Private Tenancies Bill: Extension of Committee Stage

Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 19th October 2021.

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Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP 12:00 pm, 19th October 2021

I beg to move

That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 14 January 2022, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Private Tenancies Bill.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

The Business Committee has agreed that there should be no time limit to the debate.

Photo of Paula Bradley Paula Bradley DUP

I request Members' support to extend the Committee Stage of the Private Tenancies Bill to 14 January 2022. At the Second Stage debate on 13 September, I highlighted that the Bill proposes welcome changes and that the Committee supports its aims. However, as everyone in the House knows, the devil is in the detail. The Committee has identified a range of important stakeholders it needs to hear from on the four key areas of tenancy management; rental payments and deposits; property standards; and security of tenure.

The need to extend is twofold. First, there is the matter of logistics. We are in the Committee Stage of three Bills: the Charities Bill, the Private Tenancies Bill and the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill. We are progressing all three at once in planned order to ensure a balance of thorough scrutiny, with a strong chance of completion of all three in this mandate. To that end, the Committee is working at pace, and will meet twice a week from the start of November until the Committee Stages of the Bills are completed. We are well progressed with the Charities Bill, and will start deliberations next week. The call for evidence is in progress for the Private Tenancies Bill, and closes on 29 October. The call for evidence on the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Amendment) Bill launches today.

Secondly, the Committee needs to be content that it has sufficient time and space to undertake thorough scrutiny. Members raised many issues and matters of concern during the Second Stage debate. In fact, I think that every key clause was touched upon in that debate, which clearly shows the depth of scrutiny needed. The Committee will not lose sight of ensuring that it does the best that it can with the Bill for all those in the private rented sector, but particularly for those individuals and families who make their homes within that sector.

Examples of comments made during the Second Stage debate make the Committee very mindful of the scrutiny required. I will highlight a few of those comments:

"no specific legislation has been put in place to protect private renters, many of whom have been pushed into the sector by the lack of social housing stock." — [Official Report (Hansard), 13 September 2021, p57, col2 - p58, col 1]. "a good-quality, affordable and secure home ... upholds all other aspects regarding health outcomes, educational attainment" — [Official Report (Hansard), 13 September 2021, p56, col 2]. "until such a time as we can build adequate levels of housing ... we will continue to see people going to the private rented sector." — [Official Report (Hansard), 13 September 2021, p59, col 2]. "Housing Rights and others ... attest to the fact that a disproportionate number of calls to their advice line come from private renters." — [Official Report (Hansard), 13 September 2021, p58, col 1].

We have all had constituents come to us in despair after being served with eviction notices by private landlords through no fault of their own and without any realistic prospect of being rehoused any time soon through the social sector.

I ask the House to allow the Committee additional time to scrutinise the Bill so that we can do our level best to ensure that it forms a solid way forward for tackling outstanding matters in the next mandate. We will not hesitate to seek clarifications and propose amendments if needed. A very busy time lies ahead for us in the next few months. I ask that Members agree to this extension to allow us to give the Bill the attention that it deserves and to plan our work to deal with other Bills and our wider workload in parallel.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 33(4), the period referred to in Standing Order 33(2) be extended to 14 January 2022, in relation to the Committee Stage of the Private Tenancies Bill.