Tag Archives: repair

There may be fewer private landlords – but they are fleecing us more than ever

The number of private landlords in the UK has shrunk to a seven-year low, according to The Independent.

But that just means that the millions of privately-rented properties are in fewer hands – so those who are left can charge more, it seems to me.

The evidence seems to prove this assumption correct, as private rents have risen to £998 per month.

That’s a lot of money, considering most of us only earn around £12-13,000 a year.

Oh, and do you get more for your money, in terms of repairs and upgrades to the quality of the property?

No. 

Figures from the English Housing Survey in 2017 showed that private landlords letting homes that contain a serious hazard or have fallen into a poor state of repair trouser £2.3 billion in housing benefit annually.

Repeated attempts to pass legislation forcing such landlords to honour their responsibilities have failed – and it has been suggested that this is because many Conservative MPs are themselves private landlords.

Source: Number of private landlords ‘shrinks to seven-year low’ | The Independent

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Ben won’t bong for Brexit after ‘bung a bob’ campaign bows out

Red light: the fundraising scheme to restore Big Ben in time to ‘bong’ for Brexit has been stopped.

It was a stupid idea and it was doomed to fail – so that’s what it did.

It was based on a lie – that the government was “working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” for Brexit on January 31.

The liar? Boris Johnson himself.

Parliament had refused to provide the funds and Downing Street distanced itself from the remark, concentrating on official commemoration plans.

So it fell to the group StandUp4Brexit to try to make Johnson look better by making good on his smart-mouthed squawkings.

And, in fairness, it raised £272,000 of the half a million pounds that Johnson said would be required.

But time has run out and the online appeal has been terminated.

And for once, a Tory scheme is going to do some good, as the money will be given to veterans’ charity Help for Heroes.

Source: Brexit: Big Ben bongs fundraising appeal closes – BBC News

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Now work has begun, the cost of repairing Big Ben’s tower has soared. Other worthy projects go without

Repair costs for the Elizabeth Tower have been doubled [Image: PA].

If I’m reading this right, initial repair cost estimates were kept low to stop companies from artificially inflating their prices.

But now we’re being told that the cost has more than doubled, based on “better” information.

So what, exactly, was the point of the lower amount, which was only quoted to us all less than 18 months ago?

And why was the announcement sneaked out quietly on a Friday evening – in the hope that nobody would notice?

It seems like just another grubby attempt to hoodwink the general public.

Despite all Theresa May’s – and the other Tories’ – recent rhetoric, they are still pushing ahead with austerity for the poor, so projects that deserve public money are being neglected in order to push public money at vanity projects like this. There is nothing seriously wrong with the tower; the decision has been made to push money at it in order to save cash later.

But in the light of other pressures on public funds, is it really money wisely spent?

Some would say it isn’t:

The Tories are really shaking that Magic Money tree, aren’t they? Let’s remember to remind them of this, next time they tell us there’s no cash for anything useful.

Repair costs for the clock tower which houses the famous bell known as Big Ben have now doubled to an estimated £61 million, parliamentary authorities have said.

The conservation project for the Elizabeth Tower in the Palace of Westminster, London, was originally priced at £29m in the spring of 2016.

The House of Commons and House of Lords Commissions have been told that the increase in costs is due to a better understanding of the complexity of the work needed to restore the tower.

In a joint statement the clerk of the House of Commons, the clerk of the Parliaments and the director general of the House of Commons, said: “We acknowledge that there have been estimating failures and we understand the concern of the commissions.

“In advance of tendering contracts, the initial high level estimates were set at a lower level to avoid cost escalation from the market.

“Subsequent estimates, using better data and more extensive surveys, better reflect the true likelihood of the costs.”

Read more: Repair costs for Elizabeth Tower which houses Big Ben double to estimated £61 million


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Are you endangered by the threat of revenge eviction? Then help change the law

141020evictions

A few months ago, Mrs Mike – who is the named tenant of VP Towers – received a communication from our landlord (a housing association).

It was notification that the HA had applied to the Welsh Assembly to set a ‘fair rent’ at about £9 per week more than the then-current level.

Depending on your own circumstances, £9 per week may not seem altogether high but for Mrs Mike, who considers herself to have suffered undue neglect from her landlord (remember the flood last year?), it was the last straw. The notification letter stated that she could appeal against the increase, so she did.

You may be surprised, dear reader, to find that I was reluctant to support her. I feared the possibility of a revenge attack by our landlords, resulting in us ending up on the street.

I was wrong – but the issue took a few months to resolve. At first, the Assembly agreed with the housing association that our rent should be increased and, following representations by Mrs Mike, by more than the HA had originally requested. The landlord promised that it would stick to the original figure but Mrs Mike wasn’t having any of it and took the case to a tribunal, pointing out that our landlord wasn’t comparing our rent with similar houses in the local area (as is necessary) and that calls for repairs were habitually ignored or dismissed by servicers who are based almost 100 miles away.

Now our rent is cheaper – yes, cheaper – than it was before, and it seems our landlord is going to abide by the decision.

But this is a rare case, according to homelessness charity Shelter – and it seems we are safe only because we rent from a social landlord.

Current laws mean it is entirely legal for any private landlord to evict tenants, Shelter says, simply for speaking up about bad conditions going unacknowledged and unrepaired, as Mrs Mike has.

The situation affects no less than nine million UK citizens – and last year, 200,000 of them were thrown out of their homes in what the charity has described as ‘revenge’ evictions.

It seems some landlords don’t like to be embarrassed when their neglect comes out into the public domain.

This means that, according to Shelter, one in 12 private renters have avoided asking for repairs in case they are evicted.

But on November 28 MPs have the chance to end revenge eviction, the charity says.

“They’ll be debating a small change to the law: to stop landlords issuing an eviction notice when the tenant has made a legitimate complaint about conditions.

“For the Bill to pass, enough MPs need to attend the debate and the majority need to vote in favour. You can see more about how the Bill will become law here.

“You can tell your MP to save the date – to attend Parliament on 28 November and vote to end revenge evictions.

“Normally, MPs go back home on a Thursday to do constituency work on a Friday. This time, we need them to stay in Westminster until Friday morning, so they can vote to change the lives of the thousands of renters they represent.”

Shelter has provided a handy system to help you email your MP and ask them to improve the lives of nine million UK citizens. Here it is:

Email your MP and ask them to stay in parliament on Friday 28 November.

In the run-up to a general election, voters will be watching their MPs very carefully. Do they really represent you? November 28 will be a test of their good intentions. If they don’t stay and vote, you’ll know what to do with them next May. But they need to know what you want them to do.

It’s up to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Place your bets on Osborne’s next excuse for economic failure

This is not a good time to run a retail business - the effect of the Coalition's benefit cuts will trickle up and bite our rich retailers and industrialists hard.

This is not a good time to run a retail business – the effect of the Coalition’s benefit cuts will trickle up and bite our rich retailers and industrialists hard.

According to the BBC website, business activity was hit hard by last month’s exceptionally cold weather, with the number of people visiting shops down by more than five per cent.

For one person, this will have been an extremely pleasant piece of news, because for once he won’t have to explain himself.

That person is, of course, Gideon George Osborne.

For one month, he hasn’t been in the unenviable position of having to root around in the political undergrowth for a reason the economy has tanked – that isn’t related to his own hopelessly inadequate economic policies.

For one month only!

He will not have an excuse when the figures come in for April, worse than for March, as sane economic forecasters should expect.

Instinct says he will tell us the funeral of Margaret Thatcher will have something to do with it. He used the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as a shield – what goes for ‘matches’ must surely apply also to ‘dispatches’.

The real reason will be the effect of the huge benefit cuts, that will take £19 billion out of the economy over the next year, if commentators are to be believed.

That’s just in money terms. Add in a conservative estimate of the fiscal multiplier (the effect on the economy) and we’re staring into the black pit of a £30.4 billion loss. That would be £500 for every person in the UK, if we were all affected.

But the richest among us won’t be. It is on the poorest and least able to defend themselves that this hammer blow has fallen. The government has been giving money back to the richest, as we all know.

In fact, this show of support for his cosseted buddies might protect them from the storm that’s coming, and may therefore prove to be a shrewd move – but we must all remember that Osborne is not an intelligent man and good fortune coming to anyone as a result of his policies is pure chance.

Because the rich will be affected by the benefit cuts. Poor people have no choice but to spend the money they receive. They have to buy things they need and pay the bills, so it goes on food, heat, light, water, the rent, repairs and other necessaries. With less money available to them, they will not be spending as much in the shops, and will be more careful about how much gas, electricity and water they use, as well.

Who owns and runs the shops? Who owns the shares in the utility companies (now that the bulk of shares have been bought up from the middle-class speculators who bought them in the 1980s)?

The rich.

After a few months of this, we’ll see what happens to their profit margins. My guess is that a £100,000 tax rebate won’t help very much.

The propaganda machine keeps spewing out nonsense, of course. Only last weekend we heard Francis Maude telling Jonathan Dimbleby and the Any Questions audience in Exeter: “The Coalition government, which is two parties which have come together from a different place, in the national interest, to do something quite big and difficult, which is to address the biggest budget deficit any country in the west had.”

It wasn’t the largest budget deficit of any western country – either by size or percentage of GDP. That was a flat-out lie and I wish Jimbles would pull him up on it.

The deficit in the United States is greater than ours in percentage terms; in money terms, it dwarfs the UK.

Across the whole world, Japan has the biggest deficit.

Strangely, you don’t hear the Japanese making a big fuss about it.