Rogue Landlords Making A Killing from Benefit Tenants

Rogue Landlords Making A Killing from Benefit Tenants… or are they?

I’m a regular subscriber to the newsletter written by Ben Reeve Lewis, who writes for LandlordLaw, Tessa Shepperson’ s great website. I highly recommend both his newsletter and LandlordLaw to you.

Ben is a real south east London boy, a little like me, (though I was adopted by the area so I’m not quite the real deal).

You may have seen Ben on TV. He regularly pops up on the box exposing hopeless and rogue private landlords, (there is a difference, read on to “Mrs. Moggs” below). He also exposes tenants from hell too. But he also has a day job, most often working as a Tenancy Relations Officer for a local authority and doing the same thing.

Ben really understands the realities of the private rented sector far more than the top local and government politicians do. Like many people at the coalface he will tell you that myriad laws imposed on private landlords will not do a thing without enough enforcement bodies on the ground to go after the rogue landlords who blight our profession, whilst causing misery to their tenant-victims.

The rogues, hey, let’s call them what they are, the criminal landlords, will just ignore all the rules and do their best to stay under the radar. In the absence of enough enforcement at local government level most continue to get away with it for years, probably forever!

Rogue Landlords Killings

In a recent blog post, Ben highlighted a piece form a national newspaper that said some £2.5 billion in housing benefit (HB) goes out every year to landlords running properties in what they term a “non-decent” condition by which they mean properties with inadequate heating, outdated sanitation and serious disrepair such as vermin, dodgy boilers and faulty wiring

Ben remarks how this article piqued his interest. He says, “Given my day job, I’m interested in this. I go into these properties every day but in actual fact, in London, you find that 90% of the crappiest properties aren’t occupied by people on HB at all but by foreign nationals paying cash, usually with no receipts given.”

He remarks that he first noticed rogue landlords swapping over to this market 4 or 5 years back when they evidently realized that benefit claimants meant “people inside the system”, which in turn means documentation and traceability, not to mention people entitled to claim homelessness and approach the council for advice who then could potentially turn into “Witnesses for the Prosecution”.

Ben goes on to say, “In the worst areas, the worst properties are occupied by people paying rent to the worst types of landlords and the worst kinds of agents, all too eager to exploit vulnerable people desperately cramming themselves into rooms in order to be able to afford the rents out of their meagre earnings garnered through either cash in hand work (often with the same landlords) and zero hours contracts cleaning hotels for £4 an hour. In London, this is the real bad end of the rogue landlord market as people, like Dick Whittington, still think the streets are paved with gold.  I suppose if you are a criminal landlord with a ready supply of migrant workers desperate to just get by – they are.”

Right to Rent

Our daft government and the top civil servants at County Hall might like to  think that the “Right to Rent” controls would deal with this.

But, of course, it won’t, because, as Ben says, “The criminals playing the system who don’t give a flying fox about those laws either. They are not ‘ordinary’ landlords who obey the rules! This is organized crime, including people trafficking, not poor Mrs. Moggs from Cheltenham who accidentally let to a turbaned man from Lahore, because she’d once taken a weekend break in La Rochelle and understandably thought they were both in France.”

Meanwhile, you dear landlord-reader, given that you are reading this, will no doubt be complying with all the laws. You will still be struggling to deal with the multi-pronged tax assaults unleashed on our business by George Osborne.

And right now, if you have more than four mortgaged and let properties you may be reading about how the government in the shape of the PRA (part of the Bank of England) has just made it even harder for landlords like you to get finance or even to refinance your existing mortgage loans. The fact that it has got harder for you to get financing or to turn a profit will be part and parcel of the cost of having to comply with all the rules and regulations (many of them overlapping) that now govern our business.

But the criminal landlord will not have your cost base to worry about because he will not be meeting any regulations. His often illegal tenants will hardly dare complain for fear of being deported by the Border Control people. The chances of him ever being found out are very low because there are so few officers like Ben at the town halls – the councils are hopelessly overstretched. For the criminal landlord, life goes on very happily indeed.

And meanwhile, you dear good landlord, will be castigated by the likes of some in the press for supposedly ripping off benefit tenants.

Yes, it’s a mad world in which the government plays continually to the press gallery, who themselves fail to understand what is really going on in the real world of the private rented sector.

Welcome to the mad house!

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