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Clause 71

Part of Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:00 am on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 9:00 am, 22nd March 2007

Good morning, Mrs. Humble. The Committee will note that I supported the investigation of such issues. At the moment, this part of the Bill deals with commercial rent arrears, not domestic premises, as we discussed on Tuesday. For many people, rent is a substantial issue, but service charges will be linked in many cases. It therefore seems that we should provide a procedure that looks at the ability of rent and service charges to be included. At present, clause 71(2) expressly says that rent

“does not include any sum in respect of rates, council tax, services, repairs, maintenance, insurance or other ancillary matters (whether or not called ‘rent’ in the lease).”

It is obviously right that rates and council tax should not be included. They are a liability to someone else. Insurance does not follow necessarily. People have to take out insurance, but tenants have some discretion over that. Repairs and maintenance obligations are not fixed in the same way as service charges are usually fixed; they are normally a fixed amount. The charge comes with the building and is part of the initial obligation. I should be interested to hear whether the Minister and her colleagues have considered including service charges and, if they have, why they still want to exclude them. If they have not considered such a proposal, are they willing to do so?