Clause 9 - Enforcement authorities

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 7th December 2021.

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Question (this day) again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Elliott. As I was saying earlier, having been the cabinet member for public protection at Westminster City Council, I know that enforcement is the cornerstone by which we put words into action and ensure that what we pass in legislation has the intended effect in real life.

It is a welcome provision that the income from financial penalties will be kept by local authorities, but we need sustainable funding sources for enforcement ahead of the game. Local authorities may eventually keep the income from penalties, but work will need to be undertaken before that by the trading standards teams to bring enforcement cases to fruition. That funding is particularly important given the increase in the range of new enforcement duties being placed on trading standards departments across the country.

It is also important to recognise that no two councils are the same. They come in all shapes and sizes—rural, urban, global cities such as my own—which all have different numbers of leaseholders who will be affected by the Bill. I would welcome the Minister giving consideration to the kinds of measures that councils will need in order to be appropriately supported, in proportion to the number of leaseholders they may have within their local authority area and the duties being placed upon them.

Of course, as I have said, I welcome the Bill—it does so much to ensure fair enforcement—but we need assurances that there will be guidance for trading standards teams, particularly on the new provisions we will be introducing on leasehold and freehold law, to ensure that trading standards officers are adequately trained to deal with what may become difficult enforcement situations. Trading standards officers may not be trained in landlord and tenancy law; they may require some more training. Ultimately, we need the provisions in the Bill that place additional duties on trading standards teams to be under- pinned by proportionate support and adequate guidance.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Elliott. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster for her contribution, and also the Opposition spokespeople for their contributions.

I was asked why we are allowing authorities to range outside of their geographical area of responsibility, and whether there is precedent. There is precedent in the Tenant Fees Act 2019. A similar approach has been applied. There might be a landlord in one local authority area that owns some properties in another, and then it is most appropriate for a single local authority to pursue that claim. That is why that ranging is allowed. I much preferred the evocative imagery from the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood of people gallivanting across the country and trying to claim money in other areas, but the explanation is unfortunately much more mundane.

On associated costs for councils from the duty, because the move has been well telegraphed and we expect people to be compliant, we expect the number of claims to be small, but we will continue to review them and will work with the Local Government Association and others to ensure that local authorities are properly remunerated in preparation and that they are properly resourced.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.