Greg returns from prison having only got into one fight and “has spent a lot of time thinking. When you’re locked in a cell for 23 hours there ain’t much else to do”. Good, well at least he’s had time to plan how he’s going to get out of this mess.
He was looking remarkably well and full of enthusiasm until he read the rent statement showing him to be £800 in arrears and counting. For someone with no work and no income this is not an easy one to get out of. “Are you gonna kick me out then?” he asked. “Nope,” I said “But if you want to stay you’re going to have to start talking to me, stop lying and play by my rules otherwise I’ll kick you out legally”. We came up with a plan which involved:
- Getting in touch with Housing to find out where he stands on his LHA. [Local Housing Allowance] I’d written to them to let them know that he was 8 week’s behind and, typically, received no response. In the meantime, the prison Welfare Officer assured him that Housing would pay his rent for 4 months whilst inside. Unsurprisingly, Greg thought it was all sorted. Unsurprisingly to me, I knew some council worker was passing it around the system or using the paperwork as a mug coaster .
- Working out how much was left to pay: Once we could find out how much and when his LHA would restart, we could work out the balance he needed to clear. He’s a painter and decorator so I’ve offered to reduce the arrears a bit if he’ll paint the outside of the house before the neighbours pluck up confidence to tell me I’m letting the street down.
- How to pay the rest of the arrears without causing pressure: When someone’s in this situation, with mounting debts and child maintenance to pay, the last thing they need is heaps more pressure from me when they’re doing the best they can. We came up with an agreement to clear the remaining arrears over 6 months but with no figures to play with, this is an unknown.
So, I’m trying my best to help sort his accommodation out. The Council? Well, here’s a text from Greg this evening:
“Hi. I ended up having to go to a pay phone and putting £9 in to phone HB [Housing Benefit]. Managed to get through in the end but all I managed to get before it cut out was it can take up to 14 working days after the job centre have been in contact with them. He couldn’t tell me exact date of them releasing the money till Job Centre have been in touch. Just wanted to let u know as I don’t want u thinking I’m being slack already”
I’m considering billing Mr Schapps £140 a week which is the amount it would cost our local council to put this young man into Bed and Breakfast accommodation if I’d done what any sane person would do and evict him. However, I like his mum and dad, want to believe he’ll sort things out and am trying to forget that he told me he bumped into some of the prison inmates from his drug dealing days……………
I Have A New Assistant!
On a lighter note: as it’s school holidays I’ve decided to try a new rent collecting strategy with the help of my six year old son. He announced to the tenants that he wants to “be a police officer when I grow up”. “Oh no you don’t!” they all chorused. He doesn’t want to now as HIS helmet boasts a blue flashing light.