The Times: Misery of families forced to live on industrial estate

The Times: Misery of families forced to live on industrial estate

13:38 PM, 13th November 2018, About 4 years ago 14

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This article appeared in The Times: 09 November 2018 by Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson.

‘Connect House is a run-down converted office block in the middle of an industrial estate….. Windows are broken, damp is seeping through the walls, and there is nowhere for children to play. 86 families live there’.

Got the picture? Good!

It continues: ‘Luke, 16, who is preparing for his GCSEs, has to go to the library every night, because there is no wireless connection. He and his mother lived in a three-bedroom home for 12 years until the landlord decided to sell it and threw them out’.

Oh, I see…… so that’s how it happened? It was all the landlord’s fault? Really? Let’s re-examine the facts proffered by the two political journalists. Here we go:

1. Luke is now 16, so that made him a 4 year old boy when he and his mother moved into a 3 BEDROOM home. They lived in it for 12 years.

Isn’t that the problem???

Why would a single mother of one need a 3 bedroom home? Are we honestly expected to believe that in all the time she lived there, she never once considered moving somewhere smaller and cheaper?

Living there for that long, did that give the tenant a false sense of entitlement? It looks like it! We’d all like to live in swanky mansions, but the reality for a lot of us is that we can’t afford to. So we don’t.

As the tenant and her son got 12 years in the property, isn’t it the case that they should be GRATEFUL they had that long – rather than bemoaning being ‘thrown out’? I’m only surprised that the bedroom tax introduced in April 2013 didn’t have them out sooner.

If they just sat tight and did nothing, I have to say it – I’m fresh out of sympathy! Like everything about the situation, these GCSEs didn’t just appear on the horizon without warning. They were always coming. Why the shock/horror that Luke is in the library every night?

2. The landlord sold the house. Yes, that’s true.
It’s also true that it’s his house and he can sell it if that’s what he wants to do. Not his fault that the people occupying it have a completely false sense of entitlement and think it’s theirs forever. Landlords’ situations change too – they have a place in life’s cycle like everyone else on the planet.

3. Does anyone know why the landlord wanted to sell? Have these political journalists told us? That would be a no. Here are a few clues for the clueless:

Has it been considered that the tenant was in debt??? Why not?

Was the tenant asked what attempts she made to move to smaller and cheaper accommodation? If not, why not?

Extra clues for journalists who are called political columnists.

Might this tenant’s circumstance be directly connected to the bedroom tax of 2013?

Might this tenant’s circumstance be a direct result of the Section 24 of the Finance Act forcing the landlord to quit before he goes broke? He might already be broke – but who asked about his fate?

Might this tenant’s circumstance be a combination of both the above?

Since when was a landlord not entitled to sell his property asset? He might be unwell or might want to retire or might just have been driven to his wits’ end. Who knows, either of these political journalists? I doubt it.

Should someone tell the journalists there is something called CHOICE?

To be clear, the definition is as follows:

Choice involves decision making. It can include the merits of multiple options and selecting one or more of them.

All agree with that? Great!

The simple summary is: the landlord weighed up the merits of keeping the house and the maintenance costs. He then weighed up the risk factors to him associated with all the legislation that has been brought in since his property was first occupied. He weighed up the merits of keeping the house and paying more tax in future. He then looked at the merits of continuing to house the people under-occupying his property and came to the conclusion that the tenancy was unsustainable. The solution was to sell the house.

So, he sold the property and just to be perfectly clear….. he did not THROW the tenants out. They simply had to MOVE OUT, because the sale went through.



Geoff Cunningham

8:51 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

Steady on .. a bit over sensitive? Surely the point is the state of Connect House. Whether the Landlord threw them out or waved them off reluctantly with tears in his/her eyes, they ended up in bad circumstances. All those questions will have answers but no reading of what you quote would conclude that this is the previous landlord's fault. This is just some background on 1 of 86 families all of whom will have back stories. The housing market is working badly for many. The family and the landlord are not there to be criticised without a lot more information.

Dr Rosalind Beck

9:32 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Geoff Cunningham at 14/11/2018 - 08:51
I disagree. The phrase 'threw them out' is very inflammatory and implies the landlord did something wrong, when they did nothing wrong either morally or legally in regaining possession of their property which they had essentially 'lent' to the tenant for a limited period.

Lord of the Manor is correct to make the points they make. The same journalist with Rachel Sylvester also wrote a case study last week as part of the same series of articles - it was very poor. It stated that the man in the household earned something like between £240 and £320 a week, the family spent just over £300pm on rent, something like £83 on gas and electricity and one or two other costs which came to about £500. I asked Rachel Sylvester why she had not put in the other income (like child and working tax credits which can come to a considerable amount) and also expenses like travel expenses, phone, water etc. Presenting a partial financial picture is stupid and meaningless.

It would seem that Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson have just decided that they are interested in the issue of poverty and homelessness, have read up a bit on it, interviewed a few people and now think they are experts and are also enjoying a bit of virtue signalling.

In addition, Sylvester also produced an article stating that 14 million people in the UK live in 'poverty.' She didn't explain the difference between relative poverty as it is now defined (which is more related to inequality than poverty) and absolute poverty, which is poverty as we know it. You can be in relative poverty, living in a warm house, with enough food, clothes, the latest mobile and so on. I found that particular article insulting to people who really are poor.

I have been really shocked over recent years at how poor the journalism of this country is. Journalists have forgotten how to probe and ask questions and present a nuanced piece, covering all sides of a story. They have moved into the ideological and inflammatory territory of the tabloids. They also wrote another piece which an inflammatory headline about landlords, used the anti-private landlord organisation Shelter as their informants and did not present the point of view of one landlord or organisation - I also pulled Sylvester up on this.

This is shoddy work and we should call them out for it.

Annie Landlord

10:47 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

The story here is surely the immorality of the London councils 'warehousing' tenants in this concrete monstrosity. Another very similar case was in the news earlier this year-Eros House in Catford
If a PRS landlord was providing sub standard accommodation on such a scale they would probably be jailed!

Dr Rosalind Beck

11:04 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Annie Landlord at 14/11/2018 - 10:47
Yes. Very true, Annie. But it still has to be preferable to have any roof over your head than none. There is a real disconnect now between onerous demands on private landlords to provide perfect housing and, as you say, what councils are allowed to provide as 'temporary' measures. I also saw a report a few weeks ago about a charity which is providing little, basic pods in which rough sleepers can sleep - literally a bed which can be hosed down after use, no loo etc. That seems to be legal. I've also seen converted buses - which also seem to be legal. But they have legislated that private landlords cannot provide small bedrooms in decent, shared housing with all the facilities and meeting all of the onerous legal requirements imposed on the PRS. It's all messed up.

James Mann

11:33 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

As private landlords, when did it become our job to provide for the social housing sector? When I say provide I also mean taking a reduction in rent. I for one have not agreed to that but it seems that that is now the expectation of the media and government that we should do this even if it makes our businesses unstable and creates much more stress for us.

Geoff Cunningham

11:49 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

Me again
Yes the Journalism is shoddy, that is often the norm (even on BBC News the different between a percentage and a percentage point is often not perceived by the journalist) but analysing a tenant's alleged sense of entitlement on the basis of a shoddy piece is unwarranted. The journalist didn't report the full facts so any conclusions about the actions of the tenant are pure conjecture. Assuming there is a real story here then a real person is being slagged off. Not good! Stick to criticising the journo, the systems and the politics.

terry sullivan

11:51 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

the times used to be a good newspaper--now its as bad as grauniad--and hides behind a paywall!
this ios in mitcham--local useless labor mp raised concerns but went quiet when the local labor council was revealed as using it and that it complied with all safety requirements

Annie Landlord

11:54 AM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Dr Rosalind Beck at 14/11/2018 - 11:04
I know! And the people who are displaced because their rooms, which they may have called home for years, are deemed too small under the new HMO regs, will end up in a tent, or converted bus, or a scrubby converted office block, or, heaven forbid, on the streets. I just wonder how long it is going to take for someone in government to have a lightbulb moment and start talking, professionally and respectfully, with the PRS

Dylan Morris

12:45 PM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

I had no idea libraries were open at night.

Richard of York

17:36 PM, 14th November 2018, About 4 years ago

This article and a couple of others by the same duo prompted me to take out a trial 8 weeks for £8 Times membership....Dr. Beck you faired better than I did in getting a response from RS! I have since emailed the MP in question ( copying in my own ) asking if she has challenged LB Merton on why the landlord hasn't been served with an improvement notice under HHSRS legislation 2004. My comment on The Times website is below - I was quite pleased with it!
So, within a couple of days, Rachel, we have had '...unscrupulous landlords....', '….wily landlords...' and '...slum landlords..'. Thank you so much that is a really helpful and constructive approach to solving what is clearly a dreadful problem for thousands of people.
May I ask why the Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden ( or you for that matter, Rachel ) has not asked the Labour controlled London Borough of Merton why they tolerate these dreadful housing conditions which appear to be riddled with Category 1 and Category 2 hazards under the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) 2004, within their borough. They have the power to force the landlord to carry out improvements, but choose to pay him £1 million a year instead. Why is this?
Why did the landlord of 'Luke' and his family have to sell his property? Was it due to George Osbourne's misguided desire to drive private landlords out of business? Section 24 of the Finance act 2015 will be responsible for much homelessness over the coming years.
And finally, I very much doubt that 'Luke's' landlord '....kicked them out...' that would be a criminal offence.
You are writing about a very serious problem but if you want to be taken seriously a more balanced approach may encourage more people to listen....

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