[Ben Reeve Lewis is now a published author …]
Funny how days can turn around isn’t it?
On Tuesday I met the mother of all jobsworths in a local county court. My client and her 6 month old had been illegally evicted.
I went with her to court to get an injunction for re-entry but we couldn’t get the proceedings for free without her benefit documents.
However, they were all locked up in the flat she had been chucked out of.
A public servant – here to help …
Normally you just sign an undertaking, promising to produce them once you get back in but the woman chomping her sandwiches behind the glass screen refused to let her do it, insisting on the proof of benefits before we could file the application.
I pointed out to her that we couldn’t get the documents because all her belongings, including her baby’s clothes were in the flat but she still insisted that the ‘Computer says no’.
I asked her why it is that the other court that I go to for inunctions understands this and always allows the application applying common sense. She did that thing where they close their eyes when replying and said “I can’t speak for what other courts do, only what we do”
The Card of Shame
I felt no embarrassment in playing the ‘Card of shame’, pointing theatrically to the by now weeping tenant and loudly informing the clerk that is was because of her that this poor woman and her baby were in a B&B with no clothes for and hoping that she was enjoying her lunch and do you know what? I think a little bit of got through.
She did look a bit embarrassed and took her sandwiches into a corner. Small victories but still with a homeless woman to deal with.
Ben’s book – partly
But then outside the court I turned my phone on to a blizzard of texts and emails about the launch of HMO Landlady’s helpful and humorous new book on renting HMOs being sold on Amazon Books – Renting HMOs SUSSED: 100 Pages of Personal Experience. (I’m reading it and will do a review soon – Ed)
HMO Landlady generously put me down as co-author but in truth I only wrote 1 chapter, but it was a nice counterpoint to the charmless court clerk and her cheese and pickle. The cheese being the sandwich, the pickle being her face.
My temporary high took a slight dip back at the office when I read Property Newshound’s piece on the likelihood of Grant Shapps being kicked up to cabinet. A prospect we have known about for some time but I’d forgotten about.
Missing you already …
Who am I going to have a go at every week now? Renter Girl, a fellow enthusiastic Shapps kicker tweeted me when she heard the news too saying;
“I’ll miss him. If he didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him”.
Fortunately there are a few candidates in the pipeline as pointed out by Property Newshound in his article “Who will take over from Shapps?”
A worthy replacement?
MP Stewart Jackson’s name has been suggested and my years of listening to Radio 4s Today Programme whilst ironing my Hawaiian shirts being laughed at by Frazzy who dresses in the bedroom listening to Capital FM have not been wasted.
“I know that name” I thought, and Googled him to find an article in the Telegraph where he admitted that some of his expenses were “Excessive” including maintenance work done on his swimming pool.
Despite the Telegraph highlighting his trivial £66,722 faux pas and Cameron claiming he was going to get tough on MPs abuse of expenses no action was taken against Jackson.
In 2010 his name hit the headlines again following daft twitter messages he had sent out blaming a rise in sexually transmitted diseases in Peterborough on sex education in schools. When he got attacked for his Victorian stance he tweeted:-
“Touched a raw nerve with shrill intolerant pro-sex education lefties who don’t like debating the issues. Wonder why not?”
So obviously he gets my vote for new housing minister. Writing a regular column is made so much easier with idiots like Jackson to feed you lines each week. Bring it on Stu!
Or what about a Lib Dem?
Property Newshound also points out that if things go really bad it is likely that a Lib Dem could get the post:
“If the coalition is unable to deliver the expected number of new homes and may simultaneously be unable to strengthen the economy sufficiently to encourage a rise in housing transactions and prices by an early 2015 election, David Cameron may give the portfolio to a Liberal Democrat to ‘fail’ and take the heat”.
And the daftest news of the week was covered in Inside Housing on the issue of the pilot scheme for seeing if housing benefit direct payments to social housing tenants will work or not.
Social sector direct HB payments success claim
All you PRS landlords reading this will know, you have had this rubbish to deal with for a few years now. What you might not know is that government plans to extend the scheme to council and housing association tenants too but unlike yo,u PRS landlords they can’t move away from benefit tenants, so what will happen to rent arrears?
In an almost endearing eagerness to show the world it will work, the first news has been publicised after just one, single week of operation, as if that is going to tell us all we need to know and astonishingly government are pleased with the result, citing the fact that 80% of people have paid on time.
80% is the new 100%
Now 80% might be considered a bit of a result when you know that 80% of your overdraft has just been cleared or 80% of your garage has been de-cluttered, or if you are a professional footballer and 80% of your goal shots are on target but an 80% collection rate on rent is a disaster to a social landlord.
The outfit I work for have a collection rate of 96% and recently reported that if it dropped to 92% they would be £1.5 million more in debt each year, which will affect business investment plans for the future, staffing levels and maintenance of properties.
By my admittedly rubbish calculations, if 4% represents £1.5 million to them, then 20% is around £7.5 million a year, a disaster by anyone’s standards that could well usher in bankruptcy.
And bear in mind that is only the result in the first week of the pilot. What if it drops to 50% by the end? How will they manage to spin that as an encouraging result?
Taking another angle if 20% of tenants under the proposed direct payments system don’t pay their rent then they are going to be facing repossession causing homelessness to rise exponentially.
Where will they all go?
The homelessness unit will deem most of them intentionally homeless and will refuse to help them, so where are they going to go?
Judges could on the other hand decline to grant outright possession for fear of making people homeless so how will the social landlords cope, not being able to recover the arrears? Its madness.
Mind you I would imagine that government plans have the full backing of Mrs Cheese and Pickle face at the county court, who also doesn’t seem to be able to understand arguments that contain more than 2 issues to address at any one time.
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.