Tenant Fees Bill - Committee (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:00 pm, 20th November 2018

I thank noble Lords very much and particularly my noble friend Lady Gardner for bringing forward this amendment. She does much work in this area.

I cannot accept the amendment because, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, has just indicated, it would fundamentally undermine the policy intention of the Bill, which is to ban letting fees paid by tenants and to ensure that the party that contracts a service pays for that service.

This issue was dealt with under Section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014. It was very clear then that this was to be a liability for the landlord, not the tenant, to discharge. Therefore, the amendment would effectively drive a coach and horses through the intention of that legislation. I am not sure what the collective term for a coach and horses would be. It would probably be a stampede or possibly a cavalcade of coaches and horses, but it is clearly not the intention.

Despite the very good arguments put forward by my noble friend and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, on this point, I very much agree with the noble Lords, Lord Best and Lord Shipley. A landlord should be responsible for the costs associated with these checks. As I have indicated, they are required under the Immigration Act to undertake these checks to verify that a tenant has the legal right to reside in the United Kingdom before progressing with any tenancy agreement.

The Home Office produces detailed guidance for landlords and agents carrying out these checks, and I will certainly ensure that it is circulated to my noble friend and the noble Earl, and indeed to everybody who has participated in the debate.

Although the onus is on the landlord to verify a tenant’s right to rent, we have made provision in the Bill that, where a holding deposit is sought and a tenant fails a right-to-rent check, landlords and agents will not be unfairly penalised if the tenant is at fault. I hope that that gives some comfort to my noble friend and the noble Earl. With those assurances, I respectfully ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.