Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 6:45 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, I may not be visible, but I rise to move Amendment 18 and speak to Amendment 27 in this group. Amendment 18 is about local authorities operating an accreditation and licensing scheme for private landlords and it would require local authorities to do it. A number already make this part of their work. In Leeds it has been particularly successful, with 332 landlords accredited, providing nearly 15,000 bed spaces. In a parallel scheme with the universities, some 20,000 bed spaces are covered by an accreditation scheme—so near enough 35,000 people are covered by such schemes. There is expense involved in running them and, in the present financial climate, it would be difficult for local authorities to progress the proposal in this amendment, unless there were government backing in the form of some funding. As I have already indicated, some funding is currently available. My own authority has benefited from it and, no doubt, others have too. Perhaps the Minister can clarify the position but I suspect that this has so far been something of an experiment to see how effective such investment might be. If these schemes are proving successful, I hope the Government will look at extending the programme elsewhere.

Amendment 27 is of a different kind. It would create a register of all private landlords and privately rented properties, to be maintained by local authorities. It simply registers where properties are so that local authorities know which properties are rented out and who the owners are. They can then use that information to inform landlords of their duties under housing legislation and under the recent, rather difficult requirements of immigration legislation, which, I suspect, is a considerable burden on landlords. It is also good property management practice.

The noble Baroness and I have not exactly crossed swords, but we have occasionally discussed the progress of the duty on owners to provide carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. I speak with some feeling about this, since my own carbon monoxide alarm has fallen down three times in the last couple of weeks and I cannot persuade it to stay in position. Better organised people no doubt can—and they certainly should when they are letting out properties. The programme that the Government launched in the summer was done without very much publicity or very much time. I understand that the Government intend to review matters only several months into the current year. If the Government —or, more specifically, local authorities—knew which were rented properties, they could direct the publicity to known landlords, rather than in general terms through the media. They could do this potentially in other contexts. It would be a very useful tool in assisting the good management of properties by responsible landlords. Otherwise, they may simply not come across the publicity around carbon monoxide or smoke alarms, for example. There is the potential here for the Government to create a situation in which councils and landlords can work together in the interests of tenants and, ultimately, landlords. It is not much use to a landlord having a property that has been exposed to fire or other damage, let alone the dreadful consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I hope that the noble Baroness will look sympathetically at both these suggestions. They are designed to make sure that standards are maintained and to assist good owners to carry on responsibly the business in which they are engaged and thereby to protect their tenants. Ultimately, of course, it also protects their own property interests. It is in everybody’s interest that progress along the lines of these two amendments should be made. I beg to move.