Clause 9 - Enforcement authorities

Part of Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 7 December 2021.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 11:15, 7 December 2021

We must ensure that the breaches of prohibited rent that I set out in clause 3 are acted on. Clause 9 will place a duty on local weights and measures authorities in England and Wales, that is to say trading standards authorities, to act where a breach of clause 3 occurs in their area. It also gives them the power to act where a breach occurs elsewhere in England and Wales.

In addition, through subsection (2), English district councils that are not trading standards authorities will be given the power to enforce clause 3 but, unlike trading standard authorities, will not be required to do so. That will maximise our ability to act against perpetrators. Both local weights and measures authorities and district councils will be able to retain the financial proceeds from the penalties they impose to cover the costs incurred in carrying out their enforcement functions in relation to residential leasehold property.

Subsection (3) clarifies the area in which a breach occurs and, to be thorough, captures areas where a premises is located on a local authority boundary, although we think that those will be few and far between. I am sure we all agree that although it is important for enforcement authorities to have the necessary duties and powers to act on breaches, it is also important that we provide protection against the duplication of penalties, which is what subsection (4) does.

Equally, I am sure we all agree that it is right to expect landlords to understand the requirement of the new legislation and abide by it. It is our hope, therefore, that enforcement action will not be needed in most cases, but by conferring duties and powers on enforcement authorities, the clause will be instrumental in ensuring that any breach of the restrictions on ground rents can be robustly enforced. That is vital as a deterrent and to protect leaseholders from unfair practices.