Friday, February 27, 2009

Gas Regs change

I am obliged to the Pain Smith blog for letting me know me about a forthcoming change in the Gas Regs, which will come into effect on 1 April. From then on, gas inspections need to be done by installers registered with the Gas Safe Register operated by Capita. This is because CORGIs contract with the HSE has come to an end.

You will find a leaflet about it here.

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Talk to CNS

I did a talk to the sixth form at my son's school today, CNS (City of Norwich School). The main points I wanted to get over were that they should be careful about rushing into renting a property, and that they should be careful who they choose to rent with. And of course that they have rights and should take advice if they are worried about something.

Some of them seemed to be listening although there was the inevitable undercurrent of muttering and rustling at the back (it was a large roomful). There was one intelligent question and a boy at the front taking notes, so hopefully some of the points will stick with them at least. And really that is all that is needed. To hear something and have it at the back of your mind, so that if one day you have a problem, you will think 'Didn't that woman who spoke to us at school say something about that? Lets look it up.'

It is an exciting time of life, your last year at school, with all of your life in the 'real world' ahead of you. If you were there, I do wish you all the very best.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twitter Tips

Reading an article about twitter this morning, I suddenly thought ‘Why not have some special tips accounts? One for landlords and one for tenants?’

Well, not being one to mess about (particularly where there is a free marketing opportunity), I have now set these up. Every week, on a Wednesday afternoon, tips will be posted:

For landlords to :

For tenants to :

If you have a web-site or blog, particularly if it is about property, you can also add a feed for either (or both!) to your site. This will give your site some extra content which will be updated weekly, and will also help me. It would be nice if you could let me know if you do this.

In point of fact I have already written quite a few of the tips (up to the end of April actually) and they are going to be drip fed into the sites by a great application I have discovered called Tweetlater.

I have never really caught on to facebook and myspace, but I have to say that twitter is great!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on drug factories in rented properties

Further to my earlier post on this topic, I have spotted an interesting item on the BBC News web-site. This gives more information about the signs to spot a cannabis factory, and is well worth reading, plus there is an informative video.

Generally though landlords need to do regular inspections, and if a tenant consistently refuses to allow access, this should alert you to the possibility of criminal activity. If you just ignore the signs, you may have problems claiming for any damage later, on your insurance.

Also, if you are a landlord, it might be an idea now, to check to see whether this sort of thing would be covered on your current policy.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Advance rent = deposit??

Note - the Landlord Law Blog has now moved to


There is a report of a new tenancy deposit case on the Nearly Legal website. Although this is a County Court decision and therefore cannot bind Judges in future cases, it is interesting, and may be worrying for many landlords.

It appears that in this case there was a dispute as to whether the deposit money was actually a deposit or ‘future rent’ as alleged by the landlord. The Judge decided that the regulations say that any money paid (although in this case it was money from a former deposit paid to the same landlord in respect of a previous property) will be deemed to be paid as security, and therefore will be covered by the tenancy deposit regulations.

Many landlords have sought to evade the tenancy deposit regulations by taking two months rent in advance instead of one month in advance and a deposit. This case implies that this strategy may be more risky than has previously been thought, as if the Judge finds that in fact the payment was a deposit, the landlord will be liable for the penalty ‘fine’ of three times the deposit amount.

For more information about this case, read the Nearly Legal Report.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Legal Services Commission is arrogant and devious says former supervising solicitor

Although it is not directly related to housing law, I feel I ought to draw readers attention to an excellent comment in the Law Society Gazette from Michael Burdett who previously helped the Legal Services Commission (LSC) to set up the CDS (i.e. Criminal Defence Service) direct scheme.

As someone who has worked with the LSC he ought to know something about them. His view is that the savings claimed for the expanded CDS Direct scheme are misrepresented and that the LSC have failed to answer his request for a breakdown of how they have been calculated. He goes on to say that the expanded CDS is probably of questionable legality, that the ‘hypocritical and bureaucratic attitude’ shown by the LSC in this is being replicated elsewhere, and that their ‘arrogant and devious approach’ towards reform of both civil and criminal legal aid has destroyed the goodwill of the profession.

This is all so sad. In the 1940s when legal aid was first set up, it was conceived as a twin service to the National Health Service. So people of modest means would have access to both medical and legal help. When I first started work as a lawyer all firms did legal aid, even the very large ones. Now hardly anyone does. When tenants on benefit ring me up asking for representation, it is very difficult to think of anywhere I can refer them other than our local Shelter office.

As Michael Burdett says in his article, it is worrying that people’s right to legal help is being circumscribed at a time when the police and the state are being given unprecedented powers over the citizen.

We are told that all this is in the interests of the taxpayer as it will cost less. But this just reflects my blog item below – things being valued solely on the basis of how much they cost. And is a miniscule reduction in our tax really an adequate compensation for being unable to receive independent legal help if we are unjustly detained by the police? As others have pointed out, compared to the National Health Service budget and defence costs, the Legal Aid Budget is miniscule.

It is all very worrying.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Looking at things the right way

Reading the Sunday papers, in an excellent article on various women’s comments on the current crisis and whether it was fuelled mainly by male gung ho testosterone driven attitudes (very probably in my view), I was struck by a comment made by Emma Howard Boyd:

I have spent a lot of time thinking about how you value things socially and environmentally. If you value things purely from a financial perspective then you possibly end up with the wrong type of metrics. Look at some of the happiness data. How do you measure people's general welfare? Looking at purely monetary data is not the right way to do it.

I have long thought this. Our world today often seems to be driven purely by money, and that is the standard by which we are all judged. But I know that many people find this distasteful, quite rightly.

I can remember, during the recent heady years of property investment, I was invited to go to a property evening event in London (I had better not say which one it was!). The speakers and their soundbite talks were all quite blatently driven by greed. This was epitomised for me by one of the speakers making some sort of offer, saying those returning a completed form first would receive an offer or inventive and a young man jumping up and running, running down the room so he could get his form in first. They were certainly were not interested in what I had to say about landlords responsibilities (no money to be made there!). Although some of the people there were quite nice, I found whole ethos of the event repellent, and it quite turned me off the whole property investment thing, and attending any other such events. I remember I took great pleasure in advising a young Australian there (I think he was a driver for one of the delegates) on his problems with his landlord.

The valuation thing can perhaps be illustarted by our new wood stove (which I wrote about here). From a purely financial point of view, it has not perhaps been a huge success. We have had to buy rather a lot of wood and it has been a bit more than we expected. However from all other viewpoints it has been brilliant. Our living room is warm and friendly, and we love looking after and caring for our fire. I often just sit and watch the flames, which I am sure must be great therepy. We buy all our wood locally from sustainable sources, and are thus helping to save the planet. By what standard should it be judged?

Perhaps we should try to live our lives more by non financial values. Had more bankers done that in the past, we would not be where we are now.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tessa on the Radio with Graham and Karen

I did my radio bit today with Graham and Karen on Radio Norfolk, and it was great! Not like work at all. I think I now want to be a radio presenter when I grow up.

Radio Norfolk is based in Norwich’s Forum building, which also houses the main public library. There is also an exhibition space on the ground floor where they sometimes have concerts and other events, and which currently houses four (I think it is four) fabulous dragons made by children at local schools - well worth a visit if you are in Norwich.

The radio studios are upstairs, there are two of them, so they can switch seamlessly from one to the other. (And also, I was told, so they can keep on going if one breaks down!) I was fascinated to see how it all worked as I have never been in a radio studio before (my previous radio experience was by telephone).

I suppose I was with Karen and Graham for about 1/2 hour? Not sure exactly. We chatted about silly things (mainly school playground games based on an article in the local paper) and I did a bit of talk about landlord and tenant stuff. Of course you can only scratch the surface in that time, there is so much to say, but I did my best. They seemed to think it was OK anyway. I only lost it once.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the show, party because Graham and Karen are so nice, and partly because it was such fun being silly on the radio. They did say they might have me back one day, which would be brilliant if it happened. I’ll let you know if I do.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Unlock Democracy - Charity of the Month (February 2009)

On my Landlord-Law site I have a book reviews section, and from time to time I get sent books to review. Generally they are landlord and tenant related, but I was quite excited, some time before Christmas, to receive a copy of Unlocking Democracy.

I am ashamed to say that I was completely unaware of the Charter 88 organisation which preceded Unlock Democracy, a cross party organisation set up to campaign for democratic and human rights. However it is certainly something of which I approve.

I decided that this was a book I was going to read in some detail before doing my review. I did actually read quite a lot before it got buried in the pile of things to do. That detailed review never did get written. However instead I am making Unlock Democracy my February Charity of the Month.

If you are at all interested in democracy and human rights, I would suggest that you buy the book, and sign up to the web-site. Because however good a political party sound when in opposition, as soon as they are elected they become ‘the government’. And it is not normally in 'the government's' interest to give power to the people, unless forced to do so. However well meaning they may be.

We need organisations like Unlock Democracy to watch out for our interests and tell us when our rights are about to be eroded. If we agree, we can then mobilise the power of the internet, to make our views known by emails to MPs and the press, arranging protest meetings, and signing online petitions. This is the new democracy. Use it!

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Two talks - a day in London

Had a reasonably pleasant day in London today, although I never enjoy rising at 5.00 am. I also had the embarrassment of having to ask the taxi man to return twice, once for my watch and the second time for my railway ticket (!). Still he was a cheery chap and didn’t seem to mind too much.

The scenery on the train down was rather beautiful, especially the bit between Ipswich and Manningtree - creeks and rivers under a haze of low lying mist and snow, with the sun just rising above. Lovely.

Arriving in London, I walked, as usual, to my lecturing venue, which was by the Pru building on Holborn. Just the thing to wake you up, and I dislike traveling by underground. I don't go to London that much so it is nice to see it - it was positively sparkling in the sunlight today. And St Pauls must be the most beautiful thing in the City - I took a picture of it just for you!

Of course after rising at 5.00, a two hour train journey, and a walk across half London, what you really need is bacon, fried eggs and a cup of tea - a nearby greek cafe obliged for a very modest £3.50.

The CLT talk went more or less as normal. I have been speaking at this particular conference for several years now, and it is always nice to see the other speakers again.

However the Legal IT Show was a bit of a damp squib. Not that many people present and hardly anyone at my talk. I suspect the recent snow had something to do with it. Never mind, thats life! I attended a couple of the other talks which were very interesting and had a look at some of the stands.

But it is really nice to be back home again! There’s no place like it. A quiet day tomorrow I think.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Radio calling!

Funny I should have written about radio last night. Because today a nice man from Radio Norfolk rang up and asked me to go on his program next week. Next Wednesday in fact, fact fans, 10.00 to 1.00, with Graham and Karen. For a program on renting property.

Of course, as is the way of things, when he rang I was in the middle of having a new printer installed, and our talk was punctuated by the creaking and grinding noises of a printer being set up and tested. So I probably did not sound as intelligent as (of course) I really am. Well thats my excuse anyway.

So if you are at a loose end next Wednesday, why not tune in and see how I do? He promised that they would not do a Jeremy Paxman on me, so hopefully I won’t be gibbering with fear. It looks from the Radio Norfolk site as if the program cannot be downloaded via iplayer so you will only be able to listen to it live.

Anyway, thats enough blogging. I have two talks to do in London tomorrow. A talk for CLT on repossession proceedings in the morning and a talk about Landlord-Law at the Legal IT Show in the afternoon. Thankfully it looks as if the snow won’t be too bad for my journey, But I will have to get up at 5.00 am to catch the early train, which is never nice. And I still haven’t packed my bag!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Blowing in the wind

One of my favourite songs by American singer songwriter Suzanne Vega is Gypsy, in particular these words:

And we'll blow away forever soon
And go on to different lands

And please do not ever look for me
But with me you will stay
And you will hear yourself in song
Blowing by one day

I always loved that image of walking down a busy road and suddenly hearing yourself float by in sound, perhaps from a cafe, perhaps from a radio carried by someone on the street, none of them realising ...

Well in a sense it is going to happen to me now - not alas a romantic song from a former lover (I wish), but something a bit more prosaic. Yes, we have invested in a radio campaign!

Ever the optimist, I have decided that the current hard times should be a good opportunity for us, as our service is aimed at people wanting to save money. All that is necessary is for them to find out about us ... Hence the radio ad.

Let me know if you hear it.

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