[Ben Reeve Lewis looks at licensing in London ..]
On Wednesday I attended a workshop on the future of London’s PRS on the topic of where councils are going with licensing schemes.
An interesting day of updates on current government thinking and local authority plans.
Two years ago I attended a similar event, attended by enforcement officers of all stripes who were all anti-licensing apart from one person out of the hundred delegates, and he worked for Newham so what do you expect.
But things have evidently moved on apace and we were informed that there is an estimated 21,200 licensable HMOs in London and only 5,550 licenses actually issued.
Most by, I’m sure you’ll guess, Newham.
Local Authorities and Licensing
A combination of the culling of officers who track down and enforce licensable HMOs following the two separate round of staff cuts that have taken place since the original meeting and the increasing popularity of licensing among chief executives and elected members meant that I didn’t hear a complaining voice in the room this time.
Even though some may simply have stayed silent because of the inevitability of future plans.
I’ll write in more detail in a separate piece but suffice to say, as Sam Cooke once sang “A change is gonna come”.
You’ll read it here first.
Estate agents Exodus?
Here’s an interesting one from Estate Agent Today. Apparently about 5,000 estate agents have left the industry in the past 12 months, with a further 16,000 getting into other areas of property.
Being in the business as it were, albeit from the other side, I notice estate agent boards in the same way that my dog notices cats from 50 yards away. The only difference being I don’t bark at estate agents, although I’m considering starting a trend.
And nary a week goes by when I don’t fall over a new one I haven’t heard of. In fact whilst working for Lewisham council I once sat down with an excel spreadsheet and began to compile a list of all agents in the borough. As I recall I got up to around 180 and lost interest.
The PRS in London has doubled in the past 10 years and given rise to its service industry as well, so what I wonder, is the cause of the exodus?
One commentator suggests it could be the back bedroom operators who never had a clue what they were doing in the first place and failed to jump start their business. This could be a reason. I doubt there is a single cause.
My instinctual guess is that a large reason for these figures is simply a bit like net migration, as some people leave others come in, just a regular turnover. We would need to look at how many new ones started up in the same time frame to get an accurate picture.
That might explain why I keep seeing boards erected by new players, despite the reported ancient ceremony of the throwing in of the towel.
Fergus Wilson in the news
Kent landlord Fergus Wilson has been in the news again this week, proving that he is fast becoming the Eric Cantona of the PRS when he blames Maidstone Borough Council for taking him to court over unpaid council tax on properties that are still occupied by tenants:
“We have no weapons of mass destruction so we cannot destroy them’. It’s the same situation here. We are saying ‘we have tenants in these properties, come and look,’ but the council doesn’t do it.”
Says Eric, sorry………Fergus.
Never mind WMD, this is more a case of WTF?
Fergus on Right to Rent
He has also surprising more people when he says that the right to rent doesn’t go far enough in punishing landlords who let to illegal immigrants, saying landlords who break the rules should have their property confiscated.
Fair enough but before you think Fergus is taking the moral high ground a little chink appears in the façade, when he says:
“We are at full capacity so there is no incentive for us to put in illegal immigrants”.
So if he wasn’t at full capacity or there was an incentive, would he let to illegal immigrants?
Mind you, that’s not the only thing he has been in the press for, the other being raising rent on his Maidstone properties from £900 per month to £1,200, a whacking 30% solely for his legal Eastern European tenants of whom he says:
“Most of the demand is from migrants who are willing to pay higher rents than other local residents”
So having jacked up the rents by a third, which he acknowledges poorer Kent resident can’t afford he goes back into Cantona territory by announcing:
“It has passed crisis point in Maidstone. We have a housing disaster on our hands. Gobbling up the countryside is hardly the answer, but where do the people go displaced by east Europeans?”
Er……Fergus…….you are the one displacing local residents with Eastern Europeans?!?!?!
I suppose you have to give him credit for feeling sorry for his Kent tenants as he is offering them a solution:
“I will not be asking them to leave but will serve them with a Section 13 Notice to increase the rent so that they have the opportunity to move to another landlord should they wish. That is if they can find a house of the same quality and a price they can afford”.
Raising the rent to a level beyond which people can pay, giving them the ‘Opportunity’ to look for somewhere else.
Thank God there’s a safety net.
As Tom Hanks’s character in Saving Private Ryan says “Things have taken a turn for the s.urreal”.
Ant talking of surreal, have a look at these The things billionaires do with their garages.
Most of us have a few tins of paint and an old bike or two but not this lot, whose side editions look more like car showrooms than somewhere you have been promising your wife you will sort out for the past 5 years as it gets increasingly hard to open the car door without dislodging your daughter’s doll’s house, even though she is now 27.
£20 million for a garage? I know landlords who would have 30 families living in one of those.
The Telegraph article tells us of their car’s youthful rich owners:
“When they’ve finished tearing up town in the early hours, they will vanish into a marble-lined, air-conditioned luxury apartment somewhere in the West End where their every need will be serviced by a concierge – and so will the cars.”
Is that a seedy double entendre I spot there? Shame on you Telegraph.
What made me smile this week
Jeremy Corbyn. If there is such a thing as a ‘Corbynite’ then I am he, even though that sounds like a rock that could bring Superman to his knees, and that may just prove an accurate metaphor.
See ya next week comrades!