(1) An increase in the rent of a dwelling-house to which the principal Act applies payable in respect of the extended period or any part thereof which would but for the principal Act be recoverable, shall be recoverable if or so far as the amount of the increase does not exceed ten per centum of the standard rent:
Provided that no such increase shall be due and recoverable if the sanitary authority of the district in which the house is situate on the application of the tenant certifies that the house is not reasonably fit for human habitation or is not kept in a reasonable state of repair, nor in any case until the expiry of four clear weeks after the landlord has served upon the tenant a notice in writing of his intention to increase the rent, and informing the tenant of his right to apply to the sanitary authority for such, a certificate as aforesaid.
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "shall" ["shall be due"], to insert the words "commence to."
This matter was raised by the hon. Member for York on the Committee stage. I think it so important that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider it. I am sure that when I explain what is desired the Amendment will commend itself to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman. There is some doubt about the interpretation of the Clause. The tenant is under the impression that he is entitled to four weeks' notice without any increase of rent. That is not made plain in the Bill. We are of opinion that he ought to be entitled to four weeks' notice. Under the original Act tenants took that view, and in certain cases property owners took the opposite view, namely, that the increase of rent was due from the date of notice. I can mention a case on that point. The London County Council owns certain property inhabited by the working classes. They gave notice on 21st November that they intended to increase therent on 2nd December, and they took steps on 30th December to recover the rent from 2nd December. There was a case in the County Court, and the working man who had to bear the brunt was put to fairly heavy expense, which would have placed him in difficulties if tenants who took the same view as himself, that he was entitled to four weeks, had not come to his rescue. The case was heard in the Wands-worth County Court. I understand that the learned judge, in summing up, took the same view as the tenant, but found himself held fast by a decision in the Divisional Court, which laid it down that the increased rent was to be paid from the date of notice. This is giving considerable dissatisfaction to tenants throughout the country. The object of the Amendment is to secure that the four weeks' notice of the increase of rent will be given, and that the tenant will know that within four weeks from that date his rent is going to be increased, instead of receiving notice now that in four weeks afterwards he will have to pay up the four weeks that have elapsed. Law is a very expensive luxury which workmen cannot very well afford, and for the purpose of securing that occupiers of these small houses will be protected from having to contest this matter, we desire this Amendment made. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accede to the Amendment, I would suggest to him that it is still necessary that the Clause should be made more easily understood, to prevent litigation taking place.
The words in the principal Act are undoubtedly very much the same. I cannot explain why a particular judge has had any difficulty about the correct meaning of those words. These difficulties are constantly arising in Courts; but what I do say is that the words "commence to be due and recoverable" do not express what is meant. What is "commence to be due"? What is "commence to be recoverable"? It is either due or it is not. It is recoverable or it is not. The process of being due is not a gradual one. The words suggested to my mind give rise to a great deal of doubt, and are, on the wording of the Clause, unnecessary.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
On any such application to a sanitary authority a fee of a shilling shall be paid, but if the authority as a result of the application shall issue a certificate as aforesaid the tenant will be entitled to deduct the amount of the fee from any subsequent payment of rent.
It will be within the recollection of the House that when we were discussing Clause 2, a suggestion was adopted that in certain cases the sanitary authorities of the district might be asked to certify that the house was not reasonably fit for human habitation or was not kept in reasonable state of repair. Thereupon the question arose at whose expense that certificate should be obtained, and I now make the supplementary proposal, which I hope will be accepted on both sides, that the tenant shall pay a fee of a shilling on making the application, and if he succeeds in the application then the fee of a shilling is to be deducted from any sub-subsequent payment of rent.