Orders of the Day — Rent (Relief from Phasing)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:15 pm on 4th February 1987.

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Photo of John Butterfill John Butterfill , Bournemouth West 10:15 pm, 4th February 1987

I accept that that can apply to some extent. I do not advocate the immediate abolition of all rent controls because, like the hon. Member for Perry Barr, I do not wish to give an immediate profit to all the property speculators who have invested in the hope of getting vacant possession or making a huge hike in rents. That would not be appropriate. I should prefer a system under which the rent reflected the price paid by the landlord. I should also like to see a degree of indexation. On that basis we might be able to start to agree. We could do that if we could get over the quite inexplicable prejudices of the Opposition against the private sector as a whole. I passionately would like to see conditions improve. What we are doing tonight goes some way towards achieving that.

The shorthold system is valuable, but its expansion has been greatly limited by the sort of threats we have had from the Opposition. First, they say that they will abolish the system. Secondly, they say that they may consider retrospective legislation. Who can be surprised that the private sector has not rushed forward to invest when threats of that sort are being issued quite clearly by the Opposition Front Bench?

There are other problems with the present shorthold legislation and I should like to give an illustration from my constituency. One of my constituents owns three flats. When he became severely disabled and was unable to work, he used his savings to invest in the provision of accommodation for others. He has deep religious convictions and believed that that was a proper way to invest his money. He has let on a shorthold basis his little block of three flats. Sadly, one of the tenants was not very satisfactory. He was disruptive to the other tenants and generally behaved in a way which was upsetting to his neighbours and to the other tenants in the block. At the end of the year, my constituent sought to terminate the tenancy by giving, he thought, the correct notice under the Act. He employed a firm of solicitors to do that for him. Sadly, there was a defect in the way in which the notice was served, and a further tenancy was created. Two years have gone by and my constituent still has not been able to obtain possession from his unsatisfactory tenant.

We need to look again at the question of notice. If we are to have a system whereby a landlord is able to get possession—it should be a system that is so simple that he should not need detailed legal advice—it is wrong if a landlord, having taken legal advice twice, is unable to get possession, particularly when the tenant is disruptive towards neighbours. That is an entirely different problem. I should like my hon. Friend to look at that matter and consider it further.

It is anomalous that, with regard to shorthold, one situation should apply in London and another elsewhere, particularly one that is prejudicial to the establishment of further shorthold tenancies.

Therefore, I welcome the action that my hon. Friend is taking.