Committee (1st Day)

Part of Housing and Planning Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Earl Cathcart Earl Cathcart Conservative 7:00 pm, 9th February 2016

My Lords, I should declare that I am a landlord. I support Amendment 21, tabled by my noble friend Lord Flight. This is a bit of a hobbyhorse of mine, and I raised this exact solution on a Question last summer, when I said:

“One of the problems is not knowing who the landlords are. Some suggest that there ought to be a national register of landlords, but the good ones might register while the bad ones will not bother and thus remain below the radar. Surely a better way is if all new tenants, who are required by law to complete a council tax registration form, put on that form the name, address and contact details of their landlords; then, councils would build up over time a complete picture of all the landlords in their area”.—[Hansard, 23/6/16; col. 1467.]

I raised the point again at a later date, but that too fell on stony ground. My noble friend the Minister then kindly arranged a meeting with Brandon Lewis, the Housing Minister, and all three of us agreed that it was a jolly good idea—until an official put a spoke in the wheel by suggesting that such a measure would put a burden on local authorities. Quite what that burden would be I do not know. It must be in local authorities’ interests to know who all the landlords in their area are—the good and the bad. I understand that, as my noble friend said, some local authorities already require this information on their council tax registration forms. So surely this is best practice, not a burden.

There are numerous occasions when the Government need to contact landlords, but cannot do so because they do not know who they all are. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations allowed only two weeks for landlords to comply, but the Government could not write to the landlords, so how on earth could they comply on time? We also heard from my noble friend Lord Flight about the provisions in the Immigration Bill legally requiring landlords to monitor whether their tenants are legally allowed to rent in this country. I wholeheartedly support my noble friend’s amendment. I shall not go over all his arguments, but I hope that the Minister will agree to look at this again.