New Clause "D". — (Notice to Quit Furnished House Let by Owner-Occupier.)

Orders of the Day — Rent Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1965.

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Lords Amendment No. 30: In page 24, line 47, at end insert new Clause D.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, to leave out lines 10 to 12.

The new Clause is similar to the Clause relating to unfurnished dwellings when the owner-occupier lets for a specific period and, having occupied the premises himself, gives notice that he will require to reoccupy at the end of the tenancy. In the case of furnished dwellings, the owner-occupier, in order to obtain the benefit of the Clause, to claim possession without going to the court to do so, would have to show the following conditions: that he has occupied the dwelling as a residence, that after that he let the premises to another person, that he has given that other person notice that he is the owner-occupier and, when he requires to return, that he requires it as a residence for himself or any member of his family, and finally—a condition to which the Amendment refers—that he does not occupy any other part of the house as his residence. He is precluded from taking any advantage of this Clause if he is asking for possession of part of the house when he is in occupation of the rest of the house.

I cannot see why an owner-occupier should be precluded from this Clause in those circumstances. To put a very simple, and I think obvious, case, suppose that there is a father and mother and a teen-age family living with them in the house. The family grows up and the father and mother do not need as much accommodation as the whole house now that the family has grown up and left. Assume that the daughter has gone to university and has then done a year or two in V.S.O. Then she marries. This would be an obvious occasion to allow the daughter with her husband to go back and live in that part of the house which is surplus to the requirements of the father and mother since the family has grown up, but they will be precluded from getting back that other part if they have let it in the meantime. They will not be able to take advantage of this Clause. I see no reason why that condition should be in this Clause. It is a case in which an owner-occupier is occupying a part of a house where he should be given the right to obtain the other part for the purposes of himself or his family.

In my example, it would be a member of the family who had been residing with him at the time that he was the owner-occupier of the whole house, and it fits his condition perfectly. It is a member of the family, a person who has been occupying the house with him, and he will have given notice to the person to whom he let part of the house that he is the owner-occupier and that he wants it back. This is no hardship on the person to whom part of the house has been let. He will have the notice, and he will know very well that at some time or another the owner-occupier may require possession again for the purpose of himself or his family. He should not be precluded from freely getting that possession back again merely because he is occupying a part of the house.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

I think that this Amendment from the Lords is a thoroughly bad Amendment, but still less do I like the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page).

In discussing the question of furnished lettings on both this and previous Amendments one aspect of the matter has been forgotten: the tenant of the furnished dwelling has no automatic right of security. It can be said that very few tenants of furnished lettings have the right to security. It applies only to those who have been before a tribunal; after they have asked for, and usually obtained, a reduction in a rent which was excessive, the tribunal gives them security for six months, and under this Bill 12 months. The question of security is purely ancillary to the question of fair rents, and it was introduced for that reason. If the tribunal had not the right at its discretion to give the tenant security, then no tenant would ever go to the tribunal because he would be turned out the next day. That is why this purely discretionary right has been given to the tenant.

If the new Clause were introduced it would allow landlords in a very large number of cases to drive a coach and four through the 1946 Act. No tenant in those circumstances would go to a tribunal to seek a reduction of his rent even if his rent were grossly excessive, because it would do him no good. The effect of the Lords Amendment and the hon. Member's Amendment would be to make the procedure nugatory; the tenant would get his reduction in rent but it would be no benefit to him because the next day, without the protection of Section 5 of the 1946 Act, he would be turned out.

I therefore hope that the House will decisively reject the Amendment. This is not a question of an absolute right to security, as some hon. Members seem to think from what they have said during earlier debates; it is a purely discretionary right exercised by the tribunal, and in the great majority of cases it is applied only after the tenant has secured a reduction of an exorbitant rent. It is to protect the tenant against the exorbitant rent that this discretionary right to security is given. I think that it ought to be maintained, and I hope that the House will reject the Amendment.

12.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I agree half way with my hon. Friend in that I hope that the House will reject the Amendment to the Lords Amendment. However, I ask the House to accept the Lords Amendment in the form in which it appears on the Order Paper.

I appreciate the point about the effect on furnished lettings, but I remind the House that the kind of case with which this is dealing is where there has been, or is likely to be, a fixed-term letting. Where there has been such a letting there is no power to extend the period. There is power in the tribunal to fix the rent, but there is no power to extend the letting beyond the fixed term. Thus, the difference made by the proposal is not that it takes away that power but more that it gives certainty to the owner-occupier of getting back into the premises.

This is, to some extent, the converse of the case of Clause 14, which deals with the owner-occupier of unfurnished premises. It is to deal with the case where the owner-occupier who has been in the house, who moves out of it, and who wants to come back at the end of his service or tour or whatever it might be. It would, therefore, be out of keeping with that intention, which concerns Clause 14 as well as new Clause D, that a person should just simply move from one part of the house to another or that he should be occupying another part of the house. That is not the idea at all. The additional words are not needed in Clause 14 because that Clause refers to … a person who has occupied a dwelling-house … has let the dwelling-house … whereas here we have a dwelling as a residence and not a dwelling-house. It is possible, therefore, to have more than one dwelling in a dwelling-house for the purposes of the 1946 Act.

What my hon. Friend said would be a right criticism if we were going as far as the Amendment to the Lords Amendment because that would be altering the whole balance of security of tenure in the case of a furnished letting. We are here dealing with the narrow point of the owner-occupier wanting to go back into his own home after he has let it. We thought at one stage that the fixed-term letting was enough of a protection. In deference to the views of people who thought that something more specific should be put in the Bill, the Amendment was tabled in another place.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I do not quite follow the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's reasoning behind his suggestion that the Amendment to the Lords Amendment should not be accepted. It does not follow automatically, as he seemed to think, that because someone has retained a small part of the house in his occupation he should not have the benefits of the Clause. Why is it to be confined to someone who has gone away altogether, as opposed to someone who has needed to retain only a small part of the house for his own occupation? Why is complete absence necessary?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he did not make out a case. I take his point about the different circumstances of Clause 14 and I do not quarrel with him about that, but I suggest that it is unreasonable, having decided, and rightly so, to accept the view taken in another place that this kind of protection should be given to the owner of premises let furnished, that it is not given to someone who has retained an odd bedroom in the house. That does not seem justified, nor has it yet been explained.

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Lords Amendment, put and agreed to.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

We have already discussed the question of the family raised by the second Amendment to this Lords Amendment. I shall put it formally if the Opposition wish to divide on it.

Lords Amendment agreed to.