We want to ensure that the effect of including a banning requirement as a term of a tenancy agreement is clear, and the clause provides that a term of any agreement that contravenes the proposed legislation is not binding on the tenant. The clause also establishes that the rest of the agreement will continue to apply where any part is found to be non-binding, to ensure that the tenancy can continue and that landlords and tenants remain protected by the terms of the contract. Finally, the clause provides that if the tenant or someone acting on their behalf has been required to make a prohibited loan, that money should be repaid on demand. Members of the Select Committee will be pleased that that provision has been included, as it reflects one of the Committee’s recommendations during pre-legislative scrutiny. The clause establishes vital protections for tenants.
The spirit of the proposed legislation is to protect tenants and remove burdens from them wherever possible, in order to rebalance power, which has for so long been in the hands of letting agents and landlords, in favour of tenants. That is as true for costs as it is for other things. We tabled amendments 11 and 12 because we would like to see more rights. Although we opted not to press them—we have not been very successful in votes this afternoon—we welcome clause 4, as it offers tenants greater protection from retaliatory evictions. Even if it is not as bold or strong as we might like, it is nevertheless a step forward legislatively.
As we know, retaliatory evictions are a real problem. They can cause a great deal of distress and concern for tenants, and they are one of the major reasons why people do not speak up against their landlords or seek to enforce their rights as tenants. The power imbalance in the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, which I have referred to throughout our deliberations, represents one of the worst abuses of the sanctity of people’s homes. Despite our amendments having fallen, any additional contract security for tenants is a good thing, although we urge the Government to consider strengthening it.