Spring Cleaning or run a Marathon?
Have you ever put off clearing out that garage or store cupboard for years only to find when you apply yourself it only takes a couple of hours?
I did our spare room on Sunday and saw the floor for the first time since we moved in.
Mind you, my back now feels probably like the bloke who did the London Marathon dressed as a Gorilla not helped further by yesterday getting back from walking the dog to realise I’d left my keys indoors and having to climb through the bathroom window where I got stuck for 10 minutes until my neighbour pushed me through.
Is this a Scam?
An article in the Local Government Organisation caught my eye this week as I lay on the settee covered in Deep Heat typing this on a laptop.
A property letting scam I and several others have been working on for a couple of years now which the article erroneously calls the “Lockdown model”.
The article confuses the scam with the ‘London Lockdown Project’ an information sharing forum among several London authorities started by myself and a colleague in 2015 to track the activities of a particular investment dodge.
Family homes of 3 or 4 bed size are bought for cash and then converted into 6 -7 micro studio flats jacking up the rental income by around 100%, in breach of planning laws that in London usually stipulate that this can’t happen because of the dire need for family homes.
The scam being that the rooms have 2 ring cookers in them and a shower, making them self -contained whilst arguing to the council that this is what is called ‘permitted development.’
Is it or isn’t it?…….
However, the houses also have a communal kitchen and if the planning teams get wind the landlords take out the 2 ring burners and argue it’s a shared house and planning is not required but this then has a knock on effect in that then the tenants are only entitled to the shared room rate of Housing benefit.
The cat and mouse game goes on forever, utilising appeals and complaints procedures and when the game is finally up, the managing company wash their hands of it and hand back the now illegally converted property to the hapless owner, to whom they promised a fantastic return on investment.
…and there’s more….
This last piece of the jigsaw was explained to me by the researcher on last year’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme on the scam, which I was the consultant for after he had interviewed several disgruntled landlords.
The management company having walked off into the sunset, pockets bulging.
The old maxim ‘Where’s there’s muck there’s brass” needs changing to “Where there’s a Baby Belling there’s brass”.
More powers to tackle rogue Landlords
I’m going to do something now that may cause regular readers here to drop their tea mugs, so sit down and move the cat out of the room lest you fall over. I am going to agree with the conservative party on tackling rogue landlords whilst simultaneously expressing reservations about Labour’s announced plans.
Get your Ventolin inhaler out…..I’ll give you a minute…….
Landlord Today reported on Labour’s announced “Consumer revolution” manifesto pledge when it comes to tackling poor properties and rogue landlords.
A full toolbox for enforcement officers
Housing Minister Gavin Barwell commented that the Tories had introduced more powers to deal with the problem than Labour ever did and I absolutely agree, being one of the people whose job it is to employ those powers.
The last 2 years have seen a raft of different laws and regulations introduced for poor properties, rogue landlords and letting agents. Many of these new powers need testing in the field and like any new laws will need tweaking and adjusting but there is quite a toolbox for us enforcement types now.
It is going to be up to the local authorities to step up to the plate and start using them proactively but it is happening, I’m probably unique in that I work in several London boroughs at once so I see what is happening and work with the men and women who do the jobs.
Labour’s plans are for electricity safety certificates, which is something I do agree with and what looks to be the old Karen Buck Bill of properties being fit for human habitation. Again I’m in agreement but Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey states:
“People have fewer rights renting a home than you do buying a fridge”.
A triumph of soundbite over reality there John and I would point the honourable gentleman to:-
- The Law of Property Act 1925,
- The Protection from Eviction act 1977,
- The Housing Act 2004,
- the Deregulation Act 2015,
- the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
I could go on…..
An old scam
Shelter have finally caught on to a scam that has been going on for years – that of rental rip-offs, wherein people posing as landlords take rent and deposit off of prospective tenants only to do a runner.
As with dodgy conversions, this is the sort of thing that TROs like myself and housing enforcement types of all stripes deal with constantly. The problem is huge and widespread and that is only the ones we hear about, not, I would imagine the quite likely, significantly higher number of scams that go unreported.
A fact picked up on by Shelter when they say:
“But our research makes it clear that most instances of rental fraud go unreported to the police. Victims may be too embarrassed or just don’t think they stand to get the money back”.
They propose a ban on holding deposits being taken but dealing with these cases day in day out I would suggest that this would have no effect whatsoever on the perpetrators of the scam. The entire basis for what they are doing is illegal and they know it. An extra law won’t make a happeneth of difference to them.
I would make 2 suggestions of my own….
- Enforce penalties against websites that allow these shysters to advertise the properties, and you know exactly who I am talking about here.
- Secondl, educate the renting public to carry out Land Registry checks before they sign on the dotted. It’s £3 and takes 30 seconds. Find out if the person who says he is the landlord is actually the landlord.
Even public access to this year’s promised rogue landlord database wouldn’t help. These fake landlords being creatures of the night largely, the holding deposit plan only being useful if you can name and find the person who takes it.
And finally…….what made me smile this week…..
Last week actually…. We got free hospitality tickets to Wembley for FA Cup semi, Arsenal against Man City. A lovely meal in the restaurant with splendid views over the people in the stands filing into the ground without the hospitality.
Arsenal won 2-1 in case you missed it and what a fantastic match as well.
See ya in a fortnight.