Last night Channel 4’s Britain’s Benefit Tenants had my partner and I screaming into the sofa cushions at the naivety of the characters: one of whom was the optimistic landlord who invested his hard earned pension pot of £40k into a Hartlepool terraced house he’d never seen before. Looking forlornly at his due diligence homework courtesy of Google, he realised he’d cocked up. Fighting his corner was the lettings agent from NGU Homelettings, David, chasing rent arrears from a lady who refused to answer his efforts to contact her so he could “prevent her eviction”. One of his other cases were two drugged up brothers who were finally being evicted after a year and were oblivious to their dog peeing against a cupboard fondly labelled as a family heirloom.
After the programme, I dismounted from my high horse and remembered the following:
- My ex husband and myself also bought property (pre 2008 ) – unseen and unresearched – based on NGU Homelettings advice and investment potential for which they levied a hefty armchair and refurb fees. My excuse? I thought my ex husband knew something I didn’t. His excuse? The same as the landlord who bought the property in Hartlepool in a street where no one wanted to live – on paper it was a strong investment.
- As I was screaming into the pillow “You’ve waiting HOW long to evict the tenant?!?” the unswerving, magnanimous David excused the delay by saying something along the lines of “It’s better to keep someone in the property and have a chance of them receiving Housing Benefit to pass onto the landlord”. To be fair, he worked hard at trying to get that something or anything out of the tenant and I admired his patience. After all, he doesn’t have the luxury of quiet, clean, risk free tenants waiting in the wings to snap up one crappy, trashed house after another in a street where even the trades fear to tread.
On the subject of crap, did you see HOW much the tenants left behind? Again, David shrugged his shoulders and decided it could have been worse – at least they didn’t nick the copper.
Three Lucky Benefit Tenants
A few weeks ago an opportunity came up for Nadine, Anthony and a friend to move into a proper house after accepting that they would be 150 years old before any kind of social housing would be available. I’ve said before in a previous post that perhaps living in a room long term as you grow old could have a negative effect on one’s mental health. But with no job (or likely to ever have one) and relying solely on welfare, they knew most agents would balk at allowing them to rent any of their landlord’s precious abodes, despite the fact that they’d managed to save for a deposit and the first month’s rent. Their prayers were answered when a client of ours bought a lovely 3 bed house, handed it to us to manage and declared that Nadine et al sounded fabulous (although we did have to encourage Anthony into a clean T shirt before he met her). The landlord is now in possession of long term, reliable tenants and the tenants are ecstatic to have room to swing the proverbial cat.
But the crap they left behind! I love these people and would stand up in a court of law to defend their honour. However, after the fifth trip to the tip with their unwanted possessions I was ready to kill them. I have come to realise, when you’re on benefits anything free/gratis makes your heart leap with joy even if you don’t need it. I know Nadine would trawl the charity shops far and wide looking for something to bring home – clothes, pictures, lava lamps and a very weird set of elephants. None of them have a car so there was never going to be a hope in hell that they could get rid of their hoard. I spent a very wet and windy day sitting in the car listening to Tom confess his latest sexual exploits as he helped me take the detritus to the tip. And it wasn’t the smelly mattress which made me gag.
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