Last week two lovely ladies from the Council (whom I’ve nicknamed the HMO Inspectors) came to visit for my renewal licence. They were very complimentary and we had a chat about the challenge of housing LHA tenants.
This prompted some research: I know we’re in a recession and I was on the understanding that LHA rates were set reflecting current market levels. Why then, has the weekly shared accommodation rate gone from £73.64 in March 2010 down to £71.50 in 2011 then down again to £67.00 in 2012 despite the fact that, looking in our local paper you can’t get a room for under £90pw and some ads were even asking £130pw up from an average of £75pw three years ago!?! Visit http://www.lha-direct.voa.gov.uk to check out the rates nationwide.
To those who keep a close eye on the rental market, this won’t be news but to anyone else, consider this:
- Waiting list for council homes is typically 5 -25 years
- There are no legal requirements to house my typical tenant – over 21 years old, single, in possession of most of their mental and physical faculties.
- Any market rent over and above the LHA rate must be paid for by the tenant from their other benefits e.g. Jobseekers which is set around £65pw
- This leaves £42pw disposable income which, depending on your point of view, is either just enough to stay out of trouble or an incentive to work illegally
The ladies seemed surprised when I told them that, despite informing Housing on 7th June of one tenant being 8 weeks in arrears and requesting direct payment – well over 2 months later I still haven’t had any contact or money from the Benefit department so I shall now reluctantly serve a Section 21 notice before I have to apply for charitable status.
Now, I’m a patient kind of girl and hate to see people being taken advantage of, but is it really any wonder why, according to Landlord Today, that over 59% of ads stipulate no Housing Benefit?
Octavia Hill – My New Heroine
Leading on, I was led by Ben Reeve-Lewis to an article in the Guardian about Octavia Hill, the social reformer who collected her rents in person. You can read the article here but one of the reply comments said “Octavia adopted a very strong, controlling influence over the lives of her tenants…”
I can see how my methods could be viewed as similarly dictatorial but it remains, as in her day, that we are not all created equal and some tenants want help, advice or just someone to chat to. I’m careful to be appreciative, even grateful, of any rent received and, if a tenant doesn’t want me to interfere, I’ll happily accept a standing order weekly or monthly which is easier than being given permission to sift through their pants drawer to find the cash because they can’t be bothered to get out of bed.
The benefit of personal contact in ANY market can never be underestimated. Take Andrew: he’s fed up with his job (street selling) and has got himself an interview as a chef. With scant reading and writing skills his career options are limited but he phoned me today to let me know the good news. We chatted about what he was going to say, which questions he might be asked and I reminded him of his positive attributes which he needed to get over to the interviewer so she’d forget about his Community Service Order. With no family to encourage him and friends who would take the p**s out of him committing to a full time job, I hope that keeping me up to date is mutually beneficial.
Gwynneth Paltrow – Makes Me Want To Try Heroin
Talking of interviews – Times Style interviewed Gwynneth Paltrow on how she juggles the demands of being a working mummy. Oh to have to worry about dividing quality time between the kids and the yoga instructor, travelling between homes in London and Los Angeles as well as keeping a gorgeous rock star husband sexually satisfied. Somehow I can’t quite see the Sunday media wanting an exposé on how my kids enjoy spending their summer holidays on room viewings, rent collection or tenant chasing whilst I balance life in the fast lane trying to talk to ANYONE from Housing Benefit with day trips to Legoland!