(1) A landlord of a house to which the principal Act, either as originally enacted or as extended by this Act, applies shall, on being so requested by the tenant of the house, furnish to him a statement as to what is the standard rent of the house, and if he fails within fourteen days to do so, or furnishes a statement which is false in any material particular, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds.
(2) Where a person who has, since the thirtieth day of September, nineteen hundred and seventeen, purchased a house to which the principal Act, either as originally enacted or as extended by this Act, applies, requires the house for his own occupation or that of some person in his employ, or in the employ of some tenant from him, nothing in the Increase of Rent, etc. (Amendment) Act, 1918, shall be construed as preventing the Court from making an order for the recovery of possession of the house, if, after considering all the circumstances
"Any person who offers to let a house on payment of a premium by the prospective tenant or accepts such a premium, and any person who pays a premium in order to obtain possession of a house shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds."—[Mr. Adamson.]
|Division No. 14.]||AYES.||[12.9 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hogge, J. M.||Sexton, James|
|Arnold, Sydney||Irving, Dan||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Jones, J. (Silvertown)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Cape, Tom||Kenyon, Barnet||Walsh, S. (Ince, Lancs.)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Lunn, William||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Donald, T.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Onions, Alfred||Young, Robert (Newton, Lancs.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Hancock, John George||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. Frederick Hall.|
|Hayday, A.||Rowlands, James|
|Hayward, Major Evan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Hirst, G. H.|
|Amery, Lieut.-Col. L. C. M. S.||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Bridgeman, William Clive|
|Archdale, Edward M.||Betterton, H. B.||Brittain, Sir Harry E.|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Birchall, Major J. D.||Broad, Thomas Tucker|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Blades, Sir George R.||Brown, Captain D. C. (Hexham)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Blair, Major Reginald||Buchanan, Lieut.-Col. A. L. H.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Burdon, Col. Rowland|
|Barrie, C. C.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Breese, Major C. E.||Campbell, J. G. D.|
|Campion, Col. W. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hewart, Right Hon. Sir Gordon||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hickman, Brig.-Gen, Thomas E.||Ormsby-Gere, Hon. William|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)||Parker, James|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hinds, John||Pearce, Sir William|
|Child, Brig.-Gen. Sir Hill||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pinkham, Lieut.-Col. Charles|
|Clay, Capt. H. H. Spender||Hood, Joseph||Pratt, John William|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Cockerill, Brig.-Gen. G. K.||Howard, Major S. G.||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B.||Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster)||Roundell, Lt.-Col. R. F.|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Coote, Colin R. (Isle of Ely)||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Coote, W. (Tyrone, S.)||Jesson, C.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Craig, Capt. C. (Antrim)||Jodrell, N. P.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander|
|Davidson, Major-General J. H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Stanier, Capt. Sir Beville|
|Dean, Com. P. T.||Jones, Wm. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Edgar, Clifford||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lloyd, George Butler||Surtees, Brig.-Gen. H. C.|
|Falcon, Captain M.||Lorden, John William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lort-Williams, J.||Townley, Maximillian G.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Wardle, George J.|
|FitzRoy, Capt. Hon. Edward A.||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||M'Donald, D. H. (Bothwell, Lanark)||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Gardner, E. (Berks., Windsor)||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)||Weigall, Lt.-Col. W. E. G. A.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||M'Lean, Lt.-Col. C. W. W. (Brigg)||White, Col G. D. (Southport)|
|Glyn, Major R.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Whitla, Sir William|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||McNeill, Ronald (Canterbury)||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Grant, James Augustus||Mason, Robert||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)|
|Greame, Major P. Lloyd||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, W.)|
|Green, J. F. (Leicester)||Mitchell, William Lane-||Wilson, Col. Leslie (Reading)|
|Greig, Col. James William||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wilson, Col. M. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Griggs, Sir Peter||Morison, T. B. (Inverness)||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Hacking, Captain D. H.||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Worsfold, T. Cate|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Murchison, C. K.||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Haslam, Lewis||Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Henderson, Major V. L.||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Capt. Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Hennessy, Major G.||Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)|
Resolutions agreed to.
Before proposing to leave out this Sub-section, an Amendment with which my name is associated, may I inquire whether the Government can see their way to accept later some of the other Amendments on the Paper which would possibly achieve the object in view, so that we might have as clear a definition as we can possibly get? There have been very many cases in the Courts in connection with the corresponding Clause in the original Act, and it has been found over and over again to be that bogus employment has been put forward in connection with a desire to get, or give, possession of a house to someone other than the then occupying tenant. If the Government could give us some assurance that some modification of this will be adopted, I think it would obviate the leaving out of the Sub-section and meet the case.
A very wide interpretation has been given by some of the County Court judges which have really told against the tenant, and which by many is considered an unwitting evasion of the original Act. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman can see his way to qualify in any way the Sub-section in the way I have suggested I think it would do a great deal for the tenant. It would prevent occupation being taken, except were there is an absolutely reasonable case for the landlord to have possession of the property.
Mr. KENNEDY JONES:
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words
or in the employ of some tenant from him.
I understandfrom many letters I have received in this matter that there has been a very grave abuse of the proviso in the previous Act. It is not desirable to continue such proviso in the new Bill which we are now engaged in considering.
I am sorry the Attorney-General cannot meet us in this case. The landlord may have someone in his employ who desires to live in certain premises, and in that casethe occupying tenant is turned out. I am aware that we are asking for an Amendment of the original Act of 1915, but this is one of the cases where grievances have arisen very frequently in connection with a bogus claim to getsomeone into the premises as against the occupying tenant.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words
all the circumstances of the case, including.
My idea is that if the condition as to available accommodation is not fulfilled the other circumstances should not come in.
I do not quite follow the difficulty in the mind of my hon. Friend. As the Clause stands at present it would have a certain limiting effect. The Clause provides that the Court, in considering whether it is reasonable to make the order or not, shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case, and I submit that the words as they stand bring about the very result which my hon. Friend desires.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the dominant factor in the situation is in regard to alternative accommodation being available? That really is the thing in the minds of those who drew the Bill, and I am quite sure that what the Committee desires is that the really effective and dominant consideration in the mind of the Court when they exercised their discretion should be the question whether or not other accommodation is available.
I should have thought that the mode of expression which has been chosen is intended to convey that meaning. I do not know whether it would meet my hon. Friend's view if, instead of the word "including," we inserted the words "in particular."
I think the lay reader is entitled to have an Act so drawn that he can readily understand it. I think it would make the meaning clearer if some word like "especially" was inserted instead of the word "including."
I do not think it would be wise to strike out the whole of these words, because they give the Court a very strong power to see that before the occupation is taken away from the existing tenant that there must be available accommodation in the locality. I think what the right hon. Gentleman has said might be strengthened by putting another word in place of the word "including."
I gather that the original words of the Amendment, "all the circumstances of the case, including," are not now pressed, and the Government is invited to take out the word "including" and insert the word "especially." I hope my right hon. Friend will not accept the word "especially" without a little more thought. There may be something in it, but I think it is important that we should not accept it without more consideration, and it might be left until the Report stage. I do not very much like directing by an Act of Parliament a judge to especially consider the alternative accommodation available. The present provision asks the judge to consider certain matters, including the available accommodation. The only fear I have is that by inserting the word "especially," it may be inferred from this word, if it is adopted, if there is alternative accommodation of almost any sort it would be taken as an instruction to the judge that he must take that alternative, and this might be very inconvenient. In the district where I live there was a case in which the tenant was told there there was alternative accommodation and it was most unsuitable. The alternative accommodation consisted of a house which was very inferior and a higher rent, and if you put in the word "especially"the judge might construe it as a direction that if there was any sort of accommoda- tion the tenant must be ejected. I want the judge to be able to consider all the facts, and not press the available alternative accommodation especially. I think it should be determined if there is suitable accommodation. If the rent is higher than the house is worth, then it is not suitable to the tenant, and in such a case I think the County Court judge would be more likely to say it is not suitable.
I shall be very glad to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. I understand that the Attorney-General places the consideration we have raised as the main factor. This Bill deals with accommodation and if you leave the measure as it stands now it does not make it perfectly clear that the question of available accommodation is largely the determining factor. If the right hon. Gentleman will promise to make that plain by inserting some such word as suggested by my right hon. Friend, I shall be quite ready to withdraw the Amendment.
In order that there may be no doubt as to the meaning of the particular specification of the alternative accommodation, I propose after the word "including" to add the words "in particular."
I do not think that will add anything to the strength of the words at all. Of course, if it includes it, it is bound to include it in particular. But if you say "especially"you do give a direction which, I am sure, the majority of the Committee desire. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Well, I am inclined to press it to a Division to see, for after all the object of the Bill is to see that a tenant is not turned out of a house either by purchase or otherwise unless there is alternative accommodation.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite argued that the word "especially" would add confidence to the lay mind, but if you add words which are of no legal value it may lead to an extra large number of lawsuits.
I really do not think that this is a matter on which we need occupy a great deal of time, and if my right hon. Friend presses it I shall be quite willing to accept the word "especially." [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not
think hon. Members altogether appreciate what is proposed. It was suggested that the words "in particular" should come after the word "including," and I am now suggesting that instead of the words "in particular" the word "especially" should be inserted. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] May I just read the Clause as it will then stand—
If, after considering all the circumstances of the case, including especially the alternative accommodation available.
Mr. T. WILSON:
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert
(3) In any proceedings taken in any Court between a landlord and a tenantunder this Act or the principal Act, where judgment is given in favour of the tenant, the taxed coats of the proceedings shall be the tenant's.
Tenants are very often taken into Court for the purpose of securing their eviction, and where the decision is in favour of the tenant we contend that he is entitled to expenses for the time that he loses in connection with the case. I therefore hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.
This Amendment is really superfluous. The rule is that the costs follow the event, and the tenant is entitled to his costs unless there is some matter that enables the judge to deprive him of them. The effect of the Amendment would be to deprive the judge of his discretion in a very limited class of cases, which I can hardly imagine, where he would have the discretion to deprive the tenant of his costs.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert
(3) Where under this Act or the principal Act it is lawful for a landlord to increase the rent by reason of any increase in rates, such power to increase the rent shall not extend toany case where the increase in the actual sum paid in rates is due to an increase in the assessment only and not to a change in the amount of the rate.
This Clause virtually legalises an increase in rent. In 1913, to take anillustration, a cottage was let for 7s. 6d. Up to 1917 it was rated at 6s. 6d., owing to the rating authorities not being aware
of the actual rent. In 1917 the true rent was discovered, and the house was assessed accordingly. The landlord claimed the increase in the rates, and his claim has been allowed in a Court of Law. We feel that in suchcases it is unjust to inflict upon the tenant the penalty of the increased assessment.
I should like to support this Amendment. Take the case of a small workman's flat rented at about 4s. 6d. The rent is raised because of an increase in the rates. I worked it out the other day, and the real increase which the tenant would be asked to pay would be about 16½ per cent.instead of 10 per cent. I am quite sure that is not the intention of the Committee, but unless some such Section as this is put in the persons whom we desire to protect most will have the least protection. These tenants, instead of haying their rants raised 10 per cent. will have them raised 16½per cent., and we think it is necessary to protect them against this.
I hope the Attorney-General will not accept this Amendment. First of all, the landlord has no power in regard to the question of rating. That rests entirely with the Assessment Committee. The arguments that have been put forward in support of this Amendment really do not touch the point. The increase of 10 per cent.here referred to is in regard to the cost of repair, and will not affect the rateable value at all. When the rateable value is fixed the cost of repairs is cut off, and if that cost of repairs has gone up by 10 per cent.the amount allowed by the Assessment Committee for repairs will have to be increased to the extent of 10 per cent., therefore the point does not arise. If I have property which has been underrated, and there is a general re-rating for the district, it surely would be unfair that the burden should be thrown on me.
I repeat, it will not affect the question of an increase in rateable value. I have had some littleexperience in rating questions, and I would point out that when the conclusion is arrived at that properties are under-assessed the usual practice is not to reassess particular properties but to take whole streets, and in such cases the increase in the assessment falls on the tenant and not on the owner, who, in fact, has no control over the matter and is only liable to be put to expense by appealing.
I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend. After all said and done, apart from the question of the rating of houses by the local authority, who has in the past benefited by the under-assessment? It has invariably been the tenant. The rent has always been fixed in relation to the outgoings of the property, and therefore the tenant has all along been taking advantage of the fact that the assessment has been too low. It is preposterous to suggest that the person who has been receiving a limited interest on his money should be further mulct because the authority has come to the conclusion that the house, the enjoyment of which is the tenant's, has been too lowly rated. It would be most unjust to say that in consequence of the reassessment of the property as the result of some improvement in the neighbourhood—and in the London area we have a system which is known by the name of betterment, which enables the assessment on properties to be increased because of the benefits received through public works carried out in the neighbourhood—benefits which give tone to the neighbourhood—I say it would be unjust to claim that in such a case the landlord should suffer because of the fact that the local authority are going to put into their pockets an additional rate. We know perfectly well that local authorities have often said that they would rather purchase and dedicate land to open spaces and parks than develop it through a builder. If you have got a reasonable rent fixed and there is an increase of the assessment, it would be most unjust to say that the landlord should pay that increase and thereby have his limited income further limited. I have always been afraid of this Bill; I think it will be an act of injustice.
I desire to support the Amendment. I think hon. Members who have spoken against it do not recognise its real import. There are, in different parts of the country, blocks of cottage property which have not been subjected to reassessment for the past ten or fifteen years, but during that period rents have been considerably increased.
I speak as a resident for thirty years in the East End of London and for ten years in the provinces. I can state with certainty that there are many properties where no revaluation or reassessment has taken place for the past ten or fifteen years, and notwithstanding that an increase in rents has taken place. What we ask is that since public attention has been called to the question of rent and the local authorities may have become rather more keen on the whole question of the reassessment of cottage property, with the result that they find that the assessments at the present moment are out of all keeping with the increase that has taken place in the rent, and they consequently order a revaluation, the landlord should bear the burden caused by any reassessment, because he has benefited in the years gone by by the increased rental he has been drawing. That is the purport of this Amendment and the set of conditions it is desired to protect. One would hardly like to have the position confronting them that during the course of twelve or fifteen years, while the tenants' rents have been increased by 4s. or 5s. a week, and there has been no corresponding increase in the landlords' assessments, that when the local authority reassesses the property to bring it up to date on the basis of the rental received, you should ask the tenant to make good all these arrears which the landlord has pocketed at the expense of the locality by not having had his rateable value increased.
I am afraid we cannot accept this Amendment. My right hon. Friend (Sir D. Maclean) invited the Committee to look at the purpose of this legislation. Well, I do look at its purpose. If one turns to Section 1, Sub-section (1) (iv.) of the principal Act it is there provided, in the clearest terms, that
Where the landlord pays the rates chargeable on, or which but for the enactment relating to compounding would be chargeable on, the occupier of any dwelling-house, an increaseof the rent of the dwelling-house shall not be deemed to be an increase for the purposes of this Act if the amount of the increase does not exceed any increase in the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of such rates.
A later provision of the principal Act provides that the landlord shall in such a case make a statement to the tenant showing particulars of the increased amount charged in respect of rates on the dwelling-house. What is the purpose of those provisions? The purpose is clearly this,
that the landlord is not to have thrown upon him the burden of an addition to the rates. That was the way in which the matter was left by the principal Act. Now we come to the amending Bill. The object of the amending Bill, within thelimits which it imposes, is to permit the landlord to get an increase of rent for the reason especially that, as everybody knows, the cost of repairs has very greatly increased. How can you say that in certain cases the landlord shall not have that increase but shall have it diminished by some further burden of rates? The proposal really is a proposal to diminish the increase which the amending Bill is going to allow. I do not follow the observations of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hayday). Certainly my experience does not agree with his as to the long delay in the revaluation of dwelling-houses in this country. But even if he were correct, and I assume for the sake of argument only that is so, what follows? That for this long period of years the rents in those cases have been unduly low, because what is clear is that upon reassessment the rates would not be reduced, but there would be an increased demand for rent. Is not that another way of saying that during the whole of this period the tenant has escaped the burden which he might properly have been called upon to bear? It is quite clear that if this Amendment were accepted we should be taking away that increase which it is the object of the Bill to give.
Cannot my right hon. Friend meet this case? It is the one I have in mind. I agree with many of the observations he has made, and they dispose to some extent of some of the difficulties I had in mind. This is a case which I am quite certain mainly affects my right hon. Friend (Mr. Adamson) and myself. It is the case of a tenant paying 4s. 6d. or 6s. rent in a workman's flat. The tenant knows nothing about the rates at all, because they are compounded and he only knows what he pays per week. That is all he bothers about. The landlord arranges with the assessment committee what sum he shall pay, and large deductions are allowed for the cost of collection and matters of that kind, varying according to the districts in which these matters are arranged. That is the case I would press my right hon. Friend to meet. That man or that woman belongs to a class which has not benefited by this War, nor is it benefiting now. They are rather outside the war profiteers in the working classes and they form a class for which everybody wishes todo the most they can. Here is my case with regard to that: An increase in rent is made. They say there has been an increase of rent so far as they are concerned since the War began. The landlord will say that is due to the rates. He has his method of arranging, quite properly, with the assessment committee what is to be allowed to him for collection. Sometimes it runs to 20 per cent. and sometimes higher than that, and for other reasons. He has already paid that increase. So also has this poor class of tenant. On the top of that the landlords are going to have another 10 per cent. That is not what we really want to do. We do not want to see that kind of person paying, as a result of the powers given under this Bill, any additional percentage above that they already pay owing to the increased amount the landlord has to pay in respect of rates. You do not want to have another 10 per cent. put on that class of tenant as distinguished from the pre-war position. He may have to pay 16 or 20 per cent., and not the 10 per cent. which a tenant in a much larger house and a much better position is only asked to pay. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can meet that case.
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend for making his point so clear. The clearer it becomes, does it not show still more clearly that his object is in these cases to prevent the increase which the Bill is intended to permit? He has said that it is not part of the intention of the Bill to bring about the result which he is seeking by this Amendment to avoid. But I must remind him that by Clause 2, Sub-Section (2), that
the increase of rent permitted by this Section shall be in addition to any increase permitted by Section one of the principal Act.
So that the passing on of the burden of the rates is already provided for by the principal Act. The effect of the proposal now made is, in the case to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that the increase of rent should be diminished by that sum.
I agree with my hon. and learned Friends who have said that the rating authority ought not to raise the assessment on account of this increase of 10 per cent. because the 10 per cent. is for repairs. That is a perfectly sound proposition in law, but it is possible that the rating authority may find some means in consequence of that 10 per cent. of raising the assessment, and I have no doubt they will. Therefore the position would be met very simply by preventing the assessment authorities from putting up the rateable value on houses included in this Bill. Four hon. Members have put down a new Clause—
The rateable value of houses falling within the Act shall not be increased during the continuance of the restrictions in consequence of addition to rent, but this shall not be held to prevent alteration in rateable values due to other causes.
Surely if that new Clause is put in, that will meet the point completely. It may be out of Order, but there may be some means of putting words into the Section which will have the same effect.