Housing and Planning Act 2016 (Banning Order Offences) Regulations 2017 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 22nd January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour 5:30 pm, 22nd January 2018

My Lords, a number of us spoke at some length on this matter when we were dealing in 2015 with what became the Housing and Planning Act 2016. This offers us the opportunity for a further canter around the course. I shall speak briefly because in principle, like most of the House, I support the regulations. I am trying to work out how effective they will be. One stat which would be helpful would be to know to what extent local authorities have, let us say, over the past 12 months or couple of years, prosecuted landlords with the offences defined in the regulations, because they already have the power to prosecute, which brings me to my second point. If they have that power to prosecute, and they do not do so—for all sorts of reasons, which I shall come to in a moment—the chances of them using a banning order are substantially reduced. The prosecution comes first, and the banning order comes second. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong. It is absolutely dependent on whether local authorities are prepared to prosecute.

Let us take a specific example. Slough is a town notorious for the number of sheds in gardens, most of which are there illegally. The local authority is in difficulty. I presume it knows that it could say to the shed owner, “Close the shed because you are in breach of the law”. On the other hand the local authority may say, “We want to ban that particular landlord”, but it is not prepared to do so because by prosecuting him it will create a homeless situation and it will have to step in and rehouse the family concerned. I am arguing that there may well be a hesitation within local authorities to prosecute and introduce banning orders in the knowledge that they may have to take on responsibility for the tenants. That might apply equally to unfit, overcrowded housing, which is covered under a contravention of overcrowding notice, or fire and gas safety standards offences. The local authority would have to have all that in mind if it decided to prosecute and get a banning order.

If one is dependent on the other and there is a hesitation to prosecute, to what extent will that influence the preparedness of a local authority to introduce the banning order? Unless there is housing into which to place people, or the local authority is prepared to take on the property, which in itself means expenditure because it has been through the legal process, the measure being introduced here might well not work in the way Ministers intend. What we need is more houses: more houses to rent and more houses at a sensible price. That would ease the whole process whereby local authorities would feel freer to proceed and close down property, with the obvious implication for rehousing families.

What stats do we have on the preparedness of local authorities to prosecute and place landlords in a position whereby ultimately, under these regulations, they will be subject to banning orders?