[Ben Reeve Lewis looks upwards …...]
I’ve been driven mad….literally.
This week I spent several days compiling information on properties above shops in my borough. It’s in these places that we see the worst conditions, the most overcrowding, fire hazards and disregard of renting laws.
So I got in the car and drove around the streets, craning my neck to get a full total.
When shutting my eyes at the end of the day all I could see was images of kebab shops, nail bars and establishments that provide internet café, accountants, solicitors and money transfer all thrown into the bargain. What fantastic, multi talented services they offer..
The next project …
Once you drag your head skywards you cant help noticing the forest of agent sign boards affixed to walls. Either these people are the busiest letting agents on the planet or they are using walls for free publicity.
By law agents boards can only remain up for 14 days after sale or letting has completed. Offenders face a penalty notice. ……..guess what my next project is going to be??? (rubs hands with glee).
Landlords v. Agents
The inestimable HMO Landlady had a few sharp words for letting agents this week too, not only of the often duplicitous approach to marketing the cash cow of running HMOs (Tip, don’t try to fool the woman whose been there, got the T shirt and written the book) but also highlights why it is in an agent’s interests to promote churn in housing where landlords want stability:-
“Now, apply these fees to a single let and you can see why it’s not in the agent’s interest to keep a tenant for longer than 6 months – by turning over tenants on a regular basis, the agent’s fees keep on coming and it ensures the back room staff are employed.”
Digging further into the subject she says:-
“On the subject of lettings, landlords and agents are diametrically opposed: the landlord wants long term tenants and no voids, the agent wants a steady turnover of tenants, the ability to charge new tenancy fees and doesn’t give a stuff about voids as the agent isn’t paying the mortgage or interim utility bills.
Did you know that some letting agents draw up contracts demanding their percentage from rents DUE not just rents collected. Therefore, if a tenant reneges on his AST early, management fees are still applied.”
Which is a thought I have also long held, that a landlord and an agents interests are opposed. At the root of their businesses.
Of course a good agent takes the view that their job is to represent their client’s interests even if they conflict with their own.
Trouble is, I don’t fall across that many in my job, they are too busy up ladders screwing sign boards to walls above shops to make themselves look successful.
Neighbour disputes are one thing I have always avoided like the plague professionally. I leave that stuff up to the Anti-Social Behaviour team who bizarrely seem to enjoy it. I can’t stand all that playground “He did it first” nonsense.
But I was interested in this neighbour dispute reported in the Telegraph.
Turns out Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page is moaning that the building of Robbie Williams’ swimming pool could damage his irreplaceable listed property with vibrations from the building works.
Robbie’s plans are also being contested by the neighbour on the other side, Marks & Spencer heir Johnathon Sieff for the same reasons.
The sublime to the ridiculous
It’s like a scene from Celebrity Street and a million miles away from the property I visited on Monday where the builders were converting a shed into a 5 room residence whilst simultaneously using a conveyor belt to excavate the basement.
When challenged about the unauthorised basement development they parried neatly, saying they were digging down to reinforce the structure to cope with the large loft extension, also built without planning permission, an argument somewhat defeated at the first hurdle.
Fraud and fake contractors
Heard of ‘Mandate fraud’? I have, which is why my eye alighted on an interesting piece from 24 Dash that fake contractors send information changers to housing associations in the name of real contractors but with new bank mandate forms.
You have to bear in mind that these organisations are bouncing around multi millions of pounds, so a bill for £30,000 aint big potatoes.
Obviously housing associations are awake to mandate fraud but if only one does it every now and again you can see why fraudsters do it.
The article goes on to explain:-
“Some fraudsters are becoming so sophisticated that they actually visit a housing association’s development construction site in order to learn who the landlord’s contractor is and where they are developing.”
Its no more complicated than those emails you get that begin with “Hello dear” before going on to inform you that god spoke to them in a dream and told them to give you one million pounds if only you give them your bank details to pay the money into.
You only need get lucky once, catch a housing association finance officer with a hangover or just on a busy Friday afternoon.
London – the money laundering capital
The Indy ran a story calling London the money laundering capital of the world insisting that “London’s Property boom” is being financed through corrupt overseas investors, or what Nigel Farrage would refer to as “Dirty foreigners”.
The article comes out of it’s corner going straight for the uppercut when it says:
“Billions of pounds of corruptly gained money has been laundered by criminals and foreign officials buying upmarket London properties through anonymous offshore front companies – making the city arguably the world capital of money laundering”.
I have no idea where the article went from there as I lost interest.
Receipe for misery
All I see all day long is property fraud so I’m hardly the one to be surprised, let alone play the role of “Outraged of Cheltenham”.
- 400g of property, add
- 3Tbs Money
- A tin of criminal activity
- 40g money laundering
- 50g of stolen electricity and voila,
A recipe for human misery that is the lot of the London property market 2015.
What made me smile this week
This hilarious and downright bizarre slice of 1970s Rutland Weekend Television. Eric Idle carrying out an insanely gibberish interview.
See ya next week.