[Ben Reeve Lewis warns landlords that they need to know the law …]
My apologies in advance this week to Tessa and other readers of the legal profession.
Having been become embroiled in a number of futile legal disputes in the past few months I wonder whose side the law is on sometimes.
This week Frazzy flagged up a story for me in the Daily Mail about a 40 foot high rubbish dump sitting next door to people’s houses.
A pile of rubbish
Go ahead, look at the pile. It’s like a life sized model of the Matterhorn made entirely out of disposable nappies, and it aint Tracey Emin we are talking about here.
The article begins with:
“A team of diggers has started removing 2,500 tonnes of waste from a 40ft-high rat-infested rubbish pile which has blighted the lives of residents for the past three years.”
2,500 tonnes? Sounds impressive but not when you consider that the rubbish dump itself comprises 20,000 tonnes, so this daft gesture is a tiny proportion of the rat infested mess.
Rats aside…..if you can ever say that with a straight face, the monstrous pile has a habit of catching fire as well. One blaze lasted 10 days!!!!!!!!
Of course the problem is that the company which runs the site Waste4Fuel, charges people to use the dump, so it is a case of profit first and everyone else can ‘Feck off’ to quote the wisdom of Craggy Island’s Father Jack Hackett.
Trouble is, the Environment agency and Bromley Council are, to use a tired old phrase “Locked in a high court battle, with Waste4Fuel”.
You know what that means? Years of endless litigation that gets nowhere.
Don’t do this at home
Frazzy put her finger on it, why bother getting bogged down in a “High court battle”?, screw the legal proceedings, find the home addresses of the bosses of Waste4Fuel. Tap up the neighbours for £20 each, hire a van, stick some sticky old crap in it and dump it on throe front drives. See how they like it.
They’ll take you to court, you will lose against their expensive lawyers but the press will have a field day if you manage it right.
Then do what the MacDonalds Three did. Refuse to pay the costs and let the whole thing drag through court again, while their own corporate disposable nappies are out there for the appropriately named ‘Gutter press’ to dig into.
Why let people use the legal system of adjournments, out of date filing of defences backed up by limp apologies to a weak judge to drag things on interminably?
Speaking from experience …
Yes folks. I can’t talk about specifics but guess what my week prosecuting rogue landlords has been made up of????????
Having been run ragged in the last seven days by rogue landlords playing the legal system to their own advantage I am thankfully reminded that the vast majority of landlords aren’t in that criminal camp and comprise ordinary, decent folk who break laws that they don’t even know are there.
More amateur landlords
Inside Housing this week reports that seven out of ten private landlords are amateurs, merely supplementing the income from their day jobs
This certainly resonates with what I see but where does this leave tenants? NLA head Richard Lambert said:-
“Landlords should make sure they educate themselves as to what is expected of them, legally and professionally, especially if they plan to manage the properties themselves.
Not knowing your obligations as a landlord could result in serious problems, financial as well as legal. A tenant should be safe and comfortable in their home and ignorance is no excuse.”
Wise words that the would-be landlord should heed.
Amateurs can’t be pro’s without training
I’m a keen cook and loved reading Anthony Bourdain’s seminal book ‘Kitchen Confidential’, about the real life end of the restaurant business.
He talks of people using retirement/redundancy money to open a bistro, thinking it is simply an extension of hosting dinner parties and how the pros in town earmark the cookers and fridges they want to buy at auction when the naïvely conceived business enterprise inevitably goes down.
I’m a housing pro and I have the same view when I see amateurs enter the fray.
While the poor newbie landlord pours their celebratory glass of Chardonnay and imagines their future assured I know in advance about
- the nightmare tenant who wrecks the place and doesn’t pay,
- the housing benefit claw back,
- the endless arguments about condensation v rising damp,
- the adjournments and suspensions on possession proceedings [not if they get it right – Ed],
- the housing advice worker, usually me, telling them they have to get a possession order even though the tenant owes them 5 grand.
Welcome to landlording. Rather you than me.
Like the people living next to the Mt Everest of soiled nappies, the law will not help you unless you do some work and know what you are getting into.
Economics : law = 60:40
Tessa and I talk often about this. Letting agents and property portals will talk about yields, loan to value ratios, return on investment and all of this guff, which is admittedly a huge part of being a landlord….say 60%, but the remaining 40% is housing law.
That boring stuff that you don’t want to hear about. But it is out there, ready to sink your investment if you don’t take the legal niceties onboard.
For example. You have a ‘no pets’ clause in your tenancy agreement but your tenant keeps chickens. Clear breach of contract yeah? ………..No!!!!!! Under Section 12 of the Allotments Act 1950 chickens and rabbits don’t count.
Your tenant pays their rent monthly, you don’t provide a rent book. Legal breach? ….no! But you have another tenant who pays their rent weekly. No rent book……..legal breach?………..Yes. Section 4 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
You have to know your way around this stuff if you aren’t going to add tears to that celebratory glass of Chardonnay.
Basically you have two routes.
- Completely ignore the law like the people I deal with, or
- get educated.
If seven out of ten landlords are amateurs that worries me in my professional capacity because most of you that I meet are nice people heading fro a slow motion car crash because your eyes are on the profit not the obligations.
Finally, I came across an interesting housing based charity this week Project Sun, giving loans to people in Nicaragua a chance to light their homes using solar panels.
Quite a few Brit housing associations have been donating money their way. A full kit costs $500 dollars which they pay back over 5 years, which would be the same they would pay on an electricity bill, after that they are operational and self sustaining.
The sort of imitative I like, not charity but small development loans. Give them a tweet get the message around.
Oh and another finally. Woke up this morning to the story of the one armed pilot whose artificial arm fell off whilst landing the plane. The Daily Mirror had the best headline “Hands Solo” aha. Prize of the week.
See ya next week.
NB If you are are an ‘amateur landlord’ note that you will find friendly support and help on Landlord Law – which was written to help landlords like you – Ed