[Ben Reeve Lewis is back…)
Well since my unexpected, enforced break last week my hand is finally working again, albeit a dark red, itchy scab but at least I can type.
Note: If you are going to marinate meat, make sure you pat it dry before you drop into hot fat to brown it. The old water and oil situation.
I got a phone call from a researcher at BBC Rogue Traders programme on Wednesday. I was on a break from training just outside Llanelli at a business park in the hills and wandering in a field by the side of the training suite. The call went like this:-
BBC: “Hi Ben. I’ve been advised to call you about rogue landlords as an expert in your field”
Me: “Well, I’m an expert IN a field”
BBC: “But I was told you were in housing?”
Me: “No I mean I am actually in a field”
BBC: “Excuse me??????”
Me: “Sorry don’t worry about it”.
Sometimes jokes just don’t transfer.
Vice Media on Dawn Raids
The other day I was up at the trendy Hoxton based bright, shiny office of Vice Media who are starting a series on Sky TV about the rental market across the world.
I have never seen so many achingly hip under 25 year olds in one place. That’s TV types for you, so I was intrigued to read their article about money designated for rogue landlords is being used to arrest tenants instead.
The problem seems to be when enforcement officers in councils take UKBA border police out with them. A report by a group called Radical Housing Network compiled from FOI requests submitted to 30 councils complains:
“Then there is the obvious distress caused by early morning police raids on already vulnerable tenants, especially where families with children are concerned. Why carry out a dawn raid at all? Landlords are unlikely to be living on the property – especially if it is squalid and overcrowded – and renting out an illegal property isn’t the kind of thing you need to catch culprits at red-handed”
As a now freelance enforcement officer working for a number of councils and veteran of dozens of early morning raids I thought I would just correct this misunderstanding.
Ben on Dawn Raids – the reason why
Most slum properties in London are let to people with less choice than others, which often means those from abroad, some are here legally some aren’t.
The trick, as I and many of my enforcement colleagues in different boroughs are realising is, don’t take UKBA with you.
We are there to protect the rights of the tenants and to order works to be done to make properties safe and despite early enthusiasm for completely multi-agency raids is being tempered with a caution about going out with the black clad ones.
On the matter of dawn raids the aim is not to catch the landlord red handed but to go when the landlord isn’t there and at a time when there are people there to let you in. precisely in order to get the evidence to have the rogue bang to rights.
If you tell anyone you are going ahead of time you find this results in a swathe of illegal evictions as the landlord empties the house to avoid being accused of running an HMO.
If we go at 12pm there is often nobody in to allow access and if you do get in, 3 mattresses on the floor of a room is not sufficient proof that 3 people are living in it.
We’re here to help
Yes, tenants are taken by surprise by the knock on the door and often look alarmed when they first open it but we are all there for a reason, to keep them safe in often death trap conditions.
None of us are Gestapo and the first task for all is to set them at ease and 5 minutes in the tenants are chatting away quite passionately in the kitchen about threats of illegal eviction, no tenancy agreement, no deposit protection, no receipts for rent,
My job is to then stand between the tenants and the landlords, advise of rights and even on many occasions defend the tenants in possession proceedings in court and we do that for free.
I have five of these going on at the moment, resulting from dawn raids on three properties. The tenants have our mobile numbers and call for help and advice throughout the week
I wouldn’t like a bunch of strangers knocking me up at 7am but the amount we do for tenants, regardless of their immigration status is to my mind a small price to pay.
If rogue landlords and squalid conditions are to be taken out you can’t sit in the office waiting for complaints to come in, you have to get out there and find the problems.
Right to rent survey
Staying with this theme, how is the Right to rent going for you? You know……..that natty little plan to turn landlords into immigration inspectors?
The joint council for the welfare reform of immigrants has this week advertised to hear from landlords and tenants who have so far been affected by this madness. If you have a story to tell, let them know.
Students on strike
Landlords of student accommodation might be interested in reading this story. About a planned rent strike in October among students of 25 universities across the UK.
It is activist driven, among whom are the Radical Housing Network who produced that misinformed report covered by Vice Media, and to be fair, a six month strike has already brought concessions from educational institutions letting properties. Doubt the strategy would work with private landlords though.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticising it. I’m all for de-centralised activism. Its where I come from. So good luck to you all.
What made me smile this week.
Being in Llanelli.
I spent two days training there and I day back in July and I have to say the town seems to have the friendliest, most chatty population of anywhere I have been outside of India.
I even got a lift off of a goods train.
I missed my train at Llanelli which meant an hour wait for the next to connect with Swansea, having the knock on effect of missing my train to London. My shoulders slumped as I read the arrivals board and worked out my dilemma when I heard a sing-songy, Ivor the engine voice shout “Allo………you got a problem?”
It was the train driver of a small goods train on the other platform. I explained my predicament and he said “Well ‘op in ‘ere boy, we’ll take you”.
I asked if he was going to Swansea and he replied “No but I can drop you off” and that’s what he did. We rattled through a range of villages and cuttings unknown to the London express and he dropped me off at Swansea.
You don’t get that from Southern Rail.
See ya next week.