Tenant Fees Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:47 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 4:47 pm, 10th October 2018

That is it. I hope Hansard was able to take that down. You can only do that if you are the head lessee or the freeholder. If you have set up your right to manage, there is a legal link missing which does not authorise you to recover the property for compensation if it has been mishandled. The woman who owns the places that are being let illegally—three or four blocks, one is normally a brothel and the other three are Airbnbs or something similar—has had herself certified under the Mental Health Act, so during that time no one was able to repossess anything.

Now the Court of Protection has appointed someone to take over, and it is all under way. As soon as these people put out the illegal people, they smashed all the windows and external structures in the brothel, which is in the basement, and the other places are being attacked on other floors. This is very disturbing. If you were a tenant living in that flat, you would be very worried about your personal safety, and would think, “Is what I’m paying fair?”, for a place that is just being allowed to do whatever it wants because there are no suitable controls.

Again, I make a plea to the Minister that it should be possible for local authorities that wish to do so to be able to return to the short-let licensing which they had in the past. That would protect long-term residents in a block, and the Mayor of London is absolutely right to say that these short lets have reduced the number of properties available in London. It is therefore quite right that people should be checked in all these financial ways. However, I recall clearly when I used to let the basement of the first house I ever lived in and Harold Wilson’s Government brought in a complete freezing of rents. That was ineffective, and worked so badly that after a while it had to be removed again. When that happened, everything went through the ceiling overnight. So it is far better to have a housing market that develops in a more normal way and works out for people in a fair way on both sides. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, for what she has done on this. It is an important but small part of a huge problem that the Government should be allowing local authorities to get on with.

I have one comment about the Written Answer I received the other day. The latest problem is commercial waste. People who come on holiday lets put out rubbish at the end, on any old day they feel like. The Answer I received said that this was commercial waste. If it is commercial, only the council can arrange to collect it—but how can it arrange to collect the rubbish fee if it has no idea who is to pay it, and when that person has vanished? This is a new problem, and apparently it is occurring all over London; waste is building up because it is just thrown out on any old day you happen to leave the place. I have said more than enough; I just wanted to give noble Lords a feeling of my views. I will look to see if there is anywhere I can add a little to the Bill.