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Opinion: The Housing Enforcers - top, middle or bottom?

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Opinion: The Housing Enforcers - top, middle or bottom?

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: The Housing Enforcers - top, middle or bottom? Opinion: The Housing Enforcers - top, middle or bottom?

Our anonymous source has graced us with yet another telegram (always delivered in a velvet envelope by a monkey driving a C5).

Claiming to be TV journalist Matt Allwright’s stunt double on mid-morning dead-zone show ‘The Housing Enforcers’, our mysterious contributor continues his or her peculiar yet absorbing ramblings:

Friday 

With morale running low in the camp after a slight hiccough in the legal basis for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council's approach to residence requirements and council tax discounts, Julie from editing arranged for a team-building exercise last night. 

After my faith in the council's legal officer, Quentin Fortesque-Morris, was damaged by Wednesday's organisational disaster, I didn't fancy going motorbike racing with him - though Matt, Tim Crockett and Vincénte all seemed keen. 

I settled instead for a local canine show with Julie, Loretta Tubbs and the ‘Masterchef’ contestants, who've been drafted in to cook our lunch. It made a nice change for us to kick back and watch dogs. 

Matt and some of the other crew made another episode while I was on my Advanced Falling Over training course. ‘Housing Enforcers’ seems to have gone down well already on the internet, with Generation Rent running a piece by Fiona Elsted showing that we're putting a balanced view across – unlike some other TV shows which seem to be determined to slur tenants. 

Bloody ‘Benefits Street’ – I'm hoping none of my stunts ever go wrong and I'm ever in need of social security, that's for sure. We've got to start giving a realistic view of renting somewhere though, after that whole Nick and Margaret thing. 

We're expecting the team to get back together to plan our next operation. Week two will feature another stance taken by Sandwell with its feet planted firmly in the legal high ground. 

Some of the team have already headed off to scout out the West Midlands to start investigating new legislation that forces landlords to become unpaid immigration officials. This has caused wardrobe issues, as Vincénte and his trailer of outfits has gone on ahead, and Matt and I are now having to share just the one jumper, which is already causing a bit of friction as the director keeps moving the goalposts in the action segments 

Weekend 

The ‘Flog It’ crew were in town, hoping to hoover up a load of crusty old relics and make some money from selling their antiques at auction. 

Julie said that making the vendors bear the brunt of VAT as well as the auctioneer's commission could be interpreted as slightly exploitative, given that without the people who bring their possessions there wouldn't even be a show. I'm not sure her career is destined to extend far beyond editing. The BBC didn't get where it is today by handing out money to content contributors. 

Fell out with Matt for a while as he insisted he wanted to ride one of the motorbikes in a skit with him and ‘Flog It’s’ Paul Martin racing around the car park. 

Matt fell off and scuffed the jumper, and had to turn side-on to the camera to film all the intro and outro bits. Vincénte will not be happy. 

Monday 

More arguments! This time between Quentin and Julie! 

Matt had to referee a giant argument about housing law. Through all his shouts of “Point of order!” and “That's not an appeal, it's a request for a reconsideration!”, I gathered that there's another issue with Sandwell's interpretation of legislation. 

This time it's about the removal of the spare room subsidy. We've done this on ‘Saints & Scroungers’ - Matt thought this had given him a head-start on the legal stuff - but apparently the way local authorities choose how to spend their DHP (Discretionary Housing Payments) is a postcode lottery! 

Disabled people don't qualify for support unless their local authorities say so, and Sandwell is determined not to give money to those who receive Disabled Living Allowance. This was the cause of Julie's anger, and through gritted teeth, Quentin said that the council are facing yet another judicial review! I wonder how much all these court cases cost? I didn't wonder out loud, obviously. 

(http://www.irwinmitchell.com/newsandmedia/2014/August/court-date-set-for-judicial-review-of-sandwell-councils-housing-benefit-assessment)

Crockett and Stubbs looked on coolly from the side-lines as another day dragged on without any Enforcement. They seemed to enjoy us being here last week, but I think they're struggling a bit with all the questions Matt keeps asking about housing law that seem to undermine the way that the local authority interprets it. 

Nobody seems to be heeding Matt's call for a bit of common sense. 

Tuesday 

Things are looking up on the stunt front! Had a script that called for me to abseil down the outside of a tower block, crashing in through a window, and then there'll be a quick cut to Matt surprising a rogue landlord in his living room and reading him the riot act about letting agent fees and keeping deposits. 

We're going to use that place from the Channel 4 ident: the Aylesbury Estate. If there's one thing that Channel 4 has proved, it's that you can go around smashing up bits of communities for entertainment and nobody really minds. 

I'm pretty sure the BBC will pay to replace the windows, anyway. The money that passes from tenants to landlords with no guarantee they'll ever get it back seems to be making some agents and landlords really rich, so a good dramatic segue to highlight this can only be a good thing. Take Daniel Burton. No really, go on. 

Julie insisted I also do a dry run for another stunt we're working on for the series finale. To highlight the problem of landlords not taking responsibility for gas appliance servicing, we're going to do a scene where Matt gets blown up by an exploding cooker and then the house falls down. Well, obviously Matt isn't going to get blown up! We can't afford any computer generated green screen stuff, so I'm going to don a fireproof suit and get blown up instead. 

Day ended with those of us left in Sandwell collapsing in the Shorn Bean for coffee; one does not simply round off a hard day of putting the world to rights without a bit of fist-bumping teambuilding. 

Looking forward to the dramatic explosive stunts - they're probably easier than judicial reviews, to be honest. Quite looking forward to getting away from all the legal stuff for a bit when we go to help implement the new policy that makes landlords responsible for checking the immigration status of their tenants.

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