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LibDems wade into the LHA and housing debate

Up till recently, politicians generally did not seem to have a clue or seem to want to know about the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) issues that we landlords have been grappling with for yonks. Considering they passed the law, you’d think they’d care. Not until Labour announced its intentions to save money by removing the £15/wk allowance that it had previously allowed LHA claimants to have if they found property to rent at a rate cheaper than their allowance.

Also, we smell elections next year, so, what happens, the issues that affect the voters, which hitherto was of no concern, is now suddenly “in”. But maybe it also has to do with the fact that a few of us have been writing to our MPs to report the problems in the hope that something might be done. I like to think perhaps we have had a hand in the LHA being discussed now.

The Lib-Dems waded into the waters at their conference in September when Sarah Teather MP, Shadow Housing Minister made her speech to the conference. She said, and I quote “Labour may have forgotten about you, but we never will. We are different“. Now, am I inclined to believe that? No. But I live in hope.

Strikingly, she gives three examples of families that she knows of, who have issues with housing, and whose lives would undoubtedly turn out different if they had the right help from the state. She’s right, I suppose.

I was struck by her statement about the rest of us not knowing the plight of these folk: “But you probably won’t know, because people are proud. Housing is so much about a person’s identity, it is so basic a need that people keep their private nightmares to themselves“.
Is it so? Are people really too proud to ask for help, even when they are hurting so badly? Are we so insensitive that we’d rather not know these things, or we are just too busy to be bothered? Questions, questions and more questions … what are the answers? are there any answers??

The rot for social housing started under the Tories headed by the “Iron Lady”, and the policy of selling off council houses without replenishing them. Labour have not fared any better, as they’ve just made matters worse. What a farce – social housing situation getting worse under a government that has socialism at its core.

The point is made though, which I strongly agree, that the LHA as it is currently being implemented, is causing more deserving people to be forced into homelessness as landlords refuse to take on LHA claimants. Landlords have lost far too much money under this scheme, but no government will ever admit that.

Why should landlords take on these folk, when rent is not guaranteed to be paid, landlords get short shrift from council officials when problems arise with payments, and we can’t even evict the tenants in a timely manner without further loss as the so-called justice system takes its tortoise-like time to decide the cases, not helped by council officials advising tenants to stay put until bailiffs turn up, completely in contempt of court!!. For instance, I recently heard about a case where a landlord applied for possession of a property in October 2009, through the “accelerated possession route” and was given a court hearing date in April 2010, 6 months down the line. And they call that justice!! What an outrage. What is the landlord to do, sit there and watch whilst the tenant continues to live rent free? How is landlord to pay the mortgage on the property?  I bet you though, if the same tenant went to the council to report or complain about disrepair, the council would be onto the landlord like a ton of bricks demanding immediate repairs and threatening all sorts of repercussions. What world they live in … I just do not know.

Labour, wake up, landlords in today’s world are not landed gentry with oodles of inherited money, they are ordinary joe-blogs, decent hard working people who just wanted to have another stream of income or provide for a pension to supplement the meagre amounts due from the state. Landlords have mortgages to pay, maintenance bills, taxes (that you gleefully levy) and they need to feed their families.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Lib Dems and their views on tenants and benefits. They do have some positive ideas…. The honourable MP did say:

But I can tell them, that step by step, brick by brick, we will rebuild this country’s housing stock.

I can say, that if we are asked to choose between hiking up taxes on billionaires or on tenants, we will not choose tenants.

And I can say that we will break with the same old policies of the last fifty years, tweaked by each new red/blue blue/red government that comes through the revolving door.

Whether or not they have a chance to implement them is another matter. Perhaps whichever government gets into power next year will end up claiming these ideas as their own ….

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