[Ben Reeve Lewis sees both ends ...]
Ever had a day of opposites?
On Wednesday morning I was up at 4:30 raiding properties with the UKBA Immigration Police. Parka hood pulled down low, supping a vital energy providing large Costa Latte on the doorstep in the freezing cold while the paramilitary lads in black rousted everyone and ensured we weren’t going to get shot or stabbed.
Only then do I step over the threshold and yawn my way through a number of questions to people yawning back in their pyjamas “Who do you pay your rent to? Where does he live?” etc.
Of course nobody speaks English, that’s why UKBA are there, but we found overcrowding, no fire doors, death trap conditions, the usual yada-yada.
The other end of the spectrum
Then in the afternoon the other end of the spectrum kicked in and I was at a meeting in swanky City hall, Parka on the back of the chair, stab vest stowed away but still nursing a large Costa Latte to get me through the presentations on different council’s rogue landlord projects, having been on the go for about 10 hours by then.
Newham were there of course but apart from them, the rest of us all complained about staffing, resources and the necessity for creative problem solving. Nice to meet kindred spirits.
One thing we are all cottoning onto that we didn’t do before, is working closely with HMRC who are becoming quite a fashion accessory for rogue landlord teams, but I think my lot are the only ones who take them along with us when we go knocking on doors.
Taxman cracking down on non paying investors
So I read with interest a piece in the Telegraph about an increase in tax receipts since announcing they are cracking down on buy to let investors not declaring rental income.
Mark Giddens of the accountancy group monitoring this upswing commentated:
“The change in the mood music at HMRC means that property investors are now firmly in the crosshairs for tax investigations,”.
HMRC estimates that there are approximately 1.5 million buy to let landlords out there but only 500,000 of them registered.
The crackdown has netted HMRC £136 million so far.
Nobody likes a tax man but as I have to go out with them I feel duty bound to yell “GO HMRC….YAAAAAAAAY!”.
Several years back I did a fair bit of training for the organisation Homeless-Link. A nice committed bunch of men and women with some pretty good ideas, so I noticed the launch of their new homelessness manifesto “Design by experience – The new manifesto to end homelessness”
Prisons and hospitals to find homes for their discharged?
What they are proposing is that government strengthen duties on organisations such as prisons and hospitals to do more to prevent homelessness as opposed to simply discharging people and expecting the council to do it.
Most already do though and the real root of the problem is having nowhere to put them once they get discharged.
Few PRS landlords are interested in getting involved by offering properties to a tenant group who may not be able to afford the rent and the social homes are increasingly getting sold under the ‘Son of right to buy’, to people who three years from now will offer them up as PRS properties, becoming landlords themselves.
(If this reported trend continues we will see a distorted version of Andy Warhol’s prediction, ‘In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes’ to “In the future everyone will be a landlord…….for 15 minutes”)
I digress…..Love Homeless-Link but I think expecting bed stretched hospitals in a crumbling NHS to do more to prevent homelessness or prisoners to stay on when eligible for release is not pointing the manifesto at the right place. Sorry guys.
Over the shoulder
I’m an inveterate reader of newspapers over people’s shoulders on the tube. Not because I have an aversion to touching newsprint but it’s a little humorous act of rebellion, as I know it makes many feel uncomfortable.
I love watching them subtly shift in their seat in an attempt try to shield the article without wanting to appear rude, although I have yet to muster the courage when someone is turning the page to say quietly “Wait…….I’m not finished”.
And so I couldn’t help seeing splattered all over the Metro, City Link and Evening Standard this week, stories of a property developer advertising a new development boasting “Fully private block with no social housing”
No social housing to put off investors …
The advert is to attract investors in Hong Kong to a proposed site in Abbey Wood South London.
London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson said, quite rightly in my book:
“Boasting about the absence of social housing in adverts for new developments shows that housing policy in London is about meeting the needs of wealthy investors, not about the needs of ordinary Londoners. At least this appalling advert is honest about it.”
Whilst Lawrence Martin on offending ‘Development Securities’ defended the choice saying the claim was made for “Technical reasons”. Said technical reasons being:
“Buy-to-let investors often ask if there is social housing as it can affect the level of service charges”.
Er……which is kind of Darren’s point don’t you think?
Snakes and the kitchen
My favourite mad story of the week came via 24 Dash with the fantastic headline:
“Snake concerns as Christopher Lee evicted for anti social behaviour”.
No not THAT Christopher Lee but never let the truth get in the way of a good headline.
Social landlords Liverpool Mutual Homes evicted tenants Mr Lee and partner Nicola Coghlan for threatening staff and contractors fitting a new kitchen, saying the works were upsetting his snake.
The article’s prose made the incident sound like something from the miners strike in the 1980s, saying the workmen had to form a ‘Human chain’ to protect themselves when Lee ‘Charged at them’.
I cant get that bizarre image out of my head. How the hell does anyone ‘Charge’ in a kitchen? Why didn’t Lee just ‘Take a swing’, or ‘Deliver a blow’?
Also, how does anyone form a human chain in a kitchen? They aren’t that big.
Ah well, that’s journalism I suppose.
What made me smile this week.
I’ve finally cracked the Blues minor Pentatonic scale, positions 1, 2 and 5 so can charge up and down the neck soloing like a true guitar god.
Also watched a perfect bootleg copy of the recent Brad Pitt film Fury which was damned good and so dark and depressing it made Private Ryan look like an episode of Are you being served?
Definitely one for the lads I admit but a bit of a classic of the genre.
See ya next week.