Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page



After Clause 95, insert the following new clause--

Registration of rental deposit money

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may by order make a scheme or schemes authorising the registration and holding of all rental deposit monies charged by landlords letting residential properties.
(2) The Secretary of State may at any time by order vary or revoke a scheme.
(3) An order under subsection (1) shall be made by statutory instrument and shall be subject to approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, again, this amendment relates to a small point. The question of rental deposit schemes was debated at length at earlier stages. The Government's undertaking to look at what is happening with regard to such schemes in other countries is welcome.

I have tabled this amendment in order to take the matter a little further and so that I may ask a simple question which I should have thought of asking earlier. Can the Minister give a clear undertaking of the timetable for the research? I now have a second (and obvious) supplementary question. In undertaking the research on the evidence from abroad, can the Minister give any indication about the consultation with interested parties? In the light of our debate at the start of today's proceedings on this Bill, I am sure that the Minister will understand that by "consultation" I include, "having regard to the views of those parties consulted". I beg to move.

Lord Monson: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, moved a more or less similar amendment on Report. I supported her then and I do so again now. Although it paves the way for secondary legislation, I do not think that I am being inconsistent in any way in supporting this amendment, having opposed the earlier amendment. The issues at stake here are simple and are by no means of earth-shaking

17 Jul 1996 : Column 899

importance. The principle has had widespread support, as the noble Baroness mentioned, in all quarters of the House. I do not think that there has been any opposition to the principle. However, a few matters need to be resolved; notably, investigation into the success or otherwise of the Australian experiment. There have been inconsistent reports about whether or not it has been successful. Obviously, that matter must be investigated.

Other details also need to be resolved, not least the question of what happens to the interest earned. For what it is worth, I think that the only solution would be for it to be ploughed back into the running of the scheme, otherwise the tax implications would be horrendous. Such details need to be considered at leisure. For that reason, I think that the amendment gives a not unreasonable amount of discretion to the Secretary of State and I am happy to support it.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, we considered a similar amendment at the previous stage when we had an informative discussion on the merits of the Rental Bond Board of New South Wales. There are two main points to consider. First, we need to consider whether the problem is sufficient to warrant the cost and bureaucracy of setting up such a scheme. Here we must take into account the findings of the English House Condition Survey. This shows that only 4 per cent. of tenants are on bad terms with their landlords. While this gives no grounds for complacency, it does put the issue into context. Secondly, there is the question of how to handle the difficult issue of disputes over who has the best claim to the money at the end of the tenancy. The real problem is how to find a speedy and effective means of resolving who has the best claim.

The noble Baroness asked two questions: what is the timetable for the research and what about the consultation? She wanted to know whether, having consulted, we would have any regard to the views of those consulted. We intend to carry out that research over the summer and autumn months. We shall consult voluntary organisations such as the National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux and others with an interest. I can assure the noble Baroness that we shall have regard to the views of those consulted as well as of those who are kind enough to give us their views, whether or not they have been consulted.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I did not make myself clear. I hoped that I had explained that I had assumed that the consultation would lead to the Government "having regard to views". On the strength of this afternoon's debate, I am prepared not to push that any further.

The Minister's reply was helpful. Perhaps I may suggest that the department consults local authorities. On Report I mentioned a committee report from Suffolk--I forget from which district--drawing the matter to the attention of the members following consideration of certain poverty issues and difficulties in the good operation of the private rented sector. I am sure that local authorities would have useful things to say. I am grateful for the Minister's response and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

17 Jul 1996 : Column 900

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 34:


After Clause 99, insert the following new clause--

Retaliatory eviction: extension of notice

(". (1) After Section 22 of the Housing Act 1988 there shall be inserted--
"Variation of notice period for notice under section 21.
22A.--(1) If, after a tenant makes a rent application to a rent assessment committee, a qualifying notice is served by the landlord on the tenant at any time before the decision of the committee is given or within the period of six months thereafter, then, subject to subsection (3) below, that notice shall not take effect before the expiry of that period.
(2) If, after a local housing authority have proposed to exercise any of their housing functions and communicated that to the landlord, a qualifying notice is served by the landlord on a tenant of a qualifying dwelling before that function is exercised (or, as the case may be, a communication is made under subsection (4) below) or within a period of six months thereafter, then, subject to subsection (3) below, the notice shall not take effect before the expiry of that period.
(3) In a case falling within subsection (1) or (2) above (except where relevant proceedings have been commenced but not yet concluded)--
(a) the rent assessment committee may at any time (including before or after the disposal or withdrawal of a rent application), if they think fit, direct that a shorter period shall be substituted for the period specified in that subsection;
(b) if a rent application is withdrawn, the period during which the notice is not to take effect by virtue of subsection (1), shall end on the expiry of seven days from the withdrawal of the application.
(4) In the case falling within subsection (2) above, if the local housing authority cease to propose to exercise any of their housing functions they shall forthwith communicate that fact to the landlord and every tenant in the building.
(5) If, after a tenant has commenced legal proceedings against his landlord to secure or enforce his rights as a tenant or has communicated in writing to the landlord that he intends to commence such proceedings (whether conditionally or otherwise) a qualifying notice is served by the landlord on the tenant at any time before six months have elapsed since the earlier of the first such communication in writing or the commencement of such proceedings or within a period of six months thereafter, then, subject to subsection (6) below, the notice shall not take effect before the expiry of that period.
(6) In a case falling within subsection (4)--
(a) where relevant proceedings have not been issued, an application may be made to a rent assessment committee who may, whether or not such proceedings have subsequently been issued, at any time if they think fit, direct that a shorter period shall be substituted for the period specified in that subsection; and
(b) where relevant proceedings have been issued, an application may be made to the court in which the proceedings were commenced (whether before or after the conclusion of such proceedings) which may at any time if it thinks fit, direct that a shorter period shall be substituted for the period specified in that subsection.
(7) In this section--
"housing functions" means the local housing authority's functions under the Housing Act 1985 (other than under section 348D of that Act) or under the Environmental Protection Act 1989;

17 Jul 1996 : Column 901


"landlord" means the landlord of an assured shorthold tenant;
"qualifying dwelling" means a dwelling being, or being part of, a building in respect of which the authority propose to exercise any of their functions under the Housing Act 1985 (other than under section 348D of that Act);
"qualifying notice" means a notice complying with subsections (1)(b) or 4(a) of section 21 above;
"relevant proceedings" means proceedings in a county court or the High Court such as are referred to in subsection (4);
"rent application" means an application to a rent assessment committee under section 22 above; and
"tenant" means a tenant under an assured shorthold tenancy.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that this amendment appears terrifyingly long. This is not a new matter and, again, the amendment has been tabled to seek assurances on certain matters.

"Retaliatory eviction" is shorthand for eviction which is not unlawful but which is a landlord's response to a tenant behaving in a way which the landlord does not welcome. The tenant may have complained about matters such as harassment or may have drawn the bad state of repair of the property to the attention of the local environmental health department. It is important that tenants can complain without fear of losing their home.

The proposed measure to stop retaliatory eviction is intended to encourage responsible landlords--I am sure that responsible landlords would support such a measure--and to increase tenants' bargaining powers when dealing with unscrupulous landlords. If the Government do not feel that they can incorporate such a new clause in the Bill, I ask them to give an assurance that they will undertake research into the problem of retaliatory eviction. It is important that the Government become fully aware of the scale of the problem both in terms of eviction and in terms of tenants' inability to enforce their rights. The Government should look for ways of overcoming the problem. I am told that some overseas legislation contains possibly helpful models of how to protect tenants against retaliatory eviction. Perhaps the Government will consider assessing those measures and their applicability to our system.

At previous stages of this Bill your Lordships heard examples of the actions of unscrupulous landlords. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, referred to improvement works on HMOs in the area of Swiss Cottage where the programme of works appeared to lead to a 15 per cent. loss of accommodation, although it is likely that that accommodation will be back on the market when the local authority programme moves on. There are similar examples. I am sure that your Lordships agree that the unequal bargaining power of tenants to which I have referred is not something to be supported, even indirectly. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page