Beat food poverty with Aldi

When my tenant slipped into rent arrears a few months ago I spoke to her about her spending . I asked how much she was spending per week on her and her daughters food. £120.00 per week came the reply….once she had included the taxi costs back and forth from Tesco!

I told her that I shopped at Aldi and could feed my family of 6 for around £80.00 per week.

“I tried shopping at Aldi” she replied “but it was all in foreign”.

I have also during my work as a benefits officer suggested to people that they shop at Aldi and the response is always negative. “My mum shopped there and got food poisoning” “I’m not feeding my kiddies that muck” are some of the responses I received.

The lack of enthusiasm among  people on low incomes for budget supermarkets is astonishing. Aldi after all has won the Grocers supermarket of the year award for the last two years. Their food is fantastic quality and there are times at the till I have felt like I am robbing them when they tell me the price of my shop.

I used to shop online at Tesco and Asda and would spend hours trying to shave pennies of the bill by comparing offers and buying the value ranges. However by shopping at Aldi I save around £45.00 per week. That’s a whopping £2300.00 per year!

So if you are struggling financially they this week give either Aldi or Lidl a try for your full weekly shop. You , and your pocket, may be pleasantly surprised.

My 5 favourite landlord mistakes.

1) “The Council has stopped paying my rent”.

The council never were paying your rent . They were paying your tenant a contribution towards their housing costs based on their personal circumstances. Before you start whinging that “the housing benefit is for rent” it isn’t.

Let’s keep this simple

1) Any mortgage is between you and your mortgage company

2) your rental agreement is between you and your tenant.

3) any claim for housing benefit (L.H.A) is between your tenant and the local council. If they become more than 8 weeks in arrears or are classed as vulnerable you may have it paid directly to you. It however is never “your rent money”.

2) “It’s my property!”

Not whilst there’s a tenancy agreement in place . As long as that’s in place it’s your tenants property. Even if your tenants are not paying their rent.

3) “The property must be returned in the condition it was let”.

Minus fair wear and tear . If you think that waffer thin carpet you  put down with no underlay is going to be in the same condition after a family has been walking over it for 6 months then think again.

4) “If it’s in the tenancy agreement it must be legally enforceable”.

I have dealt with a landlord who has a term in his tenancy agreements that states

“If you miss a rent payment I have the right to enter the property and remove you and your possessions using physical force”.

Are we suggesting that that is legal as it is in a tenancy agreement given to a vulnerable person? It quite clearly isn’t .

5) “If you wish to remain in the property you must sign a new tenancy agreement”.

Usually this statement comes from letting agents who want to charge both the tenant and the landlord a fee for preparing a new agreement. If the tenant wishes they may simply allow the agreement to roll onto a monthly agreement. If the landlord does not like this then they can start the eviction process. However the tenant never “has to” sign a new agreement to stay in the property.

Increasing my debt and losing Local Housing Allowance in one move.

When I bought my flat in 2006 I was a little naive and believed that the 73 year lease the property had was plenty. It wasn’t. 6 years on and  the lease now has 67 years to run and very few mortgage companies would lend on it.

This means that the value of the property is considerably lower as I am limited to cash buyers and investors rather than someone looking for a home.

I am in the middle of lease extensions negotiations and it looks like the whole process will cost in the region of £10,000.00. I have taken out a loan to cover this. I know this is more debt but hopefully it will put me in a position whereby if I need to sell the flat it will not cripple me completely. I’ve been looking on rightmove and strongly believe that a good long lease with no ground rent will make the property stand out from it’s competition.

However the downside of increasing the lease is that I will no longer qualify for Housing Benefit as I’m confident I would have more than £16,000.00 equity in the property. The loan will costs me £180.000 per month in repayments and I receive £450.00 per month in Local Housing Allowance. The net loss to me each month is therefore £639.00 per month.

I know that all the benefits I receive will now go as soon as my claims are all rolled into Universal Credit so my reasoning is I  may as well start to live without them now and by doing this it will be a gradual process rather than losing it all in one go.

I’m confident that even with a wife and four children I can mange my finances in such a way that we will still cover all the bills and have around £450.00 per month spare. We live in a nice home and have a great life. I’m positive that by looking to the long-term we’ll get through this in a much better position than we started.

However I’m not going to lie. I am slightly terrified.

Why being a Housing Benefits officer is the best job in the world

I live in an area of high unemployment and even higher rents. Things are now at the stage where one in three households in my town are receiving either Housing or Council Tax Reduction. I live in the area I work and I love the feeling as I walk to the office that I am helping one in three of the houses I walk past.

I also love that my family and friends know that when they are in financial trouble they can come to me for advice.

However the flip side of my job is that I need to make sure that money goes to the right people. Occasionally I need to ask questions that people do not like. Usually it is because I think they are withholding information and do you know what…I am usually right.

My rule of thumb is that the louder they complain the more guilty they are and today it proved true. A year ago a couple I had requested information from kicked up a fuss, complained to their M.P and tried to bully me into stopping requesting information from them. I didn’t stop and today they were sentenced to 50 hours community service for neglecting to mention a job which netted them up to £700.00 per week.

So if you receive a letter from a benefits officer don’t assume the worse. They want to help you,  that is unless you are on the fiddle. If you are not only do they want to catch you, the chances are they already have.

Hello world…time for me to pull my finger out.

Hello world…as all wordpress blogs must start.

I am a father of four, benefits officer and private landlord. By 2017 I face the very real prospect of being out of work and receiving no financial aid from the state.

In 2006 I bought a flat for my wife and my stepson to live in. One child became 2 which became three and then 4 very quickly. The flat dropped into negative equity which led to me becoming a private landlord and renting a house to live in.

I have spent the last 4 years sending every spare penny I have into the flat and am delighted to be out of negative equity. However under the Universal Credit rules I will not qualify for any state assistance as I now have capital of over £16000,00. This is fair enough but it is frightening. No more child benefit (£240.00 per month) no more tax credits (£780.00 every four weeks) and no more Housing Benefit (£400.00 per month). That’s a cool £1485.00 per month gone if I still have a job. When my job eventually goes I will receive a redundancy payment but no Universal Credit.

Most blogs from people effected by welfare reform who start blogs spend a lot of time criticizing the world around them but spend little time looking at themselves. My situation has been caused by bad financial decisions.  I’m not going to moan. Life and the state have been good to me. I will get out of this but it will be hard.

A few stats as of 19/06/13

Mortgage £101,000.00 outstanding. Flat is currently empty.

Credit Cards  £1200.00

Overdraft – £2700.00

I am at a crossroad. Do I give up and sell the flat or do I work hard, take a few chances and try to come out of this better educated, healthier and richer. I won’t be happier. My life as it is now is perfect.