“Ex-Persimmon chief fails to set up charity after anger over £75m bonus”

Owl says: a charity for the homeless would seem appropriate …!

“Jeff Fairburn, the former chief executive of the housebuilder Persimmon, has failed to set up a charity almost a year after pledging to do so in an attempt to assuage public and political anger at his “obscene” £75m bonus.

Fairburn has not registered a charity with the Charity Commission or made any inquiries about how to set one up, 10 months after he said he would donate a “substantial proportion” of his bonus to a charitable trust. Fairburn declined to comment.

He was ousted last month after the company said his mammoth pay deal had become a “distraction”. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/21/persimmons-former-ceo-jeff-fairburn-fails-to-set-up-charity-after-pledging-portion-of-75-million-bonus

Disabled woman who paid rent on time for 12 years “evicted before Christmas … for highlighting the damp

What happened to us?

It is two weeks before Christmas and boxes are strewn across the living room of an apartment in Weybridge, an affluent town in the chancellor Philip Hammond’s leafy Surrey constituency.

Despite the time of year, this is not a festive gift-wrapping session. Instead, the packages contain the possessions of a 63-year-old woman, moving out of her home at a far from ideal time of year.

Wendy (not her real name) has little choice, however. She is being evicted by her landlord – a Malaysia-based investor and owner of numerous UK properties – who is throwing out his tenant despite her never having missed a rent payment.

“I am literally being sick,” Wendy said in the run-up to her move. “I am absolutely desperate and housing associations will not help; it is a nightmare.”

This tale of a Christmas eviction may seem Dickensian but it is current, commonplace and seemingly frequently tolerated by local authorities. In many cases – including Wendy’s – it is also perfectly legal.

Legal no-fault evictions – called “section 21” in the jargon – have existed since 1988. They are controversial and there is now a parliamentary move to change the law – partly because of the type of antics highlighted by campaigners such as the Labour MP Karen Buck, who told a Westminster Hall debate on section 21 earlier this month how an unidentified landlord had bragged on social media about timing his evictions at this time of year. The post read: “If a tenant has annoyed me I wait to pull the trigger in mid-November to screw up their Christmas.”

Wendy’s rent was paid in full during her 12-year tenancy, despite longstanding problems at the property, which she says included seven years of a leaking roof. She suspects that she was the victim of a “revenge eviction” – a punishment for her commencing legal proceedings because of conditions in the flat.

The complaint letter sent by Wendy’s lawyer to the landlord’s estate agent, Winkworth, in March of this year, stated: “You were notified [about conditions] verbally by our client on a number of occasions … The defects at the property are causing an exacerbation of our client’s health issues. Our client is disabled and the damp is causing our client to suffer significantly.”

Ten weeks later and Wendy, who describes herself as “slightly disabled [with] crippled fingers”, received a section 21 notice from her landlord Bazmore Enterprise, a UK-registered company owned by Bujang Bin Ahmad Zaidi.

When asked by the Guardian to explain the decision, Kim Karpeta, a director of Winkworth’s Weybridge franchise, said: “If she hadn’t got lawyers involved and tried to beat the landlord up with a stick, she’d have probably been fine.”

Karpeta later said he “used the wrong choice of words and … did not present the situation in the correct light”. Bazmore’s lawyers added that Karpeta was not authorised to comment on its behalf and denied the eviction was retaliatory.

Before Wendy left her home the leaking roof had been fixed but the smell of damp would hit you as soon as you entered the two-bedroom flat.

A dark mould clung to some ceilings and around the kitchen window, which remained moist to the touch. There was a coldness to the walls, stained by dripping water, while the ceiling lights would flicker on and off seemingly at a whim.

The property appeared, by most modern standards, a miserable place to live – an assessment pretty well agreed by all parties. However, each side has differing versions about why problems went unsolved – and why Wendy was evicted just before Christmas.

Bazmore and Winkworth said Wendy was an awkward tenant, who did not always allow workmen access to the property to make repairs. They also claimed that other tenants in the block had complained about her.

Wendy argued that despite years of complaints to the current and a previous landlord, Bazmore’s eviction proceedings only commenced after she started her legal claim in March.

If that was the trigger, she would hardly be alone. Nearly half of all tenants who make a formal complaint about their housing suffer a “revenge eviction” by private landlords, according to research by Citizens Advice. Rules protecting tenants from revenge evictions exist but they do not always work and did not apply in Wendy’s case.

So who can tenants complain to?

The obvious answer might be the local authority, although many are under financial pressure and the IFS, an economics thinktank, calculates that council housing budgets were down 53% in real terms from 2009-10 to 2017-18.

Also, Wendy resides in a borough with a statistically weak enforcement record.

Elmbridge was one of 53 councils in England and Wales that did not make a single prosecution under the Housing Act during 2015, 2016 or 2017, according to responses to freedom of information requests made as part of an earlier joint investigation into rogue landlords this autumn by the Guardian and ITV News.

Furthermore, Elmbridge failed to impose a single civil penalty on a landlord during 2017-18.

Dan Wilson Craw, a director of the private renters’ campaign group Generation Rent, said: “Relying on cash-strapped councils to give tenants protection from retaliatory eviction is too fiddly. We need a stronger fundamental right over our homes – and that starts with abolishing section 21.”

Elmbridge did serve an improvement notice on Wendy’s property in 2015, which supposedly compelled the then landlord – and future landlords – to act.

Russell Moffatt, a former enforcement officer with the London borough of Newham in east London and now co-founder of the property licensing software firm Metastreet, inspected Wendy’s property in November, at the request of the Guardian and ITV News.

He said: “Councils, I’m sure, want to do more, [but] they are hard-stretched at the moment. An improvement notice was served. Could it have been enforced and more done? Yes it could have.

“Breaches of an improvement notice are a criminal offence if the work is not properly carried out … It could have been done but wasn’t done here”.

A spokeswoman for Elmbridge said: “We did follow up on the improvement notice, in terms of reminding the then landlord of their responsibilities and strongly encouraging them to act … All things considered, we were broadly satisfied with the progress that was made.”

She added that the council preferred dealing with landlords using “an approach built on advice and guidance, backed up by the threat of enforcement action”.

A spokeswoman for Winkworth said: “We acted in good faith throughout [the] tenancy. At all times, correct landlord and tenant procedures, as prescribed by the industry codes of practice and relevant legislation, have been adhered to.”

Bazmore’s law firm said: “Our clients deny that they have failed in their obligations towards [Wendy] in respect of the property.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/dec/20/disabled-woman-evicted-before-christmas-for-highlighting-the-damp

After health “hubs” come rough sleeper “hubs”

Definition “hub”: a pseudo-service that is put in place when a full service is withdrawn, often with privatised funding and/or staff, usually resulting in an inferior service.

“Ministers have announced that 11 new “rough sleeping hubs” will be established next year through a £4.8m project aimed at tackling rising levels of people in England sleeping on the streets.

Unveiling plans for the centres, the government said thousands of vulnerable people will be able to receive specialist support to address mental health problems and provide immediate shelter and rapid assessment for rough sleepers.

It will form part of the already announced £100m rough sleeping strategy and will be launched in 11 areas in the spring across England, including Derby, Liverpool, Preston, Bristol, Lincoln and Nottingham City.

The measures coincide with an announcement from Labour, who have also pledged £100m to give every rough sleeper a place to stay in the winter months – funded through a levy on second homes announced at the party conference in September. …”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/rough-sleeping-hubs-homeless-uk-statistics-government-shelter-labour-party-england-a8687971.html

Brexit worries hit housing market and developers

Owl says: you can see why penalising local authorities for not getting enough new houses built just doesn’t work.

“… Simon Rubinsohn, Rics’ chief economist, said: “It is evident … that the ongoing uncertainties surrounding how the Brexit process plays out is taking its toll on the housing market. I can’t recall a previous survey when a single issue has been highlighted by quite so many contributors.

“Caution is visible among both buyers and vendors and where deals are being done they are taking longer to get over the line. The forward-looking indicators reflect the suspicion that the political machinations are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.”

He said a weakening property market could prompt a slowdown in housebuilding: “The bigger risk is that this now spills over into development plans, making it even harder to secure the uplift in the building pipeline to address the housing crisis.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/13/uk-property-market-at-weakest-since-2012-as-brexit-takes-toll-rics

“Caviar care” retirement homes renting for up to £10,000 per month in Grenfell Tower borough

“The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has approved plans for a half-billion pound luxury retirement complex that includes just five affordable homes at a time when 11 families who survived the Grenfell Tower fire are still living in hotels 18 months on.

The Conservative controlled council granted consent for the scheme on a prime site in the south of the borough that includes 142 homes, some of which will be let for up to £10,000 a month.

Dubbed “caviar care”, the scheme is designed to appeal to multi-millionaire downsizers and includes three town houses expected to sell for about £12m apiece.

The council and the developer argue that it is allowable under planning rules because the properties are classed as “extra care” homes, regardless of how expensive they are. The sale value of the mostly one-bedroom and two-bedroom flats averages £3.6m each. The developer is also marketing another luxury retirement complex nearby featuring a restaurant serving £250 pots of caviar.

The consent comes amid a growing argument over affordable housing in the capital between the Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the Conservatives. Khan said he was “extremely disappointed” at the amount of affordable housing as part of the retirement development, a factor he said was “unacceptable”.

Khan also attacked the housing secretary, James Brokenshire, for threatening to block a planning application for a separate development in the borough that would have 35% affordable homes. Brokenshire countered by accusing Khan of failing to tackle the housing crisis, saying he “simply doesn’t understand how the housing market works”. ”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/12/luxury-kensington-complex-grenfell-will-have-just-five-affordable-homes

Court case decides it is legal to re-home London homeless hundreds of miles away

“… The judge said that once London and the south east were eliminated for reasons of housing pressure, the West Midlands appeared the next available pool of supply.

The judge said: “It is, I suppose, theoretically possible that Brent might have been able to find somewhere in East Anglia or the East Midlands that was closer to Brent than Birmingham as the crow flies; but that places an onerous burden on a housing authority. Brent was not required to scour every estate agent’s window between Brent and Birmingham.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php

“Developers Have Used A Legal Loophole To Dodge Building 10,000 Affordable Homes”

“Developers have dodged providing more than 10,000 affordable homes due to the government’s failure to close a loophole in the law, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Using ‘permitted development rights’, builders have sidestepped their duty to provide affordable homes when they convert non-residential buildings like office blocks.

The rules were designed to speed up the planning process, as they allow developers to transform a property without having to apply for town halls’ planning permission – something which could see council chiefs demand social housing as part of planning conditions.

Housing charity Shelter handed an analysis to HuffPost which shows that 10,340 affordable homes have been lost over the last three years in England as a result.

Polly Neate, chief executive, said: “With hundreds of thousands of people homeless today, it’s obvious that we need as many social homes as we can get. But despite this, the government is now considering new plans that could supercharge a social housing get out clause for developers.

“Developers shouldn’t have a license to dodge social housing when so many are without a home they can afford. Instead of creating a social housing black hole, the government should halt these plans and bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

The government says the rules simplify the planning process, but for every 10 homes built using the conversion rules, three affordable homes have been lost.

As the housing crisis deepens, ministers are now considering a new plan which could allow developers to further exploit the rules.

Using the same legal mechanism, developers may be able to demolish and replace commercial buildings.

Labour’s shadow housing secretary, John Healey said the government must act.

“We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes, but Conservative ministers are letting developers cash in without making any contribution to the community,” he said.

We can’t make housing more affordable if we don’t build more affordable homes Labour shadow housing minister, John Healey
“These changes have given developers a free hand to dodge their duty to build homes that are affordable to local people.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government underlined that more than 32,000 homes had been provided using permitted development rights.

“We’re committed to speeding up the planning system to help deliver the homes the country needs,” she said.

“By introducing additional permitted development rules we’re providing flexibility, reducing bureaucracy and making the most effective use of existing buildings.

“Our £9bn affordable homes programme is set to deliver 250,000 affordable homes by March 2022 and we’re scrapping councils’ borrowing caps, setting them free to build a new generation of council housing.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/exclusive-legal-loophole-let-developers-dodge-building-10000-affordable-homes_uk_5c0a5b6ee4b0de79357bc719