Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 85:


Page 114, line 43, leave out from beginning to end of line 1 on page 115 and insert--
("( ) A local housing authority may discharge their housing functions under this Part only in the following ways-").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 86:


Page 115, line 8, leave out subsections (3) to (5).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 87:


After Clause 191, insert the following new clause--

Discharge of functions: provision of accommodation by the authority

(".--(1) A local housing authority shall not under section 191(1)(a) discharge their housing functions under this Part by providing accommodation other than--
(a) accommodation in a hostel within the meaning of section 622 of the Housing Act 1985, or
(b) accommodation leased to the authority as mentioned in subsection (2) below,
for more than two years (continuously or in aggregate) in any period of three years.
This applies irrespective of the number of applications for accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation made by the person concerned.
(2) The accommodation referred to in subsection (1)(b) is accommodation--
(a) leased to the authority with vacant possession for use as temporary housing accommodation on terms which include provision for the lessor to obtain vacant possession from the authority on the expiry of a specified period or when required by the lessor,
(b) the lessor of which is not an authority or body within section 80(1) of the Housing Act 1985 (the landlord condition for secure tenancies), and
(c) in which the authority have no interest other than under the lease in question or as a mortgagee.
(3) The authority shall not discharge such functions in relation to a person who--
(a) normally resides with another person as a member of his family, or

8 Jul 1996 : Column 140


(b) might reasonably be expected to reside with another person as a member of his family,
in such a way that subsection (1) would be contravened if the functions were discharged in relation to that other person.
(4) The Secretary of State may, on the application of a local housing authority, by direction exclude or modify the operation of subsection (1) in relation to that authority if it appears to him that the authority will not otherwise be able reasonably to discharge their housing functions under this Part.
(5) Any such direction shall have effect only--
(a) with respect to applicants of a description specified in the direction, and
(b) for a period specified in the direction, which shall not exceed one year,
and may be expressed to have effect subject to any conditions specified in the direction.
(6) Where the Secretary of State gives or has given a direction under subsection (4), he may give the authority such directions as he considers appropriate as to the discharge of their housing functions under this Part in cases affected by the direction having or ceasing to have effect.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move.

[Amendments Nos. 87A to 88A, as amendments to Amendment No. 87, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 87 agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 89:


After Clause 191, insert the following new clause--

Discharge of functions: out-of-area placements

(".--(1) So far as reasonably practicable a local housing authority shall in discharging their housing functions under this Part secure that accommodation is available for the occupation of the applicant in their district.
(2) If they secure that accommodation is available for the occupation of the applicant outside their district, they shall give notice to the local housing authority in whose district the accommodation is situated.
(3) The notice shall state--
(a) the name of the applicant,
(b) the number and description of other persons who normally reside with him as a member of his family or might reasonably be expected to reside with him as a member of his family,
(c) the address of the accommodation,
(d) the date on which the accommodation was made available to him, and
(e) which function under this Part the authority was discharging in securing that the accommodation is available for his occupation.
(4) The notice must be in writing, and must be given before the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the day on which the accommodation was made available to the applicant.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 90:


After Clause 191, insert the following new clause--

Discharge of functions: arrangements with registered social landlord

(".--(1) This section applies where in pursuance of any of their housing functions under this Part a local housing authority make arrangements with a registered social landlord to provide accommodation.
(2) The tenancy granted in pursuance of the arrangements to a person specified by the authority cannot be an assured tenancy unless it is an assured shorthold tenancy.

8 Jul 1996 : Column 141


(3) The registered social landlord cannot convert an assured shorthold tenancy granted in pursuance of the arrangements into an assured tenancy which is not an assured shorthold tenancy unless the accommodation is allocated to the tenant under Part VI (allocation of housing).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 192 [Suitability of accommodation]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 91:


Page 115, line 43, after ("to") insert ("whether any convictions under section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 have been recorded and to").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment deals again with the issue of suitability and would have the effect of requiring local housing authorities to satisfy themselves, when they consider whether private rented accommodation is suitable, that the landlord and the landlord's managing agent do not have a record of offences for harassment or illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. They would have to consult their records, their legal departments and tenancy relations officers about the record or lack of record of the landlord.

We have discussed suitability in terms of the physical provision of the accommodation in question. This amendment addresses the management of the accommodation. It is perhaps rather late to go into great detail, but I ask your Lordships to exercise some imagination to understand that some landlords--and I do not begin to suggest that all landlords are bad--can harass tenants in quite imaginative ways. For example, they may pay constant visits without warning at unsocial hours; offer money to tenants to get out; make threats--that is an obvious strategy; allow the property to get into a state of such disrepair that it is dangerous to stay there; cut off services; start building works and leave them unfinished--that must be a particularly distressing form of harassment--or harass tenants because of their age, sex or sexual orientation. In 1990 the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys found that 9 per cent. of private tenants could have experienced some form of harassment or attempted illegal eviction.

Having read of a number of examples of harassment, one in particular reminded me of how tenants might have felt. A tenant returned to her property and found the agent had let himself in and was using her vacuum cleaner to hoover up. She did not think agents were allowed to enter a tenant's house without asking. When I was a student I rented a flat. I recall the landlord letting himself in, repainting the kitchen and painting round the towel that was hanging on the back of the kitchen door. I would not have classed that as harassment, but I felt affronted by it. That is perhaps a minor example of the breed. I may joke about that, but the issue is a serious one. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Baroness stimulates our imaginations by referring to her former landlord painting her kitchen door with her towel still hanging on it. I thought that showed a great deal of prudent landlord behaviour in accepting his

8 Jul 1996 : Column 142

responsibility to make sure the flat of the noble Baroness was kept in a clean and proper condition. The noble Baroness has asked us to exercise our imaginations as regards the amendment. Normally I regard my imagination as rather like that of a fossilised potato chip, but to exercise my imagination at this hour of the day will be a struggle, but I shall do the best I can.

Clause 192 sets out matters which must be taken into account by an authority in determining whether accommodation is suitable for use in the discharge of its functions under this part. My noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish spoke at considerable length during Committee stage about what the clause does. I do not say that in a derogatory way as it was important that he spoke at considerable length. Broadly speaking, Clause 192 re-enacts provisions contained in Section 69 of the Housing Act 1985. Section 69, which we introduced in order to strengthen the homelessness provisions, requires authorities to have regard to the parts of that Act which deal with slum clearance, overcrowding and houses in multiple occupation. In addition, we are taking new order-making powers which will allow the Secretary of State to specify circumstances in which accommodation is or is not to be regarded as suitable for someone; and matters which are to be taken into account or disregarded in determining whether accommodation is suitable for someone. These powers will provide an important safeguard for homeless people.

The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would require an authority to have regard to whether the landlord has been convicted of harassment or illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. I would be the last to underestimate the distress that harassment or illegal eviction must cause to tenants who are subjected to it, but it is important, in considering the noble Baroness's proposals, to put the problem in its proper context. The Survey of English Housing reports that the vast majority of tenants say they are on good terms with their landlords. Only a small minority of landlords are likely to harass their tenants or take illegal action to get them to move, or paint kitchens while their tenants' towels are hanging on the towel rail.

The proper disclosure of relevant information about convictions is a matter which the Government take seriously. However, there would be serious practical difficulties in putting into practice the proposal envisaged by the noble Baroness. The police are responsible for carrying out criminal record checks and they are already hard pressed to meet the existing demand for checks within the constraints of the resources available to them. If we were to accept this proposal, it would further increase the pressure on the police.

As the House will be aware, the Government recently published a White Paper on the disclosure of information from criminal records for employment and related purposes. I believe that provisions on disclosure in the circumstances described by the noble Baroness might best be considered in the context of the proposals

8 Jul 1996 : Column 143

that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Home Affairs will be bringing before Parliament at a later date.

For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will understand why I find it difficult to advise the House to accept her amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page