[Ben Reeve Lewis remembers his Mum …]
Isn’t the wisdom of mum’s great?
My mum, a working class Geordie, worked in a factory where she was known as ‘Posh Pat’.
Not because of her accent, which was thick as you would imagine, but because she had middle class aspirations for her kids.
Something I’ve noticed a lot in my life among real down at heel working class people. They often don’t see any glamour in permanently struggling to survive or working down a pit as my Granddad did.
They leave that working class hero bullshit to socialist, middle class wannabees.
She passed on some good ethics to me that still stand me in good stead.
“Son…even dorty peepul like clean peepul” she used to say.
Wise words that come back to me in my new role visiting properties that you
normally only see in Channel 4 documentaries. I get into some pretty disgusting bits of living accommodation these days.
The DCT Search
Yesterday I was doing a presentation on my new team’s work to a bunch of police inspectors who asked how we identified dodgy properties.
I told them that we use a reliable tool called the ‘DCT Search’. Heard of it?
Come on…you are clued up landlords, even lawyers some of you and you have never heard of the DCT Search? Well I must get on…. I’ll tell you what it is at the end.
We aren’t the only ones concerned about weird and very poor property conditions. My mate Kevin, a housing adviser in Dartford sent me a link to a BBC article on changing trends in the Fire Brigade business
The growing problem of ‘Hidden Homes’. Randomly converted spaces and building done on the quiet, beyond the attention of building regulators or planning permission that are often death traps.
I certainly see many of these each week.
The article tells us that in the past year the fire brigade has been called to 36 fires in dodgily adapted properties. Two with fatalities.
What the article doesn’t mention but which I can add through first hand experience is that the vast majority of these places run on hotwired electricity supplies and tampered gas meters, massively increasing the fire risks.
The article informs us about Spanish worker Carlo and his family trying work and get established in the UK whilst living above a garage.
“They are 20 residents sharing eight rooms and a kitchen, while mechanics work on customers’ vehicles below.
“I looked for a two-bedroom flat, but it’s too expensive – the rent, the deposit. Now I live just in this room, little room, and I pay £433 every month – with no furniture,” said Carlo.
His daughters, now aged 18 and 21, sleep in bunk beds in the same room. The only other furniture is a small fridge, and there is mould on the walls”.
Believe it or not this is a depressingly common scenario that I see all the time.
Blood on the walls
Even this report from the London Borough of Brent is not uncommon in any respect:
“There were a lot of rats in the building. One day these rats just started dying in the walls and in the pipes because of the poison, and there was this horrible smell in our bathroom.
And then eventually there was this trail of blood that came down the wall and it was it was really really grim.
We went to the caretaker and he was just like, ‘What do you want me to do about it?'”
All a far cry from Foxtons eh?
Additional licensing in Brighton & Hove
While my lot have been clambering through bathroom windows in search of the candidates for the borough’s dodgiest property awards and Brent do similar work up in North London, 24 Dash told us that Brighton and Hove council have also been saddling up to attack fire conditions in their area’s houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
They have introduced additional licensing for their smaller HMOs bringing in a further 1,500 homes that are now regulated and fire safe.
Brighton is where London folk go for a day out so most of us are quite familiar with it. In fact it is often known as ‘London on sea’. For those who don’t know it, the place does have some very tall multiple occupied buildings all over the place.
Reduced tax allowances?
On the same subject of poor and unsafe properties the Guardian this week took inspiration from the suggestion made by the Chartered Institute of Housing that landlords running properties below the decent homes standard should have reduced tax allowances.
The CIHs Gainia Long said:
“Private landlords benefit from around £7bn of tax allowances a year for expenses, but they don’t target or incentivise higher standards.”
This may well help raise standards but I doubt it would do anything to change conditions among the landlords I deal with, for whom the notion of tax is the stuff of Isaac Asimov and parallel universes, not to mention all the other crap they get up to…..
Gas safe certificate?…..what’s one of those?, deposit protection?….sorry you’ve lost me there mate. Lawful eviction?…..you’re ‘avin a laugh aint ya?
Which reminds me I promised to explain our extraordinarily complex unlawful property assessment tool, the ‘DCT search’ didn’t I? It stands for ‘Dirty Curtain Test.
The Dirty Curtain Test
It works like this: Hone in on a dodgy street in your area, search out the manky-est looking shop, look above it for the dirtiest curtains. If the upstairs and the downstairs match, pop on your stab vest and barrel through the door.
It’s never let us down yet.
And no…….I’m not joking. Take a look at the photo and guess where I’m going tomorrow morning?
I can tell you exactly what I am going to find in there too. 30 people, no gas or electricity meters, no name or address for the landlord, stud walling that turns the 3 bedrooms into 8 separate units, no planning permission, you name it.
Posh Pat would be proud
If my mum, Posh Pat were alive today she would be so proud to learn that her son ended up earning a living by making value judgements about the state of people’s curtains and having the dirty buggers arrested to boot.
Like many of her generation she had a bee in her bonnet about what the neighbours thought of your cleanliness levels.
“Eee would you look at the state of that woman’s cortains. Why man she should be shot”, she would mutter disapprovingly to my Aunty Audrey over a cuppa.
Best job in the world mum!!
See ya next week