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Give an inch and Tenant takes a mile

I told you earlier today about the incident regarding getting access for the heating engineer to carry out the annual gas safety checks. Well, I was just getting over that angst from that phone call, when another one came in.

Me: Good morning, this is “.B..Properties”, how can I help?

Tenant: Hi, is that “T”?

Me: Yes, it is, and who is this calling?

Tenant: Its KR, good morning, how are you?  etc.etc.

….
Tenant: Thank you for sending me my statement of rental account. I’ve just called the Council, and they’ve told me that they’ve paid you £256 on Friday.

Me: The Council haven’t paid me anything, they’ve obviously paid the money into your Rainbow Account (Credit Union). Its your account, as I keep telling you, not mine, and I have no access to it. Its used only for receiving your housing benefit, and the bank transfers it to me. If it was paid on Friday, then we should get it in our account in the next few days.

Tenant: Oh, OK. Anyway, the council also said the next payment will be on 21June, and two further payments on 5th July and 19th July. That means, by then I would have caught up with my arrears. Therefore, I will not be paying the £100 this month.

Me: Loud Pause … I see, have you caught up with your arrears yet?

Tenant: No

Me: So, you want to go against the agreement we have to help you get back on track, even though you have not yet caught up with the payments due.

Tenant: But why should I pay you the £100 this month, when the Council will be paying you all that money, and it will be more than I owe you.

Me: Are you paid up today or in arrears? What happens if the Council does not pay in July? You know very well if your circumstances change, as has happened before, then the housing benefit will not be paid, and you will fall further back.

Tenant: But its the council that owe you the money not me.

Me: No, I have no agreement with the council. You are renting a house from me, for which you agreed to pay me rent. The agreement is between me and you, and you owe me the rent. The council is giving you some money to help you pay the rent, and that is an agreement between you and them. Nothing to do with me.  And you do realise that you are supposed to pay your rent monthly in advance, don’t you?

Tenant: Silence. But I can’t afford to be in front with my rent.

Me: I will seriously advice you to keep the payment arrangement we have in place, otherwise you open yourself up to the repercussions of breaking it. Pay the agreed amount this month, and I will send you another statement at the end of the month, so you see how much is left. But you must get to the point where you are paying in front, not in arrears.

Tenant: But, the council only pay in arrears and I’ve always been on benefits.

Me: Yes, but you also paid on time before, didn’t you? Until your circumstances changed. And I have other tenants on benefits who pay on time every time, in advance.

Tenant: Well, they must have more money than me. Maybe I should just wait until the 21st to see what the council pay and then take it from there.

Me: I don’t know what their circumstances are, but they do it. You have an arrangement in place, and you should keep it.

Tenant: OK. I will pay the £100 this month.

Me: Thank you and good bye.

The sheer audacity of it all. As you can imagine, I was barely hanging on to my temper by now, and speaking slowly so as to stay calm.

So, there you have it. So, what exactly did she expect me to do? let her off paying her arrears because of supposed LHA coming in July? Does she think I’m stupid or what? This is the same person who expects me to jump to her bidding and spend hundreds carrying out non-essential work when she owes rent. She had the audacity to moan to my maintenance man that we didn’t respond to her quickly when she called to report something that needed doing. It is quite noticeable that its the ones that are in arrears that shout the loudest when they want something from you. The maintenance man said to her “if all the tenants don’t pay their rent or are in arrears, where is the landlord supposed to find money to pay the mortgage on the house or carry out the repairs? you are asking them to spend money they don’t have” And her reply was, “oh, I see, I hadn’t really thought of it like that”! She doesn’t think, period! Which lends more weight to the saying that tenants think that Landlords are made of money or rolling in it. Some might, but a heck of a lot are not, and particularly in this economic climate.

And the other thing is this – who do the benefit claimants think funds the council or where does the council money come from? Me and every other hardworking person in this country who earn an honest living and pay our taxes.

I keep saying this, until people are taught from an early age, how to manage money, and their responsibilities, and how local government (or government in general) works, then it will be folk like us who end up carrying the can. And until housing benefit claimants in particular have it drummed into their heads, that it is their responsibility to pay rent, (and not use the LHA to buy wides screen HDTV tvs, and stuff like that), then the landlord will always be the loser.

Aha! light bulb moment!! Perhaps she and her partner were hoping to spend the money in the World Cup Football Store and get what, supporters gear? new Plasma TV, football DVDs or games….   Not at my expense!! Had a look to see what good stuff was out there … Check this out

Anyhow, that’s my excitement for the day. Hopefully, nothing else will bring out the grump today.

    Posted in Lettings and Management, LHA.

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    Getting Access for Annual Gas Safety Check

    I thought I was going to have a good day today, well, in comparison to yesterday. However, some of my tenants had other plans in mind.

    For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been trying to arrange with my Heating engineer to get access to a set of 6 properties, so he could carry out the annual gas boiler service and certification, otherwise known as CP12. But some tenants were proving uncooperative. In one case, when I couldn’t get to speak to one of the tenants, I had to call her mum, who then passed on my message, and guess what, tenant calls me on the same number we’d called and left messages on. Even after that, she still refused to contact the Heating engineer or reply to his messages to arrange the appointment. Another one had phone calls, emails etc., and still no appointment made. A third and fourth likewise. Yesterday, I got so fed up with the lot of them, I sent out a letter stating clearly that as they had failed to respond to either me or to the Heating engineer to enable us make appointments at their convenience, I considered that they were obstructing me in my legal obligation toward them, and therefore in breach of their tenancy agreement, which may result in legal action to repossess the property and they would be liable for all my costs.

    I also stated that I was putting them on notice of breach and respectfully requested they remedy the breach by calling to confirm they would provide access for the heating engineer to visit in 3 days time and within a 3 hour period. Sent first class, with proof of posting.

    Guess what, 8.59am this morning, one texts me to say she’s called the heating engineer directly. An hour later, the son of one of the other tenants rings and tries to give me lip for threating to evict his mother, and a third also rings the heating engineer directly. Still waiting to hear from the fourth one, but I’m sure we’ll do so before close of business today.

    Why does it have to take the threat of eviction to get a response from some people. The son who rang on his mum’s behalf, claimed to be a former letting agent, and whilst he understood the legal responsibility, he felt I had no right to state I would evict her. This he said, because of her advanced age, and the fact that she had personal problems to deal with, one being that her aged husband was in hospital. I reminded him that if the something went wrong with the boiler and she got injured/ill, they would have no qualms taking me to court and stringing me up to dry for dereliction of duty.This is the same tenant whom I didn’t evict them when the local authority would not approve their housing benefit claim for several months, and whom I’ve worked with over the past 18 months to get her arrears paid off in instalments, and who still owes me a fair sum. Where the heck was he when all this was going on, and why can’t he pay his mother’s rent arrears? For goodness sakes, what the heck else is a landlord supposed to do?? If we are nice, we are taken for mugs, if we are not so nice, we are piloried. Damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

    I keep saying this, I am not a nanny. I am a landlord, running a business, and not a charity, or walk-in centre or phone-in helpline for them to dump their problems on me. And if the grey hairs on my head are anything to go by, I have enough of my own as it is without adding those of scores of tenants to it.

    So, hopefully, by thursday, we’ll have the full complement of certifications done. Onwards to the next batch.

      Posted in Housing Regulations, Lettings and Management, Maintenance.

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      Free mobile calls for Benefit Claimants

      This is one news item that Landlords who accept housing benefit claimants should note and pass on to their tenants.  Calls to the DWP 0800 Benefit Claim lines from mobiles will now be free to claimants.

      Far too often, the tenants do not follow up their benefit claims or call the council to respond to letters, as they can’t afford to do so due to the high call charges and long waiting/call time.

      I only just found out this piece of news from Zacheus 2000, a Charitable Trust set up to support those in extreme poverty to negotiate the justice system. I applaud those who negotiated this scheme with the mobile phone operators-job well done. The full press release in the DWP archives. Please pass on the good news to your tenants.

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      Free phone calls for most people using their mobiles to claim benefits and pensions are announced by the Department for Work and Pensions today. From 18 January 2010, six of the biggest mobile phone network companies will no longer charge their customers for calls to the Department’s 0800 Benefit Claim lines. Currently 12% of UK households use only mobile phones and do not have a land line.

      Calls to claim benefits and state pension use 0800 numbers which are already free to customers using BT land lines and mobiles. But currently people calling 0800 numbers from other mobile  phone providers are charged  for these calls.

      The Department has now reached agreement with O2, Orange, Tesco Mobile, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone to end charges to their customers for mobile calls to around seventy of its 0800 numbers. These numbers are used by people making initial claims for benefit and pensions and to request emergency payments, such as crisis loans.

      Together the six companies with whom the Department has now signed agreements cover over 90% of the mobile market in the UK.

      Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Yvette Cooper, said:

      “We don’t want people who lose their jobs or the poorest pensioners to be penalised when they need to claim benefits just because they call from a mobile phone. Lots of people need to use mobiles rather than landlines.

      “That’s why we’ve been working hard to get this deal to make sure people don’t lose out.”

      The DWP estimate that there are around 60 million phone calls to its 0800 numbers each year, and around 15% (9 million) are from mobile phones.

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        Posted in Court and Justice, Government, LHA.

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        Axe to fall on Housing Benefit Bill of £17bn

        The Housing Benefit bill is a staggering £17bn, and rising. This is a jaw-dropping, eye-watering amount of “benefits” being paid out at the expense of the taxpayer!! Seeing that figure in print makes me wince in mental pain. It is the second largest bill for the department next to the state pension.

        So, Iain Duncan Smith MP, the newly appointed Work and Pensions Secretary is considering radical changes to the way housing benefit is calculated to cut the soaring bill.

        According to Inside Housing, a source close to Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said he is interested in pursuing the policies devised by his centre-right think tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) when reforming housing benefit.

        Mr Duncan Smith has appointed the CSJ’s director Philippa Stroud as his special advisor, suggesting he could pick up recommendations made by the think-tank such as streamlining the complex benefits system so that there are only two main benefits. These would be a universal work credit and a universal life credit, which would merge housing benefit and disability living allowance.

        The new secretary of state also hinted that he is keen to create more incentives for people on housing benefit to negotiate lower rents.

        Housing benefit should be withdrawn more slowly than it currently is when people get a job ‘so that people get into the work habit’.

        It is understood that Mr Duncan Smith plans to pursue the policy of capping the highest rents in an area, first mooted by his Labour predecessors, or lowering rent payments entirely.

        Personally, I’m not sure that I like the tone of some of these pronouncements. When the rent for a property has been set according to market demands, and someone on housing benefit comes along and offers less, and I know that the very fact that they are on housing benefit will increase my tenant management workload, why would I want to rent the property to them if I could rent same to a working person? I’d be stark raving loony.

        Has Mr Duncan Smith investigated how the benefits system actually works (or not, as the case may be) and how frustrating landlords and tenants find it? Is he aware of the pain that Landlords are put through by the red-tape that goes with the Local Housing Allowance scheme? Has he actually talked to any Landlords or Landlord groups or organisations?? Have you done this yet Mr Duncan-Smith? If you haven’t, may I urge you to do so, before plunging headlong into “radical” reforms that cause more problems than they solve. I do applaud you for wanting to reduce the bill and save me the taxpayer some money, but please do so sensibly. Landlords cannot rent properties at below market rates to tenants who will end up being problems (and unfortunately, a lot of them are problems in more ways than one, sometimes through no fault of their own).

        There have been reactions from the sector already.

        Private landlords warned that reducing local housing allowance rates would increase homelessness. Vincenzo Rampulla, public affairs officer at the National Landlords’ Association (NLA), said: ‘Cutting rates might cause more problems than it solves. It might lead to an increase in homelessness.’

        As a Landlord, I will add to that by saying that “it will lead to homelessness as those who are on housing benefit will find it difficult to rent properties”. Its just another hurdle for them to jump over, and private landlords run businesses, not charities. Please bear that in mind when you carry out your reforms. Private landlords who rent out properties, do so as businesses, not charities. We have bills to pay including maintenance of said properties, our bills and mouths to feed, salaries to pay, and taxes to pay. We know that all businesses carry risks, and are ok with that. But don’t legislate more risk into it please.

        By all means, please review the system, streamline it so its not so complex. Those  who receive it find it difficult to understand, and those of us that are third parties to the matter find it even more so. You will need to do a heck of lot to get the mental shift away from benefits and into work.

        I wish you well, Mr Duncan-Smith, take the bull by the horns and tame it, if you can.

          Posted in Government, LHA.

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          HIPs Are History

          The big news today is that the Coalition LibCon or ConLib (whichever you prefer) Government has now formally scrapped HIPs. So, here we have this government’s first scrappage scheme ….. ;-) . I wonder what’s next!

          HIPs – Home Information Packs, were introduced in 2007 by the Labour goofment, and its aim was to speed up the house selling process by obliging sellers to provided much of the required conveyancing information when properties are first put up for sale. It meant sellers had to shell out hundreds of pounds upfront, without knowing if house will sell or not. And if you are already cash strapped …..But of course, our policy makers at the time were immune to such costs due to the “flipping” regime that was in place, so couldn’t see the upfront outlay being a problem for struggling home owners.

          Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are staying. I don’t think sellers or even renters care one way or the other about it, but hey ho!

          Here’s what the Coalition spokesmen had to say:

          Grant Shapps the Housing Minister and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, announced earlier today that they have suspended HIPs with immediate effect, pending primary legislation for a permanent abolition.

          Shapps claimed that cutting away pointless red tape that is strangling the market” would help the current housing recovery and save consumers a total of £870m over 10 years.

          Pickles said: HIPs are history. This action will encourage sellers back into the market, and help the market as a whole and the economy recover.”

          However sellers will still need to commission – though not necessarily receive – an energy performance certificate before marketing their property.

          The widely anticipated move was welcomed across the property industry today even though the Association of Home Information Pack Providers has indicated that thousands of jobs are likely to be lost.

          It is a double edged sword, isn’t it. On the one hand, it stops unnecessary red tape (I can’t spell burea……), but on the other, some jobs are going to be lost. I myself very nearly trained to become a HIPs provider, but didn’t. Benefit of foresight… or just pure luck?  I do feel for those who’s income streams will be affected, and wish them every good luck in finding alternative sources of income.

          There have been various comments from sections of the industry, including but not limited to RICS, Carter Jonas, Spareroom.co.uk, British Property Federation (BPF), Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward.

          Nobody liked HIPs, it was thought to be complete nonsense and waste of time and energy and money, as it didn’t really solve the problems that it was meant to do.

          In my view, unless and until we employ a system similar to that in Scotland where offers are more binding, we will continue to experience the stresses and strains that come with buying and selling properties. That’s just my view anyway.

          And whilst they are at it, may I respectfully ask the Coalition to look into repealing the ill-thought-out and frankly obnoxious last minute regulation brought in by the previous Labour goofment – requirement for planning permission for shared housing. It is absolutely ludicrous that planning should be sought to be used in this way, to determine who lives in a property.

          Rather than helping the very people that that goofment wanted to help, it is actually hurting them. For example, I had a 3-bed house in a city, which could have easily been taken by a group of young people, but I had to look the other way and rent to a family, because of this law. As an accredited Landlord with a Local Authority, I get no end of calls from young people, particularly single young men, who seem to fall between the cracks of Local Authority housing assistance (but that’s another story in itself), looking for rooms to rent. They are living on the sofas of friends and families and desperate to get somewhere of their own. This is compounded by the fact that the LHA rates for single/shared rooms has taken a significant dive. Therefore, even those who might have rooms cannot afford to rent them out at the those ridiculously low rates, and I know some have actually stopped renting rooms and now converted the house back to single family homes. The whole thing is just balmy. In my view, that is.

          Anyway, as always, I digress. But you get the point.

          If you want to read more about the various comments by the industry, then you can do so here at the Beeb or here at Propertyweek.

            Posted in Housing Regulations, Politics, Property.

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            Victory in fight against LHA overpayment recovery

            This is one of those days that is promising to be a roller-coaster ride. The bad news is that a tenant who was to sign up to take occupancy of a commercial property, having promised to sign up today and pay their deposit, suddenly announces that they’ve changed their minds. And we are talking two months into negotiations!!

            Anyway, not quite recovering from that, I pick up a message on my answerphone from a nice lady from the Housing Benefit office of a Local Authority that I deal with. She tells me that they are no longer going to be pursuing me to try to recover alleged overpayment of housing benefit, but will now seek to recover it from my ex-tenant. Music to my ears, as we are talking several hundreds of pounds here.

            The saga with my ex-tenant is that she left the property last year without the proper notice, leaving some belongings behind, not handing over keys and not responding to attempts to contact her. Meanwhile, her housing benefit was being paid to me directly due to her having previously accrued more than 8 weeks of rent arrears. Anyway, I went through the recommended abandonment process, after which I recovered the property, notified the local authority that she was no longer in residence, re-let and thought that was that.

            Then the saga began, and the LA decided to try to recover what they alleged was overpayment of housing benefit. I decided to deal with the matter in writing, as I already had bad experiences of “telephone discussions” on such important matters. So began a series of correspondence between me and the LA, with me refusing to accept liability for the alleged LHA overpayment, and they insisting and threatening the usual stuff-pay or else. They’d go quiet for yonks, not reply to me, then write claiming not to have heard from me. I’d write back, enclosing copies of previous letters, explain again etc.etc. I appealed in January 2010, and waited and waited. Mid February, a letter arrives acknowledging receipt of the appeal (talk about snail mail). More waiting, then in April, the LA send a reminder that the overpayment invoice was outstanding. There I was thinking that the matter was proceeding through the appeals process….  Anyway, I write back asking them about progress on the appeal (which they seem to have conveniently forgotten about) and enclosed a copy of the appeal paperwork, and correspondence to them. They write back a week later, yet again ignoring my last letter, and giving me 7 days to pay or else.

            As you can imagine, I was livid by now, and immediately fired off a firm but polite letter, again denying any liability, informing them that unless and until the appeal was determined, any attempt by them to recover anything from me was illegal (according to their guidelines/ regulations), that I would consider such attempts as harassment, and that I would fight it vigorously and legally if I had to. I also enclosed, yet again, copies of the appeal form, correspondence with ex-tenant, proof that I had informed them as soon as I was sure she’d left, and I posted it by special delivery to the two named people on their last letter, and waited.

            The telephone message I mentioned at the start, was their response, to say that they will now be pursuing the ex-tenant for recovery. My point all along was that the ex-tenant was responsible for any overpayment as it was incumbent on her to inform them of any changes in her circumstances. I informed them of the change as soon as I was sure I had the property back, and to have to go through all that hassle was annoying to say the least.

            Victory at last, for fairness and common sense, not to mention doggedness. I will not be brow beaten by a flawed and unfair “system” put in place by a goofment that didn’t seem to understand anything about fairness or small businesses.

              Posted in Housing Regulations, LHA, Tenant Behaviour.

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              How should Landlords vote in Elections 2010?

              That is a very good and pertinent question. One which I hope all landlords have been able to answer. However, it is possible that some are still wavering, and understandably so.  This election went from being a two horse race to a three horse race, much to the consternation of the two big parties, the blues and the reds. Enter the yellows, with their fresh new perspective on the economy, taxes, politics and opportunities, giving a zing to what might have been a lack-lustre offering.

              No one can dictate how one should vote. But some additional information might go some way to providing some clarity.

              So, what do the parties have to offer us landlords in the private rented sector? I read an article very recently by Oliver Romain, printed in the latest edition of the Landlord & Buy-to-let magazine, the Election Special, he called it. The answer is, not very much. There is something, but quite light.

              The Conservatives, have tabled an Early Day Motion opposing the issue of HMO planning requirements just introduced by the outgoing goofment, and have come under fire from John Denham, former Labour secretary of State, and now Parliamentary candidate in Southamption. But that’s another story. So what else do the Tories have up their sleeves?  They

              (1) promise to abolish Home Information Packs (HIPs) and
              (2) introduce eco-incentives for homes,
              (3) promise to raise inheritance tax threshold to £1m
              , which will be welcome by most successful landlords with offspring.

              The Tories have always been viewed as pro-business, but on this particular issue of the PRS, they don’t quite impress me with their offerings. Watering down the HMO planning law does not solve the problem, its just tinkering with the edges.

              Labour‘s response is interesting. What did Labour have to say when asked why landlords should vote for them. The response from John Healy, the then housing minister was this: “The Labour Government recognises the important role that private landlords play in the housing market in the UK. To ensure that this contribution is properly appreciated we are committed to supporting professionalism among private landlords and property managers. (More goobledegook…)

              1. We will establish a new National Landlord Register and take action to assist landlords in providing the best possible service for their tenants.
              2. We will also allow councils to set up their own local landlord licensing schemes. This will mean that permission will no longer be required from central government, freeing councils to better apply their knowledge and awareness of local issues and concerns.
              3. In addition, our recent consultation ‘Investment in the UK private rented sector’ has invited industry to consider how we can work with the private sector to address demand, housing supply and any barriers to investment.

              I don’t know about you, but that does not tell me much, and as the article author said, the response was probably meaningful to the “political twonks” of Whitehall (by the way, what are twonks?). This typifies the Labour approach – control, control and more control. Use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and ignore the consequence. The goofment’s own independent report stated the problem of HMOs/studentification was not widespread or sufficient significant to justify a new law, but typically, the goofment did not listen. What about all those towns/cities that don’t have universities or colleges? Labour think all landlords are ogres that must be controlled, and their way of controlling us is by more regulation. Anyway, I digress…  but then on second thoughts, why would any Landlord, having  just read this, even consider voting Labour?

              LibDems, the new kids on the block seem to have a bit more to say on the private rented sector.

              1. Under the banner of ‘fairer taxation’ they will reintroduce indexation allowance, meaning that nobody will pay capital gains on the increase in an asset’s price due to general price inflation. Benefiting landlords during their lifetime
              2. In addition, they will widen the CGT rules to encompass all UK property, regardless of whether ownership is by a resident or a non-resident, so that everyone pays their fair share.”
              3. They promise to abolish Home Information Packs and introduce eco-incentives for homes
              4. There are over 760,000 empty homes in England alone, and they want to bring a quarter of a million of these empty homes back into use (reasonable target, I would say). This will be done by providing a mix of grants and cheap loans of up to £10,000: grants if the home is brought back into use for social housing and loans if the homes is brought back into use in the private housing sector. (this should also stimulate jobs in some parts of the building industry)
              5. We will reduce the cost of repairs and improvements by equalising the rate of VAT on new build and repair… VAT on repair and rebuild work will come down from 17.5% and it will be cheaper to add extensions to houses and do loft conversions etc. (I don’t know about you, but that is music to my ears. Paying VAT on essential repairs is just so unfair and a disincentive ).

              The conclusion of the article was that whilst no party offers a truly focused message for the PRS, the LibDems come first, the Conservatives second and Labour a well deserved third place, in respect of positive plans for Landlords.

              So, fellow Landlords, over to you. I know which party I will be voting for, what about you?

              If you want more detailed information, you can read the full article here.

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                Posted in Housing Regulations, Politics, Property.

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                Poor UK Housing costs the NHS dear

                new report shows a link between poor housing and health.

                Poor housing costs the NHS more than £2bn a year in treating people suffering from a wide range of illnesses linked directly to living in cold, damp and often dangerous homes, according to a new study…

                The research, commissioned by the National Housing Federation, also reveals the cost to the public purse of police responses to crimes associated with substandard housing as being around £1.8bn a year.

                Overcrowded homes meanwhile severely damage children’s chances of doing well at school – fuelling a cycle of poverty in poorer communities, the study by research group Ecotec found.

                A record 4.5m people are on housing waiting lists in England, and rising unemployment and repossessions has further fuelled demand for affordable housing during the economic downturn.

                The number of families living in overcrowded housing has reached epidemic proportions in many cities, with around 2.5m people living in cramped and unsuitable conditions.

                The report, entitled The Social Impact of Poor Housing, provides an analysis of numerous research projects and studies into the impact of low quality housing.

                It finds strong links between poor housing and health problems, low educational attainment and an ‘association’ with crime and reoffending.

                People living in homes that are cold, damp and affected by mould are far more likely to get ill, while those classed as officially homeless and living in temporary accommodation appeared to suffer from a higher incidence of sickness.

                Homeless children were four times more likely to suffer from respiratory infections, five times as many stomach infections and made twice as many emergency hospital visits, six times as many speech and stammering problems and four times the rate of asthma compared to permanently housed children, a previous study found

                The economic cost of treating people suffering illnesses where poor housing was identified as the prime causal factor was £2.5bn a year, the report concluded.

                Children living in poorer areas underperformed at all key stages of school compared to their classmates from wealthier areas. Only 25% of the young people in the most deprived areas achieve five or more GCSEs at A* to C, including English and Maths, compared to 68.4% in the least deprived.

                Children living in temporary housing are likely to miss school on a frequently basis – taking 55 school days off on average.

                Purely based on the difference in GCSE results, the report estimates the amount in lost earnings for the current generation of children growing up in poor housing is £14.8bn.

                Although the link between crime and poor housing is less clear cut, there is evidence of an ‘association’ between the two.

                The report pointed to a Youth Justice Board study which found individuals with housing problems were ‘more liable’ to reconviction than those without this difficulty.

                And prisoners released from custody into settled accommodation had a 20% better chance of reducing their rate of reconviction compared to those discharged without somewhere to live. Significantly more people commit offences after they become homeless, the study also found.

                The cost to the criminal justice system, excluding court costs, associated with poor housing, comes to £1.8bn a year, the report’s authors’ claim in terms of basic police responses to crimes, burglary and criminal damage.

                ‘With record housing waiting lists and overcrowding reaching epidemic proportions in many places across the country, the need for more affordable housing has never been greater.

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                As landlords, we have a responsibility to ensure that properties we rent out are fit for purpose. However, we need government to realise that we private sector landlords are partners with them in providing the much needed homes that people need. We should be recognised as businesses, and treated accordingly. Dear gofmint, don’t regulate us to death-weilding the hammer of regulation based on every whinge and/or moan by a disgruntled minority is not the answer-the result of such actions is the new HMO planning regulations hastily brought in by the outgoing goofment. I have experienced the effect first hand already.

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                  Posted in Housing Regulations, Politics, Property, Tenant Behaviour.

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                  The Untimely Death of Common Sense

                  An Obituary for Common Sense

                  Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn’t always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

                  Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

                  His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well -intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

                  Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

                  It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

                  Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

                  Common Sense had a near fatal stroke when you had to watch your tenant live in your property for two full months without paying you rent, before you can even begin to take legal action to recover your property, and when you did get to court another two months later, the learned Judges could, at whim, dismiss your case for the most flimsy excuse.

                  Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

                  Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

                  Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason….

                  He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.

                  Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

                  If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.
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                    Posted in General, Politics, Property, Tenant Behaviour.

                    Tagged with , , , , , .


                    Attachment of Earnings Successful

                    You might recall that some time back, I told you about my experience of a claim for attachment of earnings. You can read about it here.

                    Following the successful appeal, the Judge ruled properly, and the attachment was successfully implemented. It took a few weeks to get the attachemnt put in place. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do anything at this stage. A section of the Her Majesty’s Court Service bureacracy called the Centralised Attachment of Earnings Payments System (CAPS)  kicked into play. Presumably, the officials at this office contacted my tenant’s employers, and got the necessary instruments put in place to deduct the agreed amount from the tenant’s weekly wages.

                    The HM Paymaster General duly collected the deductions and sent me a weekly cheque for the agreed amount. I don’t know why they couldn’t just do it by BACS, as it would have been less bureacratic and the money would have reached me quicker. But then the wheels of officialdom are not designed to be efficient, are they? It would completely dispel the myth of  justice-has-to-be-seen-to-take-a-long-time thingy that is going on. Getting the first cheque was a milestone. Very Satisfying. I remember scanning the payment notice and cheque, just for my records. I then traipsed 11 miles to the nearest bank (I live in a rural area, so no local banks…) and paid it in.

                    I must say, once the system kicks in and settles down, it does work. Regular weekly cheques kept coming in. Sometimes, the amounts collected were less than the agreed sum, and I still can’t work out why that happened. I didn’t think I would get a coherent answer even if I called – particularly as calling the courts and hoping to get a good answer can be a very very time consuming process. I knew the money would all come through, so didn’t mind too much.  At once point, the cheques stopped for a couple of weeks, and fearful he’d lost his job, I duly chased up the tenant to find out what was going on. He was off-sick and his pay had reduced etc.etc. But he was soon back at work, and the cheques starting coming again.

                    The cheques have now stopped coming, but only because all the monies owed and claimed under that order have now been paid off. So well done, Her Majesty’s Court Service Centralised Attachment of Earnings Payments or HMCS CAPS for short. Thank you indeed for coming through for me. You’ve notched up my faith in the Court system by a millimeter (every littl’ ‘elps).

                    I have now continued the practice of a weekly deduction from my tenant’s account, seamlessly. Once we worked out when the last cheque would come and for how much, we duly got the tenant to sign a new Direct Debit mandate which we then put in place and which kicked in just nicely at the right time. As he is now used to having money deducted from him weekly, it was absolutely essential that we carried on the practice outside the court system, without a break. That will help him manage his finances better and give him less opportunity to fall into rent arrears.

                    Going forward, he is now paying his rent weekly, and all things being equal, he will continue to be cooperative. One more mess up, and he knows he’s out. There’s only so far a landlord can assist a tenant to be responsible. After all, we are running a business, and not a charity.

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                      Posted in Court and Justice, Finance.

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