Tenant Fees Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Melanie Onn Melanie Onn Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing) 1:45 pm, 23rd January 2019

I think it is absolutely right that if a landlord experiences a breach of tenancy, those tenants are considered responsible for the situation. It should not rest on others who adhere to the tenancy agreement that they signed, so I concur with the hon. Gentleman.

I really do not see why Lords amendment 47 on default fees necessitates change, as the Government clearly defined damages as separate from defaults. I therefore wonder why Lords amendment 48 is necessary in the first place. Without it, would the Bill impede the current system? Would it prevent landlords from claiming damages through deposits or the courts? Can the Government reassure me—I would say that perhaps they have done so to some extent—that Lords amendment 48 will not create powers for landlords to bypass current systems and charge as they see fit? I certainly hope that the Minister believes that to be the case. If Lords amendment 48 is not necessary, perhaps it is in the Minister’s gift to reconsider the position and remove the provision, rather than adding confusion, as it is not necessary, and previous statements have made it clear that it is not necessary.

My amendment (a) to Lords amendment 48 would bring that into symmetry with powers in the Bill and add a requirement for charges brought under the amendment to be reasonable, and to be evidenced by invoices. That is just to ensure that no loophole is sought. Throughout the debate we have discussed the need for permitted payments in the Bill to be subject to rigorous checks and balances, to ensure that unscrupulous landlords and letting agents cannot continue to charge unjustified amounts for things such as a lost key. Thanks to the hard work in both Houses, we have closed a number of loopholes that could have been exploited to allow some landlords to profit from tenants by unfair and unjustified means.

Lords amendment 48 does not contain those protections and seemingly could allow for open-ended charges without mind to the cost to the landlord, and to whether the charges could be backed up by evidence. I do not intend to press the amendment to a Division, but I would welcome additional reassurances from the Government that the principles discussed throughout the Bill will not be undermined by the Lords amendment, and that it is not a new loophole that landlords and letting agents can exploit for profit.