Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 9th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 5:15 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, at the start of the first day of Committee, and my first contribution at that stage, I should have declared that I am an elected councillor of the London Borough of Lewisham.

I join other noble Lords in concern about the lack of regulations available for noble Lords to see. Why does the Minister think that it is acceptable to bring forward a Bill in such a sorry state? Does she accept that it is wholly inadequate to suggest that the Government will consult fully and lay regulations months after the Bill has become law?

On Second Reading, and subsequently, I and other noble Lords from these Benches have welcomed the banning order proposals in the Bill. They will provide, we hope, an effective additional tool for local housing authorities to use against rogue landlords and persons engaging in letting agency or property management work who think that they can rip off tenants and treat them badly with impunity. With an ever-increasing number of people forced into the private rented sector, it is important that there are proper safeguards. Peter Rachman became synonymous with the rogue landlords of the 1960s. We want to ensure that we do not have any modern-day Rachmans, or, if we do, that they are dealt with effectively.

I also see the proposals in this part of the Bill as a first step to dealing with the issues in the private rented sector that make life difficult for tenants living at the poorer end of the market. The ward that I represent on Lewisham Council is typical of those that the Bill is aimed at: we have very little local authority housing other than a successful housing co-op, and until recently an overwhelming number of people there were owner-occupiers. However, there has been an explosion in the private rented sector in the last 10 years, for a variety of reasons. Most landlords are very good, with anything from one to a few properties. They often get into the market as a landlord because they have fallen into negative equity, have looked to move on but have been unable to cover their capital outlay. Many of those coming to my surgeries are now private sector tenants, invariably young people, both singles and couples, who cannot get any social housing because they are not in a priority group, cannot go on the housing list, cannot afford to buy and are left to seek refuge in the private rented sector.

When I was a member of Southwark Council in the 1980s, we had properties deemed hard to let—that nobody wanted to live in—and the council was able to let those to single people and couples who would not otherwise qualify for social housing. That category no longer exists. The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, in this group, has identified what is a significant omission from the Bill. The amendment has the full support of noble Lords on these Benches. After we have taken action against the rogue landlords, what happens to their tenants? These will be the very people who have suffered at the hands of the rogue landlord in the first place. It is right that the amendment should be in the Bill and not left to regulations, advice notes or any other procedure that does not involve it being clear in the Bill itself. If the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, does not accept the amendments today, I hope that she will at least reflect on this proposal and meet with colleagues from your Lordships’ House to discuss this matter before we get to Report.

We also support Amendment 7, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill. Following an enforcement action resulting in a financial penalty, it must be right that the money should be retained by the local authority and not be lost to the Consolidated Fund or some other place where money from these penalties goes and never returns.

The remaining amendments in this group are government amendments. Amendments 3 and 8 appear to correct drafting errors and make matters clearer. Amendment 4, to which my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours referred, seeks to deal with the situation where a person convicted of an offence continues with the breach after conviction. I have an issue with this amendment. Does it go far enough when dealing with people who, at this stage, have no respect for the law, or where the tenants are again in a difficult situation? We may need to look at that further.

My noble friend Lord Beecham will ask more questions of the Minister when she moves her amendments. At that point, we may need to look at the issue further and bring an amendment back on Report.