It’s my turn for the news post today and there are quite a few news items to tell you about, so let’s get started.
As usual, there are the Grenfell related stories.
Legal Aid for Grenfell Survivors
The first is that amendments have been made to legislation to ensure that “financial support provided to victims of Grenfell tower fire to pay for essentials can be disregarded when making financial eligibility assessments”. Which means it won’t affect their eligibility for legal aid. Should they require it.
And for what it is worth. This won’t help people who weren’t eligible for legal aid anyway or extend the scope of legal aid.
Have we all been unfair to Kensington and Chelsea?
Another, quite interesting story that caught my eye, is about Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) which has been roundly criticised for their treatment of ‘poor people’ when the borough has, allegedly, £274 million in reserves.
However, the Guardian has reminded us that in fact RBKC, along with most other Councils, have a deficit on their housing revenue account. Because housing revenue accounts were ring-fenced in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher – so that any other money a council has cannot be used to fund council housing.
So maybe we have been a bit unfair to them. Maybe.
Another related story, coming from Property Industry Eye, is about empty homes.
As you should be aware, we have a housing crisis – particularly at the moment in RBKC. This is accompanied by the fact that there are a large number of properties lying empty.
You may also remember that back in 2006 Local Authorities were given powers to make Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO).
Eye reports on research carried out by London agent James Pendleton which shows that Councils are not taking advantage of these powers and that just nine seizure applications were submitted in England last year compared with 200,145 long-term vacant homes.
In total, just 208 applications have been made since 2006, with 137 accepted. The most number of applications were made in 2012 – 41.
Kensington & Chelsea (of course) had the highest number of empty homes of any London Borough – 1,399 last year – and has made just one application since 2006.
The article goes on to consider what use could be made of these properties, including maybe renting them out to Property Guardians.
Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill
In the wake of Grenfell, Karen Buck has reintroduced her bill which aims to make it a legal requirement for rented property to be fit for habitation.
You can read the story of the bill on this Channel 4 FactCheck page.
It will be interesting to see how far the bill gets this time when public opinion is definitely with it.
Beware Pop Up Agents
An interesting article from Property Industry Eye today talks about the phenomenon of ‘pop up agents’ – firms which spring up, appear respectable, and then disappear taking with them their landlords and tenants’ money.
The problem is partly down to the ease with which letting agents can be set up with no requirement for licensing or any industry regulation. However, landlords are also at fault for not properly checking out agents before they use them.
So if you are approached by an agent whose terms appear to be too good to be true – be suspicious and check them out thoroughly.
Austerity and the Police
We are starting to see the results of austerity and the police with this story where fraudulent agent Timothy Shinners was prosecuted privately because police declined to investigate.
Fellow director Stephen Laycock brought the prosecution himself, using the private prosecution firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon (whose report on the case is here) with Laycock paying a large part of the costs himself (hopefully he will now get this back via the central fund).
Shinners was found guilty and is now in prison. But not thanks to the police.
Edmonds Marshall MacMahon quotes them as saying
“The police service has felt the brunt of the government’s austerity measures” and as a result of the force centralising its fraud investigation capabilities, “there are fewer police officers investigating reports of fraud at a time when the volume of fraud is increasing significantly” leading to “difficult decisions” which may not be “satisfactory to the victim”.
Be wary about ‘get rich quick’ schemes
If today’s newround has not put you off ever trusting anyone again, there is also this story about a claim launched in the High Court by over 40 Irish property investors who have lost substantial sums in a student let property investment scam. To quote the article
The Irish investors, who include Ireland’s former prime minister Brian Cowen, bought apartments at the height of the property boom for £240,000, only to discover that last year they were selling at around £72,000.
They are accusing legal firm Punch Robson Solicitors, which they say advised them, of negligence.
The development, Carr Mills in Leeds, was completed some 12 years ago. It went into receivership in 2011.
TDS issues new code
The TDS has this week issued a ‘recommended code’ of practice outlining the standards it expects of its members.
Michael Morgan, director of dispute resolution at TDS, said:
“Dealing with over 15,000 deposit disputes a year gives us an outstanding insight into what causes tenancy deposit disputes, and what can be done better to avoid them arising.
“With this in mind, TDS has launched the Code of Recommended Practice. It captures, in an easy to understand statement, those ‘best practice’ requirements which we would expect TDS members to follow in their dealings with tenancies and deposits.
What made me smile this week
This story from the Guardian about the new lower cost modular homes which will be produced next year from ‘ a vast new factory outside Leeds’.
This could help resolve our housing crisis. Lets hope so.