It seemed like a good idea…

I accept that occasionally people do things and undertake crusades for the right reasons: the greater good, the benefit of the put upon, the downtrodden and all those who would qualify for a minor role in a Charles Dickens novel (adapted for the prime Sunday night TV audience), but more often than not I do have to ask whether they have really thought it through. This week brought more than one example of such zealous pursuit, perpetrated by our political friends (no surprise there, did someone mention the phrase ‘general election’?) The Government have announced that “at some point” in the indeterminate future, lettings agents will be forced to join a redress scheme to allow tenants and landlords to complain about shoddy service. Seems like a fair suggestion, I’m all for it. As with all such grandiose ideas, it rather unsurprisingly didn’t go into the detail. I do wonder if this scheme will run alongside that that protects landlords against having their property wrecked, a cannabis farm cultivated in their loft and old faithful, the tenant not paying the rent? I won’t hold my breath. One should never forget that a court process for rent arrears cannot even be started until the arrears are standing at 8 weeks; at which time one has to give 14 day’s notice of action, then apply to the court to receive a date usually 6 weeks later. The time between the hearing, being granted the possession order and actually taking possession of the property is usually 28 days. So, in total, it is nigh on 20-22 weeks with no rent. I have yet to see a scheme to protect landlords launched with the same fanfare; in fact I have yet to see the launch of any such scheme, on any level. Perhaps someone should give Mr Farage a call?
Not to be outdone, Ed Miliband leapt upon the lettings market charabanc with an alacrity akin to his elbowing his brother into the political wilderness. In a reprisal of his role as agitator-in-chief whilst at Oxford University, (where he organised a series of ‘militant’ actions against the college authorities who were introducing rent rises; incidentally these actions included boycotting the college’s dinner. Wow, Fidel Castro must have called to offer his congratulations at such hard core activity), Red-ish Ed pledged to the sound of angels bugling in the heavens that he would cap rent rises in the private sector. Under his governance, landlords would have to offer three-year tenancy agreements with only modest rent increases permitted. This was backed he intimated by no-less an august body than the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Fast forward 24 hours (who was it that said that a week was a “long time in politics”?), and RICS are most definitely not waving a Team Miliband banner. “RICS is not developing proposals on rent benchmarks, and we don’t recommend that a government introduce a ceiling on rent rises”[sic] Daily Mail, The Sun Friday 2 May 2014  Has anyone mentioned this to Ed? Such controls would have a pronounced effect on the rental market: reducing investment in the buy-to-let market, reducing the quantity of good quality rental properties, increasing the number of really grotty rental properties, to name but a few. One other small problem that might raise its less than pulchritudinous head will be that of rewriting mortgage terms and conditions. The vast majority of buy- to-let mortgages specify maximum tenancy agreements of one year. Labour acknowledge that those individuals (i.e. most of them), would be permitted to offer short tenancies if contractually obliged.
But the week was not one that held wholly depressing announcements of tedium. Cameron Diaz was asked by Jimmy Fallon on The Late Show whether she had ever taken a dip in the lady pool to which she answered in the affirmative. Wow zah, that’s my type of girl! I could make some very uncouth comment about Japanese knotweed, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of being a misogynist, and trust me, I’m anything but, especially if there are two of them…