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After proscratinating and wondering what the fuss was all about, I finally signed on to Twitter on Saturday. Its another world in Twitterland. I’m still getting to grips with the settings and how to follow and who follows and unfollows and all the twitter talk. So I tweet on twitter….

    Posted in Social Media.

    I have a dream ….

    A portfolio that is debt free, tenants that behave and pay on time, and a business that runs smoothly leaving me with time to do the things I want to do and spend time with the family.

    This weekend, I’m certain that I’ve found the way to achieve this.

    I’m sitting in the bar at the Heathrow Thistle Hotel, having spent the last three days at the World Internet Summit with like minded people looking to take their online businesses further. There are people out there doing some amazing things on the internet – you don’t know the half of it. My brain is in a whirl … information overloaded. I’m pumped up to the gills with information and seeing opportunities in everything I look at. There are even opportunities to apply some of the techniques to the landlord and tenant issues that I have to grapple with on a day to day basis. Amazing the sorts of creating things one’s mind can actually come up with. Let the creative juices flow…

    There’s tomorrow to go, and after that, I’m just going to have to step back and decide what to do and when.

    I’m really blown away by the possibilities. If you haven’t already done so, then check out these fantastic products. Its only a small step, but hey, even babies had to learn to walk by taking one step at a time.

      Posted in General, Other Income Sources.

      Other Systems of Income

      Considering the current economic climate and the challenges that non paying tenants has presented and continues to present, it seemed prudent to look at alternative other sources of income to fill the gaping holes.

      I have tried my hand at internet marketing, and had some success, but felt I needed to take it to the next level. So, I found myself attending an Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp at the O2 last month, and had two fantastic information filled days. Wow! I hadn’t realised just what else was out there, having focused on property for some time now. Speakers included Andrew Reynolds (who organised the event), Joel Comm, Tom Hua, Brett McFall, Andy Harrington, Simon Coulson, Armand Morin, Adam Ginsberg, Chris Howard and Kirt Christiensen. Those guys are full of information and advice. They do what they teach – and it shows (in their bank balances of course).

      I’ve since followed that up with more learning, and doing. This weekend, I am attending the World Internet Summit in London. Its a 4-day event, where several experienced internet marketers show us how they’ve done it, and provide the sort of information that will enable us budding infopreneurs to get going. The line up is awesome, and I’ll tell you about it as we go along.

      As part of the hands-on learning, one of the experts has created a special offer, a product set, which is new on the market, and exclusive to this event. Its available only for the 4 days of this event. Its called the Internet Marketing Survival Kit. This is one amazing package that should not be missed for anything.

      Infact, its not just one survival kit, but THREE. Do I hear you say, “why would I want one of those?”.. Its for things like
      How to get started online in just 48 hours, how to create you own ebook or info product, how to very quickly build a huge list of hungry buyers, how to build a business using twitter and so much more.

      You don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

      I’ll keep you posted on the events of the next 3 days. It promises to be awesome.

        Posted in Other Income Sources.

        Attachment of Earnings farce

        The justice system has a lot to answer for. The system is supposed to provide justice for all parties, right? But in reality, it doesn’t.

        One of my tenants has had trouble keeping up with his rent due to what I later discovered was a gambling problem. He is in employment, so can afford to pay, but can’t quite manage to do so as he said “money just seems to flow through his fingers“. I issued him a S8 notice, and he eventually went to the Council who told him to contact Shelter. Shelter called me to discuss the case, they were trying to help him with his problem, and he’d asked if the rent and arrears could be taken off his wages directly. He had asked his employers to do this, but they claimed they couldn’t do it without a court order. I agreed to go for an Attachment of Earnings so the employers could action it. First stage was to get a judgement for the money through moneyclaim online (MCOL), and eventually got the money order after several weeks. I then applied to have the case transferred to local court, after which I then applied for the Attachment of earnings. The tenant was most co-operative at every stage, stating clearly what he wanted to happen. The process took a while, but then the order finally came .. and I was gobsmacked to say the least.

        The Judge made a “suspended attachment of earnings order”, whereby, the tenant was to pay me direct, an amount of £25 every week. If the defendant didn’t pay, then I was to come back to the court and apply for a variation of the order, and if I objected to the ruling, to write to court within 16 days of the order etc.etc.

        To say I was livid was an understatement. The tenant had asked that £150 per week be deducted directly from his wages. But the Judge had completely ignored that, and decided in his wisdom to do something completely different. What planet was he on??

        I immediately wrote in with my objection, and explained the tenants appalling payment history, an provided copies of statements, letters and discussion with Shelter etc.etc. I also got the tenant to write a letter of objection, and sat with him whilst he did it, and posted it myself!!

        Well, thankfully, it seems the objection from both sides worked, and I’ve now received a notice with a revised order for the full attachment of earnings. What a palaver.

        One wonders where the justice is in all of this.

          Posted in Court and Justice.

          Tagged with , , , .

          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 ….

            Posted in Housing Regulations, LHA, Politics.

            Tagged with , , , .

            More LHA Headaches!!

            Its been one of those days today. I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone to Housing Benefit offices in three different local authorities, and postponed the call to a fourth till tomorrow. I’m tired, frustrated, and down right angry. And tired of well meaning but largely powerless council staff trying to explain to me how the LHA scheme works-as if I didn’t know already. Oh yes sir, don’t I just know how it works.

            The people in gofmint that thought up the LHA scheme and insisted on having LHA paid direct to tenant in all cases, and the civil servants that drew up the guidelines, have a lot to answer for. They just haven’t got a clue about the damage they have caused with their do-gooding ideas.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for empowering people and encouraging them to exercise their rights to this and that and the other. But with rights come responsibilities. The two go hand in hand, like the two halves of a pair of scissors. You can’t have rights without responsibilities. Too often people focus on their rights, conveniently forgetting their responsibilities, and that’s why the LHA is not working. Frankly, by not including any repercussions or sanctions for failure to use the LHA correctly, the gofmint opened the floodgates to fraud. Lets call a spade a spade, okay, and not a digging implement. Accepting LHA and then using it for purposes other than rent is theft, fraud, stealing, robbery…. you get the jist. It is government-sanctioned daylight robbery. But does the gofmint see it that way? Oh no. If that is what this gofmint calls empowering, then I think we are in deep deep trouble here. We already are in trouble anyway.

            I do (sometimes) feel for the council staff at the benefit offices. Theirs is not an easy task, and being on the receiving end of the anger and frustration of landlords who have been robbed by tenants, cannot be a good experience. Perhaps the gofmint would be wise to actually conduct a proper survey of the benefit office staff, and hence get another enlightening view to assist with their enquiry into the LHA scheme.

            Here endeth my day of chasing LHA payments: (i) Two different councils failed to pay LHA into nominated credit union accounts, even where details were specified fully on application forms, (ii) where tenant is more than 2 months in arrears (including time served), request made 2 weeks ago to pay landlord direct, but council still “investigating with tenant”, and (iii) where benefit suspended.. for unknown reasons.

            If I were a drinking person, I’d be downing a few shots of whisky by now. But, I’ll just have to make do with a cup of tea…..

              Posted in LHA.

              Government Signals U-turn on LHA

              The government, via the House of Commons Works and Pensions Committee, has indicated it will carry out a review of the LHA system later this year. This comes in the face of campaigning by landlords organisations NLA and RLA following the rollout of the system in April 2008 and the subsequent humonguous losses suffered by landlords as a result of tenants deciding not to pass on the LHA to their landlords.

              If you are a landlord, and have tenants in receipt of LHA, you should have your say by filling in the online questionnare. What is the saying that .. “bad things happen when good people do nothing”… Let’s each do something to redress the balance.

              The RLA have a comprehensive questionnare, so please go to Full LHA Survey.

              At the end of it, you can and should also download a template letter to complete and send to your MP.

              The NLA have a shorter version which is Postcard LHA Survey

              Come on people, lets tell the gofmint exactly what we think of their “air-brained” scheme.

              1. Whilst I think that the idea of using the market rents is fair, and simple to calculate, and determining the allowance based on room needs/requirements, the implementation of it by the various Councils leaves a lot to be desired.
              2. What happened to the fundamental right of the tenant to choose to pay the allowance to the Landlord? Most of them want it paid direct anyway, and are surprised that they are not allowed to (nanny gofmint..).
              3. And why are there no deterrents put in place for those who might be tempted to use the LHA for something other than rent?  when taxpayer’s money has been given to the tenant to use for rent and tenant misuses it, is that not fraud or theft??
              4. What happened to the right of the taxpaying public to expect accountability for their taxes paid in good faith and given to claimants for the specific purpose of paying rent?
              5. Why must landlords suffer at least 8 weeks of lost rent before being able to get the LHA paid direct? And how are we supposed to recoup the spent LHA from people with little or no assets? I suppose we can flog the 40inch plasma screens …. We can’t claim lost rent on expenses now can we???

              Think again, gofmint. Enough is enough. We are not charities, nor do we have deep pockets. We are small businesses being strangled slowly and surely. The banks to whom you gave our tax money are hoarding it and not giving us any. They pull our overdrafts, refuse to give us credit for anything-not even for retraining, and hike our repayment rates and interest charges and all those other charges that they dream of. So what, dear gofmint, are you going to do about it??

              Over to you folks and fellow landlords. Lets give the gofmint something more useful to work with than their rosy, unrealistic 3-4 year old Pathfinder trial results.

                Posted in LHA.

                Tories urge tenant benefit change

                Yes, now the tories are on to it! and about time too.

                The BBC has has the story which says: Automatic direct payments of housing benefits to private tenants in England should be stopped, the Tories say.”
                And it goes on further:
                The Conservatives want to allow tenants to choose whether to have benefits paid directly to the landlord or maintain responsibility for passing on rent payments themselves.
                At the national conference for homeless charity Crisis, shadow housing minister Grant Shapps said: “Fearful that rent money may never be paid, some landlords routinely include the words NO HB in their ads, further restricting the supply of housing for affordable rent.
                “At the same time some of the most chaotic tenants have struggled to manage their finances, meaning that the cash is already spent by rent pay day.
                “It strikes me that the current situation is bad for everyone and I can see no reason why people on Local Housing Allowance shouldn’t enjoy the freedom to have their Housing Benefit paid direct to their landlord. Our proposal will destigmatise the system and increase the amount of affordable homes available.

                Hear! Hear.  Freedom of choice was taken away from tenants by the government that insists on being a nanny state. Hopefully sanity will prevail and freedom of choice will be restored, and with it, restore confidence in the benefits system which has seen landlords lose money hand over fist.

                Guess what?
                The government say the new system is fairer and simpler than the one it replaced but are beginning a review of the system later in the year

                Government still insists its a great system. But of course they would. Afterall, they’ve spent taxpayers money to create the “flagship” system, and can’t be seen to be backing down or doing a U-turn. It might be fairer in terms of rent calculations, and simpler to implement for the councils, but the insistence on paying the HB to tenant in all but a few cases stinks. I bet you none of these law makers would ever rent to someone on HB, as they know the implications. No rent for 8 weeks, tough. Can’t claim it back from someone with no assets, can they? The hypocrisy of it all. How on earth do they expect landlords’ businesses to survive in such a situation beats me. But then again, we all know what planet they live on …. gravy train called Westminster. That, explains it all.

                  Posted in LHA.

                  When is a tenant 8 weeks in arrears?

                  You may be wondering why this question is relevant or important. If so, bear with me whilst I enlighten you. A tribunal decision in Coventry is set to shake the current practice of councils paying housing benefit to claimant tenants 4-weeks in arrears. Landlords who have such tenants … take note.

                  The Housing Act 1988, Section 8 (as amended by Section 151 of the Housing Act 1996) states that a landlord can serve notice on the tenant to seek possession of a property let on an assured tenancy on grounds of rent arrears, if at least eight weeks rent is unpaid, where the rent is payable weekly or fortnightly, or at least two months rent is unpaid if rent is payable monthly”.

                  Tenancy agreements normally stipulate that rent must be paid weekly or monthly in advance. So tenants are expected to pay rent in advance of the period for which the rent is applicable.That is the liability to pay rent. For example, if rent is due on 1st of each month, and the tenant doesn’t pay rent due on 1st Sept and 1st October, then on 2nd October, the tenant already has 2 months rent unpaid, and the landlord can serve notice seeking possession.

                  The complication arises where a tenant is receiving housing benefit, which councils tend to pay 4 weekly in arrears. So, in the example above, tenant was due to pay rent on 1st September, but didn’t get housing benefit until 28th September. Tenant decides not to pay the landlord anyway, and spends it on something else. On 2nd october tenant has two months rent unpaid. On 3rd October, Landlord informs council housing benefit office and requests direct payment, but council insist that tenant is not yet 8 weeks in arrears because 8 weeks of actual time has not elapsed from 1st September to 2nd October even though contractually, tenant is more than 8 weeks in arrears. So, council refuse to pay next lot of housing benefit to landlord, as the law requires them to do. But don’t blame the council, its the same government that wrote the law that then gave the guidelines that “DWP takes the view that a person cannot be in rent arrears in respect of a period that has not yet been served”. Completely ignoring the contractual obligations that the “person” signed with the landlord.

                  So, the Guild or Residential Landlords, on behalf of one Landlord, Mr Doncaster decided to take Coventry City Council to court to challenge their decision, and the Tribunal Judge, CJ Jones ruled in his favour.
                  He said: “In making this decision I have considered the Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance Guidance Manual as amended in March 2008 and in particular the note at the foot of 6.86 – 6.89 that rent cannot be in arrear in respect of a period that has not been served.
                  I do not agree with that view. Rent is in arrears once the contractual date for payment has passed irrespective of whether rent is due in advance or in arrear. Regulation 95 of the 2006 Regulations refers to a liability to pay rent and the liability in this case is to pay rent in advance.

                  Hurray, Hallelujah. At last, someone with clout has pointed out the obvious, something landlords have been saying for yonks and which has fallen on deaf government/council ears.

                  This judgement has serious implications for all landlords who have tenants in receipt of housing benefits or local housing allowance as it is now called. Maybe common sense will now prevail.
                  See full story here.

                  I have already written to one council about problems with a current tenant, and asked what steps they were now going to take in view of this judgement – I got a reply-the usual official jargon, but no answer to the question. So, I’m sending another letter on Monday asking the same question. Watch this space.

                    Posted in LHA.

                    The Tories reaffirm commitment to landlords

                    Here’s another story I picked up this week from here. My comments in (brackets).
                    Shadow housing minister Grant Shapps has reaffirmed the Conservative Party’s commitment to ensuring local authorities work better with landlords. (Music to my ears ….)

                    Speaking at a joint reception at the Conservative Party Conference between Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, and the National Landlords Association (NLA), the representative body for private residential landlords, Shapps went on to say that,: “regulation [of the private-rented sector] was a blunt instrument for getting results” and welcomed working with the National Landlords Association.

                    (Considering it was under the Tories spearheaded by “The Iron Lady” that the regulation actually started, that’s a bit rich, innit? But then again, the blunt instrument is an appropriate tool from the Iron lady…. Anyone remember the Housing Act 1988? As ammended in 1996? New Labour carried on the tradition with subsequent regulation, burdening landlords even more. But then again, we’ve always known Labour does not like private enterprise, and would seek to rob the hardworking of their well earned money to handout to the slobs who can’t be bothered to get off their backsides. Its the fact that it was the tories that fashioned the blunt anti-enterprise instrument in the first place that is difficult to understand. I suppose it was designed to win votes … in the same way as the decision to sell off council housing stock and not replace them. Ironic isn’t it, that the government decides to sell off council housing stock, not replace them, and then set out to hamstring, bludgeon and penalise the very group of people who provide the much needed housing that the government delibrately opted out of… how rich is that, eh?? )

                    David Salusbury, chairman of the NLA, said: “There are now sufficient rules and regulations in place to ensure that the minority of rogue operators in the sector can be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

                    “The final piece in the jigsaw is encouraging local authorities to use existing and significant powers appropriately instead of introducing more regulation which only penalises good landlords. Of course, we are also encouraged that the shadow housing minister is looking forward to working with the NLA.”

                    (I am really intrigued to see how the local authorities can be encouraged to use existing powers appropriately …. considering the haphazard way in which they interprete/apply the current regulations and the fact that they can’t be bothered to think. Those folk are a law unto themselves. When a landlord challenges a local authority office about a decision made locally, they go “don’t blame us, its the law and we are just following the law”.  They when the actual law is quoted to them which shows their errors, they go “but the guidelines from government says …”.  and on and on.

                    The council, often seen as government’s goons, just wields the blunt instrument without thought for the devastation that it causes landlords. Unfortunately, the effect is ultimately more homelessness, as landlords will refuse to take on certain types of tenants-the very ones the so called laws were supposed to help.

                    We wait in anticipation (or dread?) to see firstly if the tories get back in, and secondly what exactly it is they will do …. promises promises promises…. )

                      Posted in Housing Regulations, LHA, Politics.

                      Tagged with , , , .

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