As is the case with the private rented sector, housing advice is a similarly huge and unregulated world which employs, as I heard a recent conference presenter say, around 200,000 people.
Lack of knowledge is a big problem
Speaking as someone from that world who not only gives housing advice to the public but also trains others to do the same thing, I am well placed to comment and I would say that in far too many cases legal knowledge is patchy at best, downright bizarre at worst.
None of which is the fault of the advisers themselves and is certainly no reflection on their commitment. It is simply down to cuts and resources, meaning they don’t get the training they really need and often pick up eccentric practices from others in their organisation who picked up similar bad advice and passed it on as gospel. And then like a snowball rolling down hill………..
Enter Diane’s excellent tome
She has taken on a tall order. Writing a book that covers everything from landlord and tenant law issues, through disrepair, possession proceedings, injunctions, homelessness claims and community care. In short, every area that housing advisers of varying stripes might find themselves involved in at some point.
Even running to close on 1,000 pages it is still an introductory guide but does a bloody good job of it.
Like so many housing advisers I am a non-lawyer, having to work in law with very little formal training, just experience and books like this are a godsend. Legal stuff, clearly laid out that non-lawyers can actually understand.
Law books often tend towards the wordy, long paragraph style but “Housing Law” breaks all points and sections up into handy chunks, which means, in a busy, stressful environment the reader can easily and quickly find the relevant bit they need.
When you are working the frontline you don’t have time to research the ins and outs of ancient case law, or deal with the numerous ifs, buts and ands of an individual case that may need more comprehensive research. You have a tearful person in room 2 wanting a response before you move to your next appointment in room 3. Diane’s book does this perfectly.
If you need more in-depth info, the book guides you on where else to look and also will helpfully guide the adviser on the most relevant person in the organisation to refer the client on to.
What particularly appeals to me is the visual layout. Each section runs between just 15 and 20 lines before hitting the next sub-heading, which means the reader can eye-scan the pages and focus on the bit they need without having to read line after line of text, only to find that what they are researching is going up a legal cul de sac.
Important case laws aren’t referenced back to another part of the book but are written out in grey boxes, relevant to the text that preceded it. That works for me.
One small criticism
My one criticism is that I would have liked more on mortgage advice. I admit that this is entirely selfish as it forms 50% of my work these days but I think other advisers would also appreciate and benefit from a bit more in-depth guidance on this growing area of work. But it’s a pedantic and churlish criticism, I admit.
What always astonishes me, as a housing law trainer, is how few books most housing offices actually have. I always recommend the excellent ‘Defending Possession Proceedings’ to any people I train but in future I will also be recommending “Housing Law”. It’s a fantastic quick-flick guide to what you need to know, regardless of what area of housing advice you work in.
Reasons to buy
If an advice office has a copy they will find that it will probably be more ‘Thumbed’ than DPP, which is a bit of a specialist publication.
If your office is tight on budget, buy it yourself, or club together with your colleagues. It will save you time and effort. I can’t think of any area of housing work that wouldn’t benefit from having a copy lying around.
LAG aren’t paying me to say this. Fair enough I got a free copy in return for the review but I genuinely think it’s an essential volume. I am the only person in my office of 40 -50 people who has it.
I took it into work today and had to fight people off who kept grabbing it and looking up stuff relevant to their area of work. It has “Ben’s” written all over it and needless to say it will be locked in my bottom drawer from now on. Get your own!
You will find it >> here on Amazon. There is also a Kindle version, which is a bit cheaper.