[Ben Reeve Lewis has now had his 15
minutes seconds of fame …]
Unlike last weeks shenanigans, this week we have some proper news, government pronouncements and new ideas.
Media star …
Highest priority on my news this week was my own appearance on Channel 4 News on Tuesday [Ben is 4 mins into the video – Ed]. By the time you would have pointed me out to your partner on the settee – ‘Its that idiot from Landlord Law blog’ – and turned back to the screen, I would have been gone. But it was an appearance nonetheless.
From the immediate post appearance deluge of text messages from friends and family you would have thought I had just beaten Tom Cruise to the Best Actor Oscar, but then that’s what friends and family are for. My mate Lee, a drama lecturer, admired my typing scene, saying it did it with attitude “Like Ray Winstone would”.
During the hour or so of filming that I actually did, I roundly admonished the government for failing to help council’s tackle rogue landlords, complained about the effect of staff cuts which further adds to the problem, whinged about the pathetic level of fines imposed by the judiciary, prattled on about how the police actually help landlords to illegally evict people and aired my peculiar views on how to best deal with the problem by working with landlords to help them understand what it takes to be one.
What went out on the night was me saying how long it takes to get a case in court haha. C’est la vie and that’s show business, but it was great fun to do and Kate and Libby at Hardcash Productions were lovely.
And so to the news.
I read with interest today of Grant Shapps plans to make it quicker and easier for social landlords to evict people for anti-social behaviour. Remember that thing we used to call Neighbour nuisance before it got re-designated as a social disease by the Daily Mail?
The idea is to make a proven case a mandatory ground for eviction, like 2 month’s rent arrears are. Wonder what defences under Pinnock will be floated on that one. A point not lost on Jonathon Hulley of lawyers Clarke Willmott who said in an interview with Inside Housing
‘At some point they are going to grapple with this judgment and the concept of introducing a further mandatory ground for possession in light of this decision.
‘As matters stand, a defendant will still be able to raise a proportionality argument even where a landlord relies on any further mandatory ground for possession.’
In fact the human rights defence approach to possession proceedings has started in the wake Manchester v Pinnock with the case of Mr Alan Clark, a tenant of West Kent Housing Association, again mentioned in Inside Housing who argued that evicting him for anti social behaviour was a breach of his human rights because the landlord had other methods of curbing his behaviour available as an alternative to possession, for instance issuing an injunction against him.
I hate to sound-myself like an article in a right wing newspaper but why is the landlord at fault for not moderating him better? Couldn’t he have just behaved himself?
Chancers of the week go to Messrs Mew & Just, reported on the excellent Pain Smith Blog two occupants of houseboats that could no longer float and had been attached to some pilings to stop them sinking, which were themselves attached to land owned by Tristmire Ltd tried to argue that in being now physically attached to the land they were in fact Assured Tenants.
The courts decided that despite their lack of sea-worthiness they were still essentially boats, even though they had effectively been nailed to the docks. Nice try folks.
I have to cross reference to an earlier article of Tessa’s this week because it has the best explanation. Regular readers will know that Tessa and I, among many others, are quite vocal in our calls for regulation of letting agents. I don’t want to double up on our articles but I have to say, independently that this is certainly a step in the right direction, if only that others in more influential positions perhaps are starting to say the same thing. [To do them justice ARLA are also on the case – Ed]
What would really help would be for the torch to be carried by agents, not just people like me with an A-level in slagging off. Tenants and landlords both suffer when they get involved with rogue or even just incompetent agents but also, as is so often the case, the decent agents are tarred by association, which is why the poster in the reception area of one of my local agents, which has a heart on it and the words “Hug an estate agent”, is perhaps the most astonishing example of wishful thinking I have come across since trying to squeeze back into my favourite old jeans that I recently re-discovered at the bottom of the wardrobe.
And with the above in mind I was also pleased to see some graffiti in the window of a local letting agent, about to open in sunny Forest Hill, which features a huge photo of a smiling blonde woman on the phone, on which some wag has drawn a speech bubble saying “Hang on, I haven’t told you about all the extras yet”.
Searching for Seabeck.
Right, here is your starter for 10 who is Alison Seabeck?….silence…..chewed lips……vacant stares……..pencils tapped against teeth….
She is the Shadow Minister for Housing you dunces. [MP for Plymouth no less, where that dodgy agent that ran off with the cash was – Ed]
As such her job is to champion labour’s views of housing issues, tackle Grant Shapps in debate, raise the profile of the opposition party’s plans to solve the housing crisis but where is she most of the time?
Searching for references to her is like crouching in a bush for hours with Bill Oddie and a flask of tea waiting to spot Spix’s Macaw (world’s rarest bird….I looked it up) [Maybe she feels she does not have to do anything much as GS will place his foot in his mouth himself … Ed]
On the campaigns page of her website there seems little to do with housing stuff. Among others the rest is fighting a battle to keep cheques; Britain’s lost talent; working with Ed Balls to reverse fuel duty and fighting against the withdrawal of taxibus services in Plymouth.
Now I might be missing some of the more sterling campaigns that she may have going for housing but for god’s sake woman, make more noise.
We have a government hell bent on rushing through ill thought out housing laws that will make thousands homeless, result in the social cleansing of vast swathes of London, at the same time as refusing to deal with rogue landlords and agents or to take any lead in the wild-west of sale and purchase territory and yet despite working in housing for years I only just heard her name, and…….I had to go looking for it!
If I was her press agent I would make sure that Shapps couldn’t mention a thing without having a comment from her attached to it.
But then I suppose there is always “I’m a Celebrity get me out of here”, It worked for Joe Pasquale
Ben Reeve Lewis
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