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 Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 5:00 pm, 20th November 2018

My Lords, all the amendments in this group are in my name except Amendment 37, although I support that amendment as well. They seek to amend Schedule 2, which concerns holding deposits. Amendment 33 would remove from the Bill the ability for a holding deposit to be withheld if the prospective tenant is prohibited from being granted a tenancy due to the restrictions of the Immigration Act and has failed the right to rent check. It is of course a probing amendment and I look forward to the Government setting out their case to justify this part of the Bill.

Amendment 34 would strengthen paragraph 8 of Schedule 2 by adding the word “knowingly”. That is a reasonable bar to have to reach for a deposit to be lost. Otherwise, it is unfair on the prospective tenant. If you knowingly provide false and misleading information, fine, but if it is unintentional, it seems harsh that the deposit can be withheld.

Amendment 35 would allow a tenant to decide not to proceed with a tenancy by notifying the landlord or letting agent before the deadline. It gives the tenant a reasonable period in which they can change their mind and not lose the deposit. I hope the Government can respond positively to that amendment.

Amendment 36 seeks to put into the Bill a requirement, where a holding deposit is withheld, that the landlord or agent say why they are doing so; that they set out the information they believe is false or misleading and which has been relied upon to withhold the deposit; and that they explain how the tenant can challenge the decision, including how to get advice on doing so, to ensure that the decision is sound. Again, I hope that the Government can respond to this amendment because people should be able to understand why a decision has been made and be clear on whether there is anything they can do. If your deposit is withheld, it must be right that you be told why and that the reasons be set out. If you do not like the decision, you should be told where you can go to get further advice and challenge it.

The final amendment in the group, Amendment 37, has been tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Grender and Lady Thornhill. It looks sensible and I look forward to hearing the explanation behind it. I beg to move.