[Ben Reeve Lewis discusses dogs]
A dog’s life
I bought my first dog 3 years ago. The main reason preventing me doing so for such a long time was simply getting my head around the frankly bizarre notion that it would involve handling dog poo.
The squeamishness long gone, I am now transformed into a modern version of a Victorian health-nut dispassionately and scientifically obsessed with texture and frequency of bowel movements. Professor dog poo’ if you will.
So I was overjoyed this week, as an obsessive home cook, to discover a cookbook for dogs that allows you to closely monitor what goes into your pooch’s stomach and as a consequence, what comes out.
A lot of which is basically the same stuff you would eat yourself but with added herbs and seeds that you wouldn’t, unless you fancy seaweed and flaxseed with your chicken.
I’m busy experimenting with peanut butter and buckwheat ice pops and porridge and salmon balls, in between fielding calls from distressed tenants having their gas meters removed by nut-bag landlords and a family of 4 renting a room behind an estate agents for £1,500 a month that wouldn’t even fit into my bathroom.
The continuing saga of rogue agents
So I was intrigued to read this week a report by London Assembly member Sian Berry on the parlous lack of enforcement action by the capital’s local authorities in tackling rogue agents like this one.
It seems that rogue letting agents have the most to fear if they operate in the boroughs of, Islington, Newham, Camden and Kensington and Chelsea. K&C as it is abbreviated to but referred to as ‘KFC’ by most I know.
These boroughs seem to be the only ones who have actually fined rogue agents for sharp practices and non-compliance with the various rules imposed upon them but even when added together the total amount of fines levied since May 2015 comes to a measly £66,000.
The size of the problem
I spend most of my days dealing with agents in the frame and the vast majority have no form of compliance whatsoever.
Working with different local authorities as I do I know the reasons for the absence of robust action, it’s the size of the problem.
Every penalty requires masses of paperwork, not only by the officer concerned but the council’s legal team as well and both have masses of other tasks to be getting on with.
It is easy, as I have suggested to councils I work with, to get people to target agents and compile evidence and dossiers. It can be done with a small crew in all boroughs over 2 or 3 weeks but then you dump a year’s worth of work onto someone else’s desk, which just isn’t practicable.
Let’s hope, as the Housing and Planning Act gets into gear this year that the thinking changes on where to concentrate resources, especially now we can keep the cash.
Where is best to invest?
Moving over to where landlords might be looking to invest I was surprised to read that London is currently showing the lowest rental yields at only 4.4% and that conversely, the best yields are to be found ‘oop north’ or in Northern Ireland at 7% and 6.5% respectively.
Not surprising is that London and the south east still top the tables in rent levels which are double the UK average, evidenced by the position of my family of 4 living in the converted back office with asbestos issues, of the estate agents I mentioned earlier, who seem to be paying the London average rent of £1,591.
Changing direction, I find myself becoming somewhat irked by the term ‘Generation Rent’ lately. It seems to be becoming a lazy and misleading tag on which to hang the concerns about the housing crisis.
Whilst the people who constitute the social phenomena known as generation rent have my genuine sympathies their woes are exacerbated more by the financial system than the rogue landlord factor, in that their home-ownership aspirations, so beloved of politicians, are merely thwarted as opposed to being part of a social group exposed daily to harassment, illegal eviction and slum properties.
Landlord Today ran the latest piece shoring up the difficulties of generation rent but working in rogue landlord enforcement I don’t see these people, just those at the arse-end of renting life, which is an entirely different social ballgame.
Low prospects, low aspirations
People with aspirations of their own but with few prospects, often working just as hard as people in the generation rent camp but for less money and as a consequence with even less choices and it’s the ones with the less choices that are exploited by the types of people who look to crop-farm people with limited choice as the easiest to push around.
Their main aspiration being simply, to not get chucked out.
A colleague of mine working in a London authority told me the other day that since a recent organisational shake-up they had been more successfully targeting slum properties and as a result pushing up incidents of harassment and illegal eviction as rogue landlords and agents attempt to get rid of possible witnesses to their rental income stream (upon which they are paying no tax) and to avoid sanctions for licensing and planning breaches.
Then and now
Generation rent live at a higher level on Maslow’s hierarchy of human need.
I might uncharitably suggest that 10 years ago, the people dubbed Generation rent, upwardly mobile 20 to 30 something people with reasonable incomes, perhaps even, I again uncharitably suggest, working in media jobs – might have been home-owners by now, with little interest in reporting on the lives of families living in asbestos-ridden back offices of unregistered estate agents, like my clients.
A different form of Nimbyism perhaps, which I would like to read less about thank you very much.
What made me smile this week.
I’m not a gadget freak, either in the kitchen or the guitar department but I am overjoyed to have purchased a Boss RC3 Loop Station to advance my guitar practice.
Gone are the days of dryly repeating the Minor Pentatonic Blues scale to embed the system into your head so you can emulate Lee-Hooker, BB King, Clapton, Bonamassa etc.
The RC3 allows you to record your own backing tracks that you can improvise over to your heart’s content, turning boring scales into creative prospects, whilst simultaneously speeding up learning and skills.
- Salmon balls and oatmeal with flax seed to firm up a dog turd….
- interspersed with cooking genuine dinner for me and the Frazzster….
- fielding complaints of harassment and illegal eviction….
- constructing skeleton arguments to defend possession proceedings in court…
- obtaining injunctions against landlords for dire crimes…..
- writing pieces for Landlord Law Blog
- Finding time in between to use my RC3 to learn Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan
- And my newly discovered gem “the Healer” by John Lee-Hooker with Carlos Santana
To quote Pete Atkin on his ‘Road of Silk’ album, “Sometimes my life seems like a friend of mine”.
Weird as it seems, it floats my boat. I ain’t rich but my life works.
See ya next time