[Ben Reeve Lewis considers the joys of living in ‘interesting times’..]
Well yesterday was launch day. The Deregulation Act is finally here in all its badly drafted and confusing glory.
Welcome to a new world, a world where eminent lawyers, housing advisers, landlords and tenants the length and breadth of England screw up their face, glance from one piece of paper to another and blows out it’s collective cheeks.
And as the whole weird mess moves forward judges will pick up on small bits of wording and detail that nobody picked up on before but which become major legal issues that throw things into chaos while legal types put clients on hold waiting for the long passage of a case through the higher courts to clarify a single issue so we can all start advising properly again.
Until the next issue comes to light.
Such is the way of housing law in the past few years and while you’re still reeling from all this, bear in mind we have the housing bill being published in a couple of weeks, the immigration Bill with it’s mad ‘Right to rent’ idea and the second reading of the Karen Buck Bill.
What’s that old Chinese curse? “May you live in interesting times”!
And we do indeed.
Unrest and anger still simmer away in housing land as what is becoming the obligatory attacks on Foxton’s shop windows expands to include the Shoreditch branch of Marsh & Parsons which had red paint thrown at it during an anti-gentrification demo on Saturday.
To explain for non-Londoners; Shoreditch is/was your typical working class East End area. Always run down and seedy, stomping ground of Jack the Ripper in the 19th century, the Kray twins in the 60s, the National Front in the 70s, until a few years ago when it became so achingly hip that you now can’t find a launderette or off licence, because they’ve been replaced by a chi-chi Lebanese street food vendor or overpriced arty print shop.s
Just off Brick Lane there is even a Ukulele shop….for god’s sake.
Hipsters and hip
The beautiful Hipster women have got more tattoos than a Victorian side show and the Hipster men wear trousers too short for them and gigantic beards that make them look like Foreign Legionnaires circa 1890.
Being trendy, glamorous, young and thin, they mostly seem to have jobs in the media and PR, meaning they are generally more moneyed up than most, hence the property prices.
The modern version of what were known in the 1990s as ‘Trustafarians’, scruffy dreadlocked denizens of Notting Hill, giving the appearance of being squatters whilst secretly living off of ‘Daddy’s trust fund’.
I loved the fact that it is reported on Property Industry Eye that the protestors carried pig’s heads, an ironic and very topical anti-capitalist affectation that I am sure will become a protestors favourite for many years to come, like the Guy Fawkes masks from the graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’.
In a gold medal winning example of over simplification that would make Nigel Farrage proud, organisers Class War said on their facebook page:
“Our communities are being ripped apart – by Russian oligarchs, Saudi sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short-sighted race for cash by ‘regenerating’ social housing. We don’t want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing”
They forgot to add ‘huge beards’ to their list of hate figures, although this didn’t escape them on the day as they attacked one of those over-priced café’s that you can never get into because of all the yummy mummy pushchairs feeding organic porridge to Jack and Scarlet.
I saw the café owner on BBC News complaining that his beard had become ruffled in the fight, poor lamb.
Me ‘n Jes
Leaving beards aside I came across this fantastic story, again via Property Industry Eye about an estate agent’s drone aircraft crashing into a house.
Housing drones are becoming increasingly prevalent in so many areas.
A couple of years back I did a speech at a tenants rights group meeting in North London where it was just me and Jeremy Corbyn.
Admittedly I had been to the pub first and advanced a questionable joke, given the assembled group, about a housing association I had heard of, having spent £80,000 acquiring said drone but who were too nervy to let staff use them.
I ventured “I think they are scared in case they lose control and it runs off to bomb a wedding”.
Two people laughed, Jeremy scowled.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a card carrying Labour member and a fierce Corbyn supporter, but I also have a black sense of humour, attained through 25 years of dealing with domestic violence victims, trafficked people, etc etc. You can’t stay politically correct in that sort of environment.
Anyway, apparently the unnamed drone pilot, working for an unnamed estate agent had obviously never watched The Dambusters, because he screwed up the low flying and dinged off the roof of the neighbour’s house, breaking a slate.
Said neighbour Ilona Davidson said she was:
“Uncomfortable with a drone flying over “a personal, private space”
Back in 2014 the housing industry’s main organ ‘Inside Housing’ ran several stories about councils and housing associations using drones to gather information previously brought in by housing management officers and contractors.
I can’t point you to any specific stories because Inside Housing now charges a subscription fee in the fight to get in an extra £2 a week, so you wouldn’t be able to open the link but rest assured, in the scramble to cut jobs in the public sector pilotless aircraft are de rigeur.
Drones are being used to scout out roofing problems without having to employ scaffolders to set platforms up but they aren’t without their own legal problems.
However, Local Government Lawyer Blog last week covered concerns about data protection and drone activity for councils.
Drone activity is still covered by the CCTV Codes of Practice, which the article helpfully informs us are:
- limiting the recording based on the purpose for which you are recording;
- data captured should be held securely;
- data is only accessed by those who require such access;
- data is retained only for the minimum period necessary for its purpose;
- consider incorporating privacy by design methods, which means considering devices that can focus on only one place or have restricted vision; and
- consider ways to provide fair processing information to those likely to be affected.
Daniel Milnes of Forbes Solicitors states:
“While using drones may result in saving money in maintenance in the short term, if legal obligations are not seriously considered it could cost a housing association much more if it resulted in a data protection breach.”
So there goes many housing officer’s hopes of using drones to film naked ladies getting out of the bath.
Damn these party poopers.
What made me smile this week
My own pomposity.
I travelled up to Norwich to record this week’s Landlord Law TV slot. Trainline.com had a first class return for only £1.50 more than standard, so I nabbed it and sat in Zen like peace with my 3 or 4 carriage partners.
5 or 6 Ipswich football fans gathered by the doors for 10 minutes waiting to get off at Colchester being loud, lairy and drunk, albeit friendly enough, while I inwardly fumed that my 1st Class peace and quiet was being imposed upon.
I mean, after all I paid an extra £1.50 for this!!!
Let them eat cake.
See ya next week.