Sunday, September 12, 2010

Landlord Laments

I think it was the previous Conservative administration that changed the rules (with the best of intentions) so that housing benefit was paid direct to the landlord :

Designed to increase the amount of rented accommodation, it created a class of landlords for whom the main attraction was the guaranteed income stream. The last thing they wanted was a tenant with a job - they'd have to collect the rent themselves. As unemployable drug-users and lowlife move in, so other houses in the street become harder to sell and prices fall - at which point in steps a private landlord to buy the property and move in more benefit recipients. A nice feedback loop, which I observed at close range, selling my late fathers house on a rough estate in County Durham. Bea Campbell wrote a long piece about this phenomenon, focusing on Newcastle and Sunderland, in the Observer some ten years back.
And I'm presuming that it was Labour who changed them back again, doubtless with the best of intentions, and with results like this :

A north west London landlord was asked to house a single mum arriving from Nigeria and was told it would be her, plus one child, although it was later established that there were four children in the property. The tenant started off well and passed over the rent for a couple of months - then it stopped, building up arrears of around £3,000 which is where it stood when we were contacted by the landlord to evict her as he wanted her out to get a more reliable tenant. She was successfully evicted and, in this case, the money was eventually paid back although it did take a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it put the landlord off letting to housing benefit tenants again. The tenant in question? Well she went on to be re-housed by her local council!
How do you just 'arrive from Nigeria' and start claiming benefit ? I digress. But I have a feeling that despite their travails, mass immigration plus UK benefits must have produced many housing benefit millionaires among landlords in London and other large cities.

The law was brought in to empower tenants and make them feel part of the buy to let market place and there are many good tenants, however, there are still a large number that are not so conscientious. I wrote to Tony McNulty MP at the department for work and pensions at the end of 2008, expressing my concerns at the way the system currently works and it took him nearly 3 months just to acknowledge my letter and then his response was to insist that safeguards were in place to ensure it worked properly. I beg to differ.

An Ealing landlord emailed to say her tenant had started to claim housing benefit but had lied about how much she was receiving and when she was being paid so, after a few months of not receiving her rent, she rang Ealing housing benefit direct to find out what was happening. Due to the data protection act, they were unable to pass on any information but, as she was owed the equivalent of 8 weeks rent, she was able to apply to the council to be paid directly which she duly did. However, the tenant used her 30 days to object and, soon after the rent was paid over by the council, she left the flat without notice...

As the landlord in question quite rightly pointed out to Ealing council, her tenant had embezzled £2,600 of tax payers’ money and the tax payer loses out on many counts. Their reaction? They just laughed and said it happens all the time.

A tenant in receipt of housing benefit does not pass it on, waits for the landlord to apply to the council directly, waits 30 days for their objection to be heard and, as soon as the money is paid directly, they leave without notice. The council recognises that their system is being abused and yet it is not regarded as benefit fraud.
This one's impressive :

"Today, a landlord told us a tenant is withholding rent and sending it to Kosovo to fund the building of a house," says Shamplina. It is almost you-couldn't-make-it-up territory.

Mind, some of the tenants who do stump up might present other problems :

"The most common cases appear to be organising gangs looking for an easy money making scam. They take out a tenancy and then sublet to multiple occupants. The worst case we have dealt with was a three bedroom, one bathroom, semi detached house in North London which was found to have had 53 occupants, all illegal immigrants. They were mattresses literally littering the floors from wall to wall in every available space. The sanitation issues were stretched to say the least."

"Another case was of a lady who had a lovely two bedroom flat in Victoria. Her tenant paid six months rent up front but she later discovered that 18 sets of bunk beds had been put into her property and was being used as a youth hostel. A website in China was offering students visiting London accommodation at £20 per night"


Anonymous said...

""Today, a landlord told us a tenant is withholding rent and sending it to Kosovo to fund the building of a house," says Shamplina. It is almost you-couldn't-make-it-up territory.
To be fair to them, when we are that stupid I can almost understand them ripping us off!

Mark said...

'How do you just 'arrive from Nigeria' and start claiming benefit ?'

Probably thru the good offices of someone like Joseph Dzumbira at the Home Office(google him) and/or Sam Yeboah at your local Council (google Sam Yeboah Bernard Crofton).

One of the manifold benefits of third world immigration to the UK has been the enrichment it has bought to the hitherto stuffy old world of public administration. A vibrant new world of corruption and peculation exists in the formerly staid environs of Lunar House at the Home Office, and at innumerable town halls across London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire.

Sam Yeboah's beneficient reign in Hackney (at least for his fellow West Africans) occurred a decade and a half ago. Instead of being eliminated, the practices he pioneered have become common, and indeed became the template for hundreds of other chancers and con men who have followed in his wake. And thanks to NuLab, most of them have by now probably obtained UK passports.

Anonymous said...

No wonder the country is bankrupt.
I'd far rather the money was spent on carriers, tanks, nukes and fighter planes all designed and manufactured in Blighty.

Why the hell should I pay for some Nigerian to live in MY country? I object to that most strongly. I object to paying them to live in their own countries through overseas aid.
There is so much of that shit going on all around us that we are desensitised to it. In much the same way as third world corrupt practicies are now almost expected in our public bodies and that violence and murder are expected at any percieved slight at Islam but not at any other religion.
It's absofuckinglutly insane. It is a rot that needs to be stopped or we will sink in this liberal mire.

Brian said...

The Habitual Residence and Right to Reside tests have to be passed in order to be eligible for benefits.
I agree with Mark. When I 'phoned Lunar House six years ago to confirm that a client actually had a right to reside (instead of a photocopied letter) I was unable to understand the thick West African accent and poor syntax of my Home Office colleague. Reader, I gave up in despair.

Mark said...

thanks for the link to the Guidance paper on HabRes produced for the benefit of our illustrious parliamentarians. A number of things strike me about this document;
1. This country's wishy-washy interpretation of the new Rights of Residence Directive 2004/38/EC, which came into force in 2006- centainly when compared to the robust interpretation of the same currently being applied by Le President Sarko en France.
2. The repeated references to the Common Travel Area. The exclusions applicable under this rubric allow Irish travellers to lodge claims for relevant benefits the minute they pitch up in the UK, even if they have spent years living back in the Republic.
3. Oona King's efforts (on behalf of her Bangladeshi constituents) to get the HabRes Regs relaxed in 1999 (I have a strong suspicion that the 'Nessa case' referred to in the paper refers to a woman who was then her constituent). All Oona's solicitude for the welfare of her 'constituents', freshly arrived from a country over 5000 miles away, of course counted for sod-all when she failed to get re-elected in Bethnal Green in 2005.

Anonymous said...

All Oona's solicitude for the welfare of her 'constituents', freshly arrived from a country over 5000 miles away, of course counted for sod-all when she failed to get re-elected in Bethnal Green in 2005.

Th old problem, you can pander all you like but someone can always outpander you. This applies more to the so-called right than left of course.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to them, when we are that stupid I can almost understand them ripping us off!

Who is this 'we' then?

Did 'we' ever get to vote on any of this, did 'we' ever get to vote on a party manifesto that promised any of this?

No we didnt and we still dont.

In 2009 'we' did get a vote in Switzerland, voting to ban minarets on mosques, the mildest of mild resopnses to our destruction. And, amazingly, when 'we' got a vote, 'we' didnt vote for suicidal liberalism after all. Who would have thought it?

Mr Grumpy said...

Good stuff, but re the last couple of paras my wife and I don't get the opportunity to sublet to half the population of China as we rent through an agency which inspects us every 3 months. Caveat vendor.