’s Renting Homes Project
What surprised me in the article was to read that way back in 2003 the Law Commission produced a report “Renting Homes”, in which they recommended dropping the end date requirement, bringing it in line with the section 21(1)b notice which doesn’t have to end on a specific day in order to be valid.
DJ Hickman (that’s District Judge, not Disc Jockey) said:-
“The implementation of the commission’s report as a whole is, of course, a political decision on which it would not be appropriate for me to express any view. But, writing as one who continually has to try to apply section 21 in cases brought by litigants-in-person, I suggest that this particular recommendation has no possible disadvantages and that its implementation is long overdue”.
I agree with him. Why is there no political will to deal with housing issues at a grass roots level by successive governments?
The article is well worth a read for those of you with legal leanings as he also sets out a number of daily problems he encounters as a judge that let you see why S21 claims are often legally more problematical than they would first appear (thats why this book is essential reading 😉 – Ed).
On a lighter note I always look forward to new articles by HMO Landlady. Not only does she always make me laugh, but her affection for her nutty tenants always shines through and she didn’t let me down this week with her latest blog entry on her tenant who has just returned home from prison.
Running HMOs must be the most difficult arm of being a landlord and she gets as frustrated and fed up as anyone would, but she deals with it by almost treating them like family and for their part they seem to respond in the same way, albeit falling off the wagon from time to time.
I have long thought that you need to run HMOs totally differently from other accommodation and that the best way is to be very hands on with it. You have to show you are managing the property all the time otherwise the house will descend into power squabbles between the sharers and small incidents blow up out of hand without someone to have the final say. HMOs are no place for democracy if they are to be happy houses.
Women’s Refuges’ threatened
While HMO Landlady is being warm and cuddly Lord Fraud (damn this sticky keyboard) continues to be cold and dead while he pushes ahead with welfare reforms in the face of many experienced and knowledgeable people shouting “DISASTER AHEAD”, at him.
Inside Housing this week ran a story about how cuts in the way benefit will be paid next year could see the closure of many women’s refuges . The proposed new system will eradicate 13 different types of occupancy charge that housing benefit will be paid on. The articles lists:-
“Maintenance of communal gardens, fire safety equipment, communal heating, lighting, lifts, door entry systems, children’s play areas, white goods, furniture and rubbish collection”.
All essential for the running of these communal units.
The refuges are calling to be exempted from these restrictions. A spokesperson for the Department of Works and Pensions said:-
“Frankly we don’t give a s**t”
….damn this sticky keyboard, sorry, he actually said:-
“claims that refuges will close do not take into account plans for new funding arrangements under the benefits system, which will be announced ‘in due course”.
A climb-down maybe? Hmmmm.
The return of sale and rent back
And for another alarming development I read on Estate Agent Today, the report that the Sale And Rent Back monster has risen from the dead.
SARB deals as they were known was the practice of investors targeting people facing mortgage repossession, desperate to get out of debt and buying their home off of them for a discount on a promise to leave them in the family home as tenants. Obviously as Assured shorthold tenants so they could be oiked out when the desire to sell on came up, so they lost the home anyway, all they did was lose loads of money and buy time.
Roundly criticised across the housing and financial world it got regulated out of existence earlier this year by the FSA, at which point there was only 1 official firm still doing it anyway – the practice having long ago morphed into Lease Options, a more ethical version.
The National Association of Estate Agents highlighted a growing number of websites offering relief to desperate and vulnerable home owners. The NAEA’s Mark Hayward said:-
“The tough economic conditions mean that in some cases sellers are pressurised into making quick decisions to sell their property. They sign the contract at an agreed price only to find that they are offered a vastly reduced rate just before the sale. In a highly pressurised situation it is understandable that many people accept these last-minute lower offers.”
The tactics Mark refers to means the seller, crushed by the last minute defeat will accept anything to get the feeling of relief back and cave in to sell at the price the SARB investor had in mind all along.
In the parlance of this shabby and unpleasant industry desperate people are called “Motivated sellers”, don’t you just love the human friendly jargon?
There’s a word in biology for living organisms that feed off of host organisms, its called ‘Parasite’. In most cases the parasite kills off the host before moving on to suck the life out of another luckless organism. A bit like Lord Fraud….Damn this sticky keyboard.
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.