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Everything posted by VacantPossession

  1. Of course that is assuming they allowed you to do what you wished! Would you have a somewhat contrasting assessment if they had said no and closed the door on whatever you requested?
  2. I felt the same thing watching Newsnight. I was staggered by the lack of discussion about the need for ANY housing. Of course, the National Trust and English Heritage are run and controlled by some very nice and agreeable folk, a great many of whom have equally agreeable dwellings in still more agreeable landscapes but don't want anyone else cutting in on their act. By the way, Simon Jenkins, at least until 2008, lived in a very pleasant regency house, and seems never to have had the misfortune of having to dwell in the dismal urban homes he wants to decant everyone else into while protecting his beloved rural architecture from being threatened by, god forbid, ordinary people.
  3. I think all the stated reasons above explain the lack of self-builds in the UK. But I have no doubt whatsoever that local authority planners actually want density housing, rather than piecemeal housing dotted all around the place. They'd prefer the option of, effectively, social manipulation by herding people altogether rather than risk criticism for allowing a wider distribution of building. I think that is total madness, and it explains (as I expressed on another thread) why the UK suffers from epidemic social disfunction, over-crowding, ugly developments of sardine-packed drone homes and a paranoic fear of any rural development. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a healthy trade in backhanders too, but that is a subject I covered years ago on this forum (see history of RICS and assorted spivs in the chartered world of accounting, surveying, valuing, planning and developing!!)
  4. I thought I was very clear! I said, quoting a hypothetical but typical rural property owner: "I've moved into my nice cosy bit of Norfolk/Suffolk/Devon/Dorset etc etc, and now I'm here, I'll do everything I can to stop YOU doing the same". You responded by suggestion I meant "If I can't have it, nor can you". I didn't say that at all! Anyway, to be more constructive, the notion that there isn't "NIMBY" work going on is soundly rebuffed if one researches not just the most common reasons for planning objections, but who they come from. If you look at the published lists of typical objections in local authority reports, the overwhelming proportion of those objections, apart from the planners themselves, come from precisely the people I referred to, ie: those who bought a decent place in a pleasant location, got planning permission to add all sorts of addons, gizmos, extensions, out-houses, ponds, fences, garages, etc etc, and then launch repeated campaigns against anyone else doing the same thing. But at least we both agree on one thing, but then I suspect most do. No-one wants poor building that creates a landscape of dismal aspect whether it is urban or rural. One thing I will add though, just taking a simple example: petrol stations are allowed to blot all landscapes with their ghastly great plastic signs (BP, Shell et al). It would be a good start to tell the oil giants to go some way to express their bogus "environmental" credentials by at least designing fuel stop-overs that don't utterly bespoil urban areas, and the same can be said of Asda, Tescos and the rest of the giant shed builders.
  5. Well, you've completely misquoted me. Please go back, read and then if you must, quote exactly what I said, not what you assume I said. I said quite clearly that there was evidence that people already established in a rural location then create a fuss about others wanting the same thing. I never said anything approaching "If I can't have it neither can anyone else". If anything I said the opposite: That there is ample room in rural UK not to have to concentrate housing in already ghastly places that are palplably over-built. You demonstrate the exact brainwashing I highlighted when you describe your gratitude that, as you suppose, rural planning restraint is giving you a better quality of life when you travel from place to place. You are making an assumption that all rural development is by default subject to being "made a mess of". I think the opposite is the case: Planners have put a halt to almost ALL rural housing development of the kind I highlighted, while continuing to encourage lousy, ugly, high density housing in areas already blighted with the same thing. It is as though they are saying: "It's pretty bad already so it doesn't matter if we add even mnore ugliness". I take you point that it is not just about percentages of available land, or proportional use. However, if the landscape of the UK is to be based on ACCEPTING the rank and dismal ugliness of urban sprawl, badly designed and planned, just so we can have the "relief" of a cross country trip before we return back to the squalor and ghastliness we left behind for a day, I don't think that is a very promising paradigm for living. Planners spend inordinate time and energy being fussy about every brick, window and fitting in a rural house, while apparently allowing free rein in already virtually ruined towns. They need to be fussy about BOTH areas. As I clearly explained, it is perfectly possible to allow careful rural plannning that preserves the landscape without wholesale restrictions being needed. The only alternative is to sardine can us all in utterly demoralising towns and cities and keep the countryside as some kind of zoo, or museum. The countryside is not just there for a day's temporary relief from urban awfulness. It is there to be lived in too, and I believe it could be lived in to a much greater extent without any significant impact. Not only that but it would alleviate the relentless march of urban spread which, as I also mentioned, promotes social tension, crime and a host of other undesirable things.
  6. Unfortunately, your developer might be talking from an orifice. I live on a development which at its inception had the agreement of developers, planners, local authority et al that the strict conditions on which the very large development (5,000 dwellings in total) would be built was the provision of: 1. A community centre 2. A large playground for kids 3. Local shops 4. Communal areas 5. Foliage 6. Library Seven years after the bulk of this development was finished, there is no community centre, no play area for children, no local shops, almost no communal foliage, no library and zero public facilities of any kind. The local council has stood back and done precisely nothing, yet charges extremely high council tax. There is NOT ONE local shop where you can buy a pint of milk or newspaper. You are forced to drive, cycle or walk to the local Asda, who no doubt slapped a planning restriction on any competing shopping outlet within a one mile radius, in league with planners. Meanwhile, the centre of the development has a non NHS dentist, just one doctor to serve an area with a population of 12,000, and several PLC owned chain restaurants and "gift shops" leased to the highest bidder, thereby shutting out any useful local retailers. The development is pleasant enough but is essentially a ghetto with no social infrastructure whatsoever.
  7. The objections to more open planning are all about this statement: "I've got my nice little corner of the countryside...and YOU aren't invited. I've moved into my nice cosy bit of Norfolk/Suffolk/Devon/Dorset etc etc, and now I'm here, I'll do everything I can to stop YOU doing the same". Nearly all objections against more equitable planning regulations are lodged by either individuals who want to monopolise the countryside NOW THEY have their rural idyll, or by organisations like English Heritage, various "societies for the protection of ..........(fill in here)", or even by town dwellers who have been brainwashed by the above into thinking that their leisure trips into the countryside from their sardine packed urban homes will result in seeing multiple blots on the landscape. In fact, as has been pointed out here and elsewhere, a vast increase in housing in rural areas, sensibly distributed, would have very little impact on the rural landscape. What local authorities have been doing for many years is to pack everyone into ever more ring-fenced urban areas THEY consider everyone should be forced to live, under the bogus notion that encroachment into artificially designated "green belt" regions would be ruinous. Actually, the opposite has been the case. Urban planning has concentrated poor quality, and in the main expensive, housing in the very urban areas that are already stretched to breaking point in terms of traffic, over-crowding, parking, shopping, and public or municipal facilities. It is a complete myth that an increase in rural housing provision would ruin the countryside. This myth is promoted by the haves who want to block out the have nots, and local authorities reinforce the myth under the guise of "sustainability", a word much abused and misused, and almost never defined clearly or intelligently by the vast amount of proposals and paperwork produced by out-of-touch council committees who are prepared to publish any old incoherent rubbish in order to satisfy what they think is conformity with even more vague directives by central government, environmental interest groups and especially mass-housing developers who are far too cosy with planning departments. The idea that rural buiding would somehow "concrete over" the whole of the UK is utterly preposterous. This paranoia has its routes almost entirely in those organisations whose assessment of housing provision is in cloud cuckoo land. I have just returned from a long tour of Norfolk and Suffolk. These fine counties have huge areas of virtual wilderness, in relative UK terms, in which local authorities designate even existing barn conversions and many well designed fresh developments of former farm houses, cottages, reclaimed outhouses, run-down dwellings etc, as "holiday-only" housing, or with other restrictive convenents, in the disastrously implemented policy of "tourism promotion", while forgetting that villages and hamlets are dying through lack of local or permanent inhabitants who have been forced into already crowded towns. Thus many parts of East Anglia are turning into socially disfunctional nightmares (examples: Thetford, Lowestoft, Yarmouth, Gorleston) full to the brim of extremely poorly-planned housing bunched up into desperately gloomy estates where crime, drug-pushing and social divisiveness is the norm. Meanwhile perfectly open and generously large areas which would actually benefit from decent new housing, reclaimed existing housing and re-launching of currently ghost-like villages and hamlets, have been declared inviolable. This madness has resulted in crazy prices ever escalating despite the nationwide property price crash, all because people are fighting for a half decent dwelling in the country. If you tour through East Anglia you will see clearly that housing that is "dotted" around rural areas, provided sympathetic development is encouraged, is far more acceptable than ribbon, brown field or concentrated development in designated areas imposed by breathtakingly arrogant local authority planners. The resurgence of so-called "green belt" land is nothing more than a form of elitism in favour of often obscure pressure groups who feel that protecting grasshopper populations is more important than the provision of decent housing, and the pandering to those who got their foot in the door when they could and now want to declare their exclusive parcel of the countryside a no-go area for everyone else, unless of course they are staying for a week's holiday after which they are returned from whence they came having been fleeced by over-priced hotels, boating businesses and generally very poor catering. When you hear objections to new planning proposals, ask yourself three salient questions. What are the vested interests of the objectors, where do they live themselves (I'm willing to bet they live in the very regions they want to ban everyone else from), and are their objections any more than an excercise in self-interest? In my view the answer is generally yes to all three. Their objections are rarely anything to do with protecting the countryside, and more to do with protecting their private pile.
  8. The principle way blue chip non-industrial corporations make obscene profits is through virtual monopoly. Apple might not appear to be a monopoly, since there are Android phones and PCs in competition. But when you look at Apple's control over their own peripherals, core software, apps and the clever way (or is that corrupt way) they release technology which is apparently satisfactory but is actually incomplete (example: ipads with no USB connection and no Flash player), it is easy to see how they can use their market power to gain even more market power. Google's method was to INITIALLY release good quality search engines, and having done so, and obliterated the opposition, they then begin deconstructing their search engine into a wholly commercialised, advertising driven system which no longer returns searches as to subject, but as to commercial links. Example: Five years ago a google search on "sewing machines" would have as perhaps the first 100 entries, and many more on following pages, the history and development of automated sewing, articles on sewing machine technology, etc. But now a similar search will return hundreds of first entries ENTIRELY linking to BUYING sewing machines. On the surface it could be claimed there is little wrong with this, but in the end the domino effect of supressing all competition through apparently providing a balanced service, then replacing it with intrusive abuses of privacy, collusion with despotic regimes, and an obsession with corporate giantism with commensurate abandonment of perceived original intentions, each successive David becomes a Goliath, helped along by fickle and gullible consumers who are complicit with the commercial model they willingly subscribed to, not realising that the heroic challenger to Bill Gates' monopoly now becomes the new evil exploiter. Maybe Stephen Fry, the enthusiastic Apple fan, who used to spit at the mention of Microsoft, will soon be spitting at any mention of Apple, for Apple are exactly repeating the financial model which gave Microsoft a bad name. The huge cash surpluses these pseudo creators of wealth generate are distributed to a tiny circle. Very little of these vast profits are ever used to improve the infrastructure of the economies they exist within. Housing, health, education or manufacturing rarely benefit in the long term, and there is emerging evidence that Apple, and no doubt other similar corporations, are involved in slave labour, employee suicides, and exploitation of the kind that was reviled and criticised in the case of appalling employment conditions offered to Asian children and others by the cheap clothing and chav footwear manufacturers. The only salvation comes with reliance on the guilt-generated Bill Gates's of this world to salve their consciences by effectively taxing (arguably more efficiently than some governments) their customers through diverting their vast accumulated wealth into charitable works in Africa and other third world nations. We need to look at whether that is really a satisfactory way of creating and then distributing wealth.
  9. But...fortunately the UN initiative you quote has competition from other legislation still in force which conflicts with it, amongst which are regulations governing not only enforceability, but where decisions such as these arenot fully supported by clear justifications on a case by case basis. In other words, it is not enough to apply general sustainability directives unless there is clear evidence that there is a perceivable benefit in the specific region. It is not enough to assume a benefit, or to guess that there is one. Moreover, any third party (ie: any citizen) can be accomodated in the decision making if they can make a case that the proposed restrictions would a) not be provable as a tangible public interest and that they are potential put at a disadvantage by it.
  10. That's a good point, and I researched this. At first site it seems logical to herd people where infrastructure can apparently cope with them. But where this reasoning falls down is that there is already legislation/regulation which should compel planning departments not to make blanket decisions like this, but to allow for case by case situations. The opposite has happened. Planning depts are imposing restrictive convenents not through intelligent assessment of case specfics but as an exercise in attempting to be seen doing something that appears to be connected with "sustainability". So desperate are they to go through the motions and gain browny points that they are stabbing in the dark without discernment, thought or judgement. Moreover, there is evidence that they actually do not possess powers of social manipulation in this way, and the only reason they get away with it is because it is time consuming and expensive to challenge them. The reason is simple: There is no right of appeal, even when the decision could have been made by one sole planning officer whose whim it was. The only avenue is by judicial review or its contemporary equivalent. Here is a Times article from a few years back which very well explains the kind of stupid policies being applied to places like Cornwall, many of them self-contradictory, and all of them examples of decisions which exceed allowable powers: http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/buying_and_selling/article5105796.ece
  11. Yup, I agree, but of course my point is that these planning restrictions as to use are slapped on buildings that already exist. Furthermore, if you examine your good point about industrial buildings, in a sense former agricultural buildings could also be legitimately seen as "industrial". But authorities are attempting social manipulation when they start telling people where they can live, and specifically that they cannot live in existing places which have already passed strict planning laws. It is not a local authority's place to be telling people that they cannot live somewhere that has already been passed as suitable for accomodation and it is nuts to designate a sorely needed dwelling as second-home only. What kind of madness is that in counties which already have a housing crisis?
  12. There are now very few decent areas where ordinary people can live. Local authority planning, bogus "sustainability" regulations, restrictive convenents and green belt policies which contradict original green belt intentions have in the last decade brought about an Orwellian regime whereby ordinary people even on larger than average incomes, never mind the less fortunate, are virtually being instructed thus: "You'll live where WE tell you to live, so shut up and do as you're told". Green belt policies were meant to stop just one thing: Urban sprawl. They were never intended to prevent building in areas which have no particular status such as "outstanding natural beauty", national parks, or vital land for liesure activities. Yet local authorities are not only preventing the building of good quality housing except in areas THEY want to hurd people into, they are even dictating usage of existing homes using spurious and farcical reasons all based on the whim of unelected planning staff. Moreover their bonkers and technically illegal and unenforceable decisions are often fully supported by those who have ALREADY managed to gain a foothold in agreeable landscapes and then arrogantly tell everyone else to get lost through multiple planning objections aimed at others they perceive as getting in on their act. I will give examples of the above: Cornwall is to my mind a definitive example. I lived there for a few years so I am familiar with what has happened there. From 1997 onwards, local authorities embarked on a disastrous housing policy. They allowed free reign to a small minority of Cornish residents and many investers outside the area to build quality accomodation then slapped on restrictions designating thousands of these properties as either second homes-only or holiday-only housing. The result has been catastrophic. That small minority has pocketed millions at the expense of ordinary residents of Cornwall who have been virtually shut out of any decent housing unless they are prepared to find funds way in excess of what they could possibly raise even if they cheated or lied. The restrictions as to use were, quite stupidly, intended to promote tourism. But this has backfired, since it is well recognised that the "sustainability" of Cornwall cannot be achieved by tourism alone. In fact as each year passes and Cornwall is perceived to be a richer county through tourism, the actual position is that it continues to be one of the poorest counties in the UK, and a vast proportion of potentially good housing remains locked up and unused for 3 to 5 months of the year. Furthermore it has through poor distribution of funding discouraged anyone from improving property except for tourism reasons and the result is that Cornwall is full of boutique hotels and over-priced B&B's while the actual population of Cornwall gets the total dregs...extremely poor and still expensive housing of lamentable quality. Dartmoor is another classic example, due to the influence of ex-judges, advertising retirees and wealthy second home owners etc within Dartmoor's borders, who have through manipulation of planning regulations and bogus "green/sustainability" arguments, effectively taken over the whole place for their own use, while those who serve them are virtually bussed in and out for the purposes of being effectively their personal slaves, whether staffing shops, offering utility services or cleaning their homes. The result is that almost the whole of the Dartmoor area is a virtual mini-state, but instead of having a passport control, the gates of entry are entirely controlled by retirement money. In all but name this large area of Devon has reverted to a medieval state of lords and surfs. Most of this has been achieved by use of a quasi green belt argument which in effect says: I have arrived here and claimed my pile, and now I've got my foot in the door, the rest of you can sod off....oh, except when I need you to sell me a bottle of agreeable claret or service my car. Let's turn to Norfolk, whose North Norfolk local authority has used its sustainability policy to apply random and irrational covenents and restrictions as to use on hundreds of barn conversions, restored houses and former agricultural buildings. The majority of these restrictions, as with Cornwall, involve slapping "holiday-only", or even worse, "second-home only" limits on occupation. The skewed logic of this is that the planning authority arrogantly designates these buildings as unsustainable as permanent dwellings but without any statistical or plausible evidence to demonstrate it. Moreover, the largest proportion of income those holiday-houses generate are NOT circulated into the Norfolk economy, because the majority of owners of these conversions live outside of the county. Furthermore, many of these high quality and actually quite affordable homes are rarely sited in any place that could possibly be described as a tourist area. Thus many of these perfectly sound homes are used for barely six months in a year and their value has plummeted because owners cannot rent them out, cannot sell them and cannot make them available for desperately needed housing in Norfolk. Instead the local authority, through PFI and other dubious finance agreements, has sponsored the building of 8,000 homes in many of which you can barely swing a cat, are not particularly cheap, and which are sited in areas that often can be described as the a*rse end of the towns and villages they are built in. Thus, the only conclusion that can be drawn, at least in the above cases, is that local authorities are, way beyond their legitimate powers, promoting a regime of elitism, social conditioning and social manipulation, all on the spurious reasoning of environmental protection.
  13. But as you have seen, in the long term, the reliance on housing as an investment, which ever way you look, is a direct and singular reason for bankruptcies in half of Europe, American and beyond. It is not so much that economists failed to see the crash coming, they were deliberately blind to it because their whole fundamental thinking about what creates real wealth, as opposed to apparent short term wealth, centred around theories that a bright 10 year old could work out were wrong. Just circulating property over and over again at an ever increasing price is nothing to do with wealth, except for a fortunate minority who spin the roulette wheel at a lucky time. I haven't posted here for a while, but assuming my posts are still there, you'll see posts from me and many other HPC members from years back who didn't believe a word of the spin banded around by economists, academics, bankers and especially journalists. So no, I am not an expert in hindsight. I just applied common sense and reasoning while half the country encouraged by the Blair/Brown government allowed their short term greed to take over their wisdom. In fact this website was conceived for the very purpose of warning that gambling on property would lead to a catastrophe, and it has.
  14. Yes I think you are right. OFT is already inundated with complaints, as much about themselves as stuff they are supposed to address. Similarly local trading standards are overwhelmed, under-financed, and hopelessly out of touch with their own remit. This is the consequence of pigeon-chested announcements by government of better regulation which is never matched by hard cash. To my mind there is also a pathetic kind of half-hearted response by regulatory bodies. I think they become so jaundiced and drowned in the avalanche of complaints that their only response is to become immune to the very thing they are supposed to address. I think a certain kind of personality is well-adapted to fighting cases that need addressing. Unfortunately that kind of personality is filtered out in regulatory body interviews through a fear that someone might overstep the mark. Hence almost all of the public and charitable bodies dealing with the ghastly exploitation of the innocents become anodyne, ineffectual and complacent. Essentially, anyone who wishes to challenge the entrenched powers that be, whether it is tenancies or for that matter parking-clamp abuses, needs to have the intelligence of a Queen's council, the nose of a bloodhound, the stubbornness of a mule, the tenacity of a boxer, the cheek of the devil and a total devotion to face the wind however heavy the gale. Those kinds of people are very rare.
  15. Corporatism IS globalisation, and globalisation is controlled by corporations.
  16. As another thread here demonstrates, low interest rates have sustained mortgage rates that are now so absurdly low that many homeowners are actually making a net profit between their monthly mortgage payments out and their deposit interests in. This utter madness demonstrates just how paranoid the government, and vested interests, are in supporting the unsupportable. There is a failure to see that for each protected existing home owner, there are probably two others who continue to be priced out of decent housing. The net result is a disaster for a viable housing policy. There is an obvious relationship between interest rates and house prices. The lower interest rates are, the higher the capital costs of housing because low mortgage rates encourage high prices to be sustained. Despite obvious signs of continuing reductions in prices, they would fall much quicker if interest rates were anywhere near sensible. Moreover, this blanket policy of over-supporting many who simply do not deserve to be supported, is at the expense of others who did not behave irresponsibly several years ago.. But it goes way beyond that simple fact: We continue to have an economy that is notionally based on rewarding those who invest not in real economic growth or true enterprise, but on continued speculation and gambling as a substitute for work. That might not seem obvious given the decline in house prices, but that decline is nowhere near what it should be given the UK's lamentable debt. Mr Pastry over at the BOE is well aware that he is fighting government debt by trying to inflate it away. It won't work. No-one with any intellgence believes that inflation is as described. How can it be when the average REAL household expense hikes, whatever the official figures claim, is approaching and often exceeding 10%. The UK still believes it can ride the storm without pain. It can't. As I have repeatedly stated on this forum for years now, house ownership is not a vehicle for money making, or even a safe haven against economic disaster. It is perfectly possible to provide reasonable and sensible support without ruining it for everyone else. There might be a couple of million home owners who feel entitled to support owing to many of them playing roulette with the economy, but there are several million more who continue to have no stake whatsoever in the prospect of a secure home. This imbalance needs urgently to be addressed, but the interests of the minority will always win. The banks have not really changed their tune for the long term, nor has regulation significantly improved, nor has the core malaise of our economic system been properly addressed. We need a sea change but there is no evidence for it happening. Meantime, my local Asda visits reveal a workforce, mostly women, whose hours have been cut and they now need up to three separate part time jobs to make ends meet. They are now effectively working for 6 months of the year entirely for the treasury and in support of the same old system which will consign them to wage slavery for the rest of their days.
  17. There are bad tenants and bad landlords, but in my view the bad tenants are generally specific to regions which tend to provide very poor rented housing anyway. There is a statistical relationship between the provision of good, reasonably priced housing and an commensurate high standard of tenant behaviour. In other words, if you provide garbage, and muck tenants about, they will respond in kind. Taking advantage of local authorities is another chapter in itself. Landlords tend to push up the rent when they see council officers involved, since the latter rarely properly investigate the true market rate. A huge proportion of my council tax goes towards paying highly inflated housing benefit costs which could be better contained if councils would take the trouble to challenge the price hikes. I would estimate that over 85% of letting agency illegally charge upfront fees to prospective tenants, and also charge absurdly high fees for referencing and frankly bonkers extras liking "drawing up the lease" (which they photocopied from the last batch). The fact that most of these charges are actually a crime doesn't seem to deter anyone, and that indicates just how poorly OFT and other organisations monitor these activities. As for Shelter, I humbly submit this organisation is lamentably out of touch with both legislation and practice. Its website is full of innacuracies, assumptions and simply wrong information, most of which fails to properly assist the tenant as to his or her rights. For example, Shelter does not vigorously challenge all sorts of dubious fees of the kind this thread has highlighted. In the arena of proper tenancy advice, I believe Shelter is hopeless. Citizens Advice Bureaux are not much better. Lastly there is an appalling lack of proper information circulated by government and local authorities regarding bad practice by, and/or regulation of, letting agencies. I have yet to come across a single letting agency that isn't rotten to the core, though our friend from Swansea appears to be a noble exception. This is no surprise since there is effectively zero meaningful legislation which polices them.
  18. Well, you might struggle to get it back once paid, except by deducting it from your rent in the future, and then clearly explaining why you deducted it. In practice, both agent and landlord can make things very awkward, because they have the upper hand until the moment you move in, pay the deposit, pay the rent and allow one month to pass. At that point you are established as a householder (another concept in law which is appallingly ignored by current rental practice, about which more below). Any payment you make which is not supportable in law is by definition paid without prejudice, since it was wrongly demanded in the first place. The EU regulations are quite clear about this: If ANY consumer contract imposes unfair terms, whether it is a fee or other conditions, then provided you have performed your part of the bargain on the ALLOWABLE terms-ie: you paid the rent, didn't trash the property and didn't breach fundamental conditions that any court would find reasonable, then those parts of a tenancy agreement are valid. If a typical agreement contains 4 conditions that establish a bone fide tenancy and 20 other conditions that are unfair, the court would seek to validate the tenancy and throw out the unfair terms, in effect re-writing the tenancy agreement. Unfair terms are various and plentiful. The guide a court would refer to is "what would a normal householder be entitled to do?" A householder is anyone who either owns, takes a mortgage on, or rents a property that gives him or her exclusive rights to possession for an agreed period. The concept of a householder is still the legitimate backbone upon which all possession of property is based. Even if you have a bog standard six month assured tenancy, you are still a householder and entitled to regard your home as the proverbial "castle" for the period of the tenancy, and no-one can interfere with this without due cause and a court's approval. Thus if you failed to pay an agent's fee just because he asked for it, that does not invalidate your agreement. In fact NOTHING invalidates your tenancy without a court's review of your case. Any decent court would look through the tenancy and simply delete any clause which was unfair. For example, if your landlord rented a flat with a large double bedroom but stipulated the flat was for single occupancy, it is doubtful he could prevent you moving your girlfriend in, provided the payment of rent was solely your responsibility, and provided your girlfriend did not breach any reasonable terms. Another example: The landlord might specify "no pets", and you later acquire a gold fish in a bowl. It is debatable whether the landlord or agent could object to this since it is difficult to prove that owning a goldfish has any real impact on the condition of the flat. Similarly, banning you from playing a musical instrument or throwing the occasional party is not a valid condition, since these activities are already in the realm of "nuisance" if they get out of hand. Thus it is perfectly reasonable for a landlord to re-iterate what already exists in law covering residential homes of all descriptions: That no-one has the right to make the life of a neighbour intolerable. The courts look at what the average householder would consider reasonable. Anything you do in your own home is governed not by the petty tyrannies of made-up conditions by a landlord, but by what is considered to be reasonable behaviour by your neighbours, or existing law relating to drugs, nuisance, noise etc etc. This is also a good opportunity to answer previous posts on the subject of duress. Consumer law is now king here, not the old landlord and tenant laws. If you sign any consumer agreement which contains unfair terms, you have the choice of rejecting those terms which are invalid and to accept those terms which are valid. The landlord has no choice in this. For example, say a landlord lets you a property on the condition that you are a devout catholic, but in fact you are an aetheist. This is clearly an unfair term. You have the right to sign the agreement since it is not lying to ignore an unfair term, as the landlord or agent had no right in the first place to impose such a condition, and your religious attitude has no bearing on your ability to pay the rent and respect the property. The law is as I understand not certain in the case of children. But I would guess that when an agent advertises a dwelling which any reasonable person would consider suitable to contain children, it is questionable whether the agent or his landlord has the right to say "no children", or for that matter "no students", in the same way that he certainly would have no right to say "no asians", or advertise in a way that implied racial overtones, and (looking at recent case law) that also includes prejudice towards gay tenants. Again, in practice, the agent will attempt to filter out those he considers "undesirable" by simply not offering an agreement in the first place. However even in this case the agent should be careful. If a prospective tenant can demonstrate for example that he had the means, and good references, to be accepted as a tenant, but was not offered a tenancy because of his race, he has a case against the agent. However, most agents can filter out tenants in a much more subtle way and it is difficult to prove these things. That is why the law is on the side of the tenant who is prepared to sign an unfair agreement and then reject the unreasonable terms. It is not dishonesty, but a valid reaction to duress.
  19. No, No, and no again. Most applications are quite intrusive as it is. All sorts of questions can be asked of the tenant, which if asked of the average landlord, would be met with : "How dare you!" The recession has exposed a very important fact: Both tenants AND landlords have to be vetted. I will give you an example. My partner and I were recently interested in a delightful barn conversion to rent. The landlord, AND his agent, had been entirely dishonest from the start about the circumstances. The barn was fabulous, and reasonably priced, but the local council had slapped a restriction on it, saying it could not be let for more than 11 months a year (crazy in itself but that's another subject). Neither the landlord or agent declared this. Being cautious I paid for some research to find this out. At the same time the same agent was trying to sell the same property again failing to declare the restriction and promoting it as a "good letting investment". Whatever the Swansea agent says, if a landlord retains an agent for his financial gain, it is he who HAS to pay for anything he is suspicious about, just as I had to pay to expose the duplicity of the barn owner and agent. Caveat Emptor. The rules are clear. If you want to sell or rent something out, YOU pay for the referencing and pay for the agent. I repeat, an agent CANNOT, under almost all European law, act for two opposing people at once. Therefore an agent, whose income is acquired from attracting LANDLORDS, not tenants, to retain him, has no business charging any tenant for anything whatsoever, unless (as I explained clearly) a tenant APPROACHES an agent in order to find him a bespoke house or flat. if that is the case, the agent cannot then legitimately charge the landlord either. It works both ways.
  20. Good luck with that. Any agreement you make either under duress or because of unreasonable charges or clauses renders those parts of the agreement, and fee, invalid and not enforceable. But it is sometimes a problem getting it back as there is no distinct criminal angle. However you could legitimately lower the rent for one month equivalent to the fees wrongfully claimed. Might be wise to do this on the third or second month and explain clearly why you are doing it.
  21. This is absolutely correct, and I would like to post clear facts about the concept of an agent and the law regarding agencies of this kind. I am certain that any officlal body, advice organisation or any government department, legal office or similar who tells you that ANY fee is legally demandable by a rental agency is utterly wrong, UNLESS you as a tenant had specifically retained an agent for the purposes of finding or obtaining a flat or house for you. It is crystal clear that in the vast majority of cases, letting agents are NOT acting for you, the tenant. They are acting SOLELY for the landlord, who engages their services and therefore is the sole party who can be charged. After the agent has been engaged by the landlord, the agency then advertises on behalf of the landlord to attract tenants. Therefore the tenant is not retaining the agency and is NOT a client - the landlord is the agency's client. In these circumstances no agent is entitled to charge even a penny for their "services" to you, since in fact they are not providing any service at all. The service of vetting you, assessing you and then processing the lease is something you did not request and therefore you are not legally obliged to pay. I would go as far as to say that even the so-called "referencing" should strictly be a matter for the agent and the landlord. In other words there is no legal basis here either upon which you should be charged. It is NOT the tenant's obligations to prove he is worthy beyond truthfully filling in applications forms to vouch for your true identity and possibly references. Beyond plain and simple info which is cheap to obtain, the landlord and his agent should bear any extra search costs themselves. (After all, you do not make a second hand car dealer pay for your research into his honesty). But even in this case the questions asked of you must be reasonable and should never breach your privacy in terms of personal data that is unneccessary or beyond what is strictly required for the lease. Unless an agent has a special function (for example is a notary), he or she can only act for ONE person at a time. To act for two different parties means there is a prima facie conflict of interest which compromises the relationship. The moment an agent asks and receives a fee from the tenant, he then owes that tenant a duty of care, but this of course conflicts with his duty of care to the landlord. It would be similar to a defendant and plaintiff having the same lawyer in a court case. That is untenable. Now, in practice, due to misinformation and ASSUMPTIONS made by agents, landlords, tenants, and entirely incorrect advice distributed by so-called advice experts, we are in a situation where everyone believes that levying a fee to a tenant is perfectly ok. It is not. The problem is, if you refuse to pay the landlord's agent the demanded fee, the agent has the effective power to tear up your application, or report you to the landlord as a "troublemaker". This is an abuse of power but is difficult to fight, except in the following way: If the agent charges a small fee, then it might be best to swallow the expense and go along with it. If however the agent demands an unreasonable fee (say, over £50) for drawing up the agreement (which can be downloaded more or less for nothing), then the solution is to pay it, and immediately after you have moved in demand the fee back, threatening legal action if it is not returned. If the referencing fees look excessive, then I think there is a case for demanding that back as well. Most referencing in terms of credit or ordinary ratings are obtained in bulk by letting agents at a lower fee than the average consumer pays for their own data from the ghastly organisations like Experian or Equifax (see the history of abuses and fines on these organisations). Some letting agents additionally retain specialist reference agencies who often (illegally) trawl through some very questionable avenues to find out extra information that is either on the cusp of, or is in flagrant breach of your privacy and data protection rights. None of the above paragraphs are gratuitously loaded in favour of the tenant and I am not posting this in order to give undeserved protection to tenants. But there are vast numbers of letting agencies currently in existence who are often unscrupulous and entirely ignorant of their legal position, and who are exploiting the ignorance and vulnerability of perfectly honest tenants. As a final point, the information commissioner, the Data Protection Act, and the credit rating regulations are ENTIRELY weighed against a prospective tenant, even though they at first sight appear not to be. The reason is simple. Any organisation registered under the DPA has sweeping powers to find out all sorts of information about you, but there is absolutely no opportunity under the DPA for you to find out anything about them. For example, your landlord might be attempting to let his property to you while at the same time being threatened with repossession, and the only way for you to find out is to pay for your own research at the land registry and other agencies. While the letting agent is making credit enquiries about you, he might well have bad credit himself. These facts are much more difficult to find out than all the info available about you. This is a major flaw in the Data Protection Act. It is weighted far too heavily on the side of the credit agencies, property agencies, solicitors, financial institutions and, frankly, appallingly cavalier abuses of the very law which purports to protect you. In summary, an agent cannot act for two potentially conflicting clients at once, unless he has notary status, but that is not relevant to letting agencies. Fees cannot be rightfully charged to a person who is not the client of that agent. The moment a fee demanded of the tenant, the agent is now implying that he is ACTING on your behalf, and therefore cannot fairly act in the interest of the landlord at the same time. If you pay a fee of any kind for processing of your agreement, the agent is now acting with a CONFLICT of interests. This is conjecture, but dual fees of this kind could possibly give a tenant the right to INVALIDATE any agreement made upon a conflicting agency position, since it is not legally possible for an agent to act on opposing parties at the same time. The agreement might then be said to be over-ridden by a statutary tenancy which would come in to force. In practice this would be difficult to effect. The European regulations on consumer contracts now has a SUPERIOR weight over traditional UK Landlord and Tenant law. Despite complaints about the EU these regulations represent a sea change in legal history, since tenancy agreements, and the fees they envoke, are now in effect regulated by the concept of what is REASONABLE for the consumer, who is now assumed, quite rightly, to have the law on his or her side by default. But I doubt more than a tiny percentage of letting agents are aware of the significance of these regulations, since they repeatedly produce lease clauses which are unenforceable and which can safely be ignored by the tenant. There are only a few golden rule that in practice apply to tenancy agreements: No clause in them should be unbalanced or weighted in favour of one or other party. If your letting agent stuffs a hundred obligations in your direction, but the landlord only has a couple, then right from the start those clauses are invalid and not enforceable.
  22. This "rents are going up myth" really needs nipping in the bud. London is a special case. In most areas rents are holding or going down. I moved a couple of years ago from a flat which started at £700 and rose to £850 two years ago. I left it and move to a larger flat nearby back to £700 again. The previous flat has remained un-let, starting at £800 and now down to £720 but still no takers. It'll probably shift for £650 now. This "rents are rising" old wives tale is promoted by EAs-turned-rental agents and the media. The trend is obvious. If the cost of buying a house or flat is declining, so will rents. Some cities full of people who are somehow attracted to them yet cannot afford a city lifestyle are stupid enough to go along with the hype. Stand firm and rents will conitnue to decline.
  23. Allied to the delusional thinking of half the population, that houses will somehow always go up...eventually.... and the Uk is "out of recession" (pause for chuckle), is another delusion which assumes that just because someone sits at a desk and is able to answer a 'phone, write letters with bad grammar, and is in a "white collar" job, they are somehow as of right entitled to a superior salary compared to more useful jobs. I'm sure the average Council Exec has a stressful job, but so do many check-out ladies in Asda, some of whom are doing three jobs to make ends meet. Just as the banking mafia members feel entitled to mega salaries because they happen to control (effectively) the money supply, senior council employees really believe they are owed a premium. The reality is that their jobs are of average importance, but no more so than a street cleaner, delivery driver or any other ordinary person. This "must attract quality" argument makes me wretch.
  24. "They are worth every penny that we pay them," she said. Worth every penny eh? On what basis? Effective? Intelligent? Well trained? Work hard? "If we didn't have that quality Carmarthenshire wouldn't be where it is. I'm getting pretty fed up of this in the news. This is the quality we expect do we, from council spokes-people? ..... "I'm getting pretty fed up OF this in the news" So basic English is not one of the criteria then.
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