It’s a game of two halves
Four games into my local Man v. Fat league 5-a-side season and I’ve done my hip in. I twisted it trying to be clever, while our left back has done his hamstring and our goalkeeper his ankle.
It’s what happens when a bunch of over the hill, out of condition middle aged blokes run around for half an hour each week, convinced they are still 18.
I’m in the wrong half!
So I’m sitting on a cushion typing this, stinking of Deep Heat and in no mood for pleasantries. Who can I pick on?
I know, rogue landlords…. there’s a first!
The ‘Indy’ this week compiled a piece from the latest English Housing Survey
Presumably using information provided by local authority enforcement officers, that some £2.5 billion in housing benefit goes out every year to landlords running properties in what they term a “Non-decent” condition.
By which they mean properties:-
- Inadequate heating
- Outdated sanitation
- Serious disrepair such as vermin, dodgy boilers and faulty wiring
Obviously given my day job I’m interested in this. I go into these properties every day but in actual fact, in London, you find that 90% of the crappiest properties aren’t occupied by people on HB at all but by foreign nationals paying cash, usually with no receipts given.
I noticed rogue landlords swapping over to this market 4 or 5 years back when they evidently realised that benefit claimants meant ‘people inside the system’, which in turn means documentation and traceability, not to mention people entitled to claim homelessness and approach the council for advice who then turn into ‘Witnesses for the prosecution’.
In the worst areas the worst properties are occupied by people paying rent to the worst types of landlords and the worst kinds of agents, all too eager to exploit vulnerable people desperately cramming themselves into rooms in order to be able to afford the rents out of meagre earnings garnered through either cash in hand work (often with the same landlords) and zero hours contracts cleaning hotels for £4 an hour.
In London this is the real bad end of the rogue landlord market as people, like Dick Whittington, still think the streets are paved with gold. I suppose if you are a criminal landlord with a ready supply of migrant workers desperate to just get by – they are.
Right to Rent?
But what about right to rent I hear more than a few of you say. Get a grip.
We are talking about criminals playing the system who don’t give a flying fox about the law. Not ‘ordinary’ landlords.
This is organised crime, including people trafficking, not poor Mrs Miggs from Cheltenham who accidentally let to a turbaned man from Lahore, because she’d once taken a weekend break in La Rochelle and understandably thought they were both in France.
AirBnb get into the news again this week where the Daily Mail informs us that a New York landlord was fined $11,000 after his ‘Tenant’ crammed 34 guests into 9 rooms, stacking them up with bunk beds @ $85 – $115 per night. You can read about it here
Now I don’t know what the renting laws are in New York but the local council in the form of the grandly titled “Office of special enforcement’ served a notice to vacate as well as the fine. Presumably this is similar to a British prohibition order.
The laws and the enforcement job title may be different but the situation is the same as the UK, with dodgy people using AirBnB as a rental portal.
AirBnb responded to the Daily Mail saying:-
“All hosts, whether they are a home-owner or an official bed and breakfast, must affirm that they follow all safety laws and regulations.”
Oh thank god…..at least they are on the case, making clients promise to be nice.
That should sort it then. Problem solved.
Its all in the name
Personally I like the idea of being a ‘Special enforcement officer’. Sounds like it comes with a big gold badge, which the Americans always do rather well.
I’ve always hated the title Tenancy Relations Officer. Makes me sound all touchy feely, like some sort of therapist or mediator, which I can assure you I am most certainly not! Neither by job description nor by personal inclination.
A BIG penalty
Researching this story threw up another one from April that passed me by at the time but is worth mentioning for the size of the penalty, £222,000 confiscation order, £2,000 for building an illegal extension and legal costs of £11,649.
All whacked onto landlady Zoofshan Malik, who also has to wear an electronic tag for her sins.
Ms Malik ran local letting agents Emerson Knight Estates. God only knows who Emerson or Knight actually are. Maybe Ms Malik’s middle names.
Well done to Barking and Dagenham council there, but I was somewhat mystified by the comments of Councillor Laila Butt, who said:
“What makes matters worse is her connection to the estate agency – she knew the law and was intentionally exploiting people who find it hard enough to find property to rent at affordable prices”.
What on earth makes you think that letting agents know the law?
Some do, but just being a property professional is certainly no badge of quality in and of itself and understanding investments and tax implications doesn’t mean you know landlord and tenant law.
They are 2 different animals.
In a lifetime of engaging in argy bargy’s with dodgy landlords and agents, I have always noticed that the most seriously clueless and ignorant ones always say the same thing:-
“Don’t tell me the law, I know the law”
Before proceeding to trot out gobbledygook of staggeringly delusional proportions that sound like the draughtsmen of their fantasy legislation is Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
Staying with press releases
In a mystifying press release by councillors, I also read of the prosecution of a Leeds landlord (£29,000) for overcrowding.
Again, ‘big up the Leeds massive’ as they used to say but Councillor Debra Cooper announced:
“Our recently launched Leeds Rental Standard encourages self-regulation in the sector raising the standards of accommodation and inspiring tenant confidence.”
Of concern to me are the words “Self-regulation”, “Raising standards” and “Inspiring confidence”, three phrases that to my mind have no place in the same sentence.
A press release from Brent council for fining a landlord £170,000 for running his garage as rental accommodation for the past 7 years.
Bog standard and routine stuff for any London borough. Councillor Harbi Farah put his mouth out there for the press release but luckily didn’t say anything daft. Maybe they sent him on a different comms course.
What made me smile this week
Last weekend it was mine and Frazzy’s anniversary and we shot over to Amsterdam for a weekend break. The weather was superb and she even found time to buy a new pair of shoes.
See ya in a fortnight