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 Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 5:15 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, I shall answer the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, first because I ran out of time in a debate the other day and I could not answer him fully. He will get first place on the housing list today.

The noble Lord referred to the regulations which other noble Lords have mentioned at length. I can only reiterate my desire to bring forward as much information as I can. In any event, as I outlined in relation to the previous amendment, none of the orders could be implemented until the regulations were in force. So the orders would not be retrospective; they would only be made after the regulations had gone through. However, I take his point and I will do my best to bring forward as much information as possible.

The noble Lord made a point about social housing being so much harder to obtain than previously for people who would seem to be on modest incomes. That is behind the Government’s priority of building homes for all types of tenure in this Parliament, but focusing particularly on the younger generation that he talks about who are increasingly left out of the housing market. He also asked whether I would meet with him and colleagues before Report and I will be happy to do so.

Amendments 3 and 4 amend Clause 20 so that a person who has been convicted of breaching a banning order and continues to breach the order after that conviction shall commit a further offence and be liable to a fine not exceeding one-tenth of level 2 on the standard scales for each day or part of a day on which the breach occurs. This would equate to up to £50 a day until the breach ceases The amendment also introduces a defence of reasonable excuse in relation to the further offence which will capture any cases where a person was genuinely not able to cease breaching a banner order following conviction because, for example, they were in hospital and therefore unable to manage their affairs to bring tenancies to an end. Rogues who continue to let out their properties despite being convicted for that offence will therefore not only incur punishment for the initial breach of the order but will continue to be punished for each additional day that they remain in breach of the order. This sends out a strong message that a breach of banning order will not be tolerated.

Amendments 5, 6 and 8 amend Clause 22 so that a person who has had a civil penalty imposed upon them for breaching a banning order as an alternative to prosecution, and continues to breach the order despite the first civil penalty, can have an additional civil penalty of up to £30,000 imposed for each period of six months or part of a six-month period in which the breach of the banning order continues. Rogues who continue to let out their properties despite having incurred a civil penalty for the breach will, therefore, be subject to additional civil penalties for continuation of the breach. This sends out the strong message that a breach of a banning order will not be tolerated and will ensure that the business model of rogue landlords is disrupted.

Turning to Amendment 2, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, I totally acknowledge her point that a vulnerable tenant should not be made homeless through no fault of their own as a result of a banning order. However, as my noble friend Lady Redfern says, the Bill is focused on sanctioning rogue landlords, but not at the cost of innocent tenants. The Bill will prevent tenants being made homeless by providing exceptions to a banning order or by allowing a local authority to manage the property in place of a banned landlord.

Clause 15 provides that in deciding whether to make a banning order and what order to make, the tribunal must consider the likely effect of the banning order on anyone who may be affected by it, which clearly includes tenants. Provision has been made for a banning order to be subject to exceptions; for example, where existing tenancies are in place which the landlord does not have the power to bring to an immediate end, or to allow a letting agent to wind down their business. An exception could, for example, be made for a period of some months to allow tenants adequate time to find alternative accommodation.

The noble Baroness asked who the rent would be paid to and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about recompense, which are both valid questions. The use of management orders by local authorities is already established through the Housing Act 2004. Schedule 3 to the Bill extends the circumstances in which management orders may be made. It allows a local authority to make a management order in respect of any property owned by a landlord who is subject to a banning order. These orders, which would allow tenants to stay on in the property while it is managed by the local authority, are particularly likely to be made in areas of high housing demand. In such circumstances, the local authority will be responsible for managing the property and will retain all the rental income, which can be used for the local authority’s housing purposes. Because of this, local authorities will in future be incentivised to consider the use of management orders.

On Amendment 7, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, as the Housing Minister set out in the other place, local housing authorities will be able to retain fines they receive as income. The Bill will enable local authorities to issue civil penalties of up to £30,000 and to seek rent repayment orders covering the previous 12 months. Councils will also be able to retain the money from civil penalties and rent repayment orders where the rent was paid from housing benefit or universal credit, and reuse that for housing purposes.