Clause 13 - Enforcement authorities: supplementary

Part of Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 7 December 2021.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood 2:15, 7 December 2021

I have a couple of probing questions. There is no doubt that it is good to see some enforcement provisions. Given the range of penalties from £500 to £30,000 and given that trading standards have to effectively obtain their costs from the proceeds when undertaking the enforcement activity, is the Minister concerned that that might offer an incentive to trading standards—the enforcement authority—to pitch their fine or notice at a higher level than perhaps might otherwise be the case? Does he agree that going through this administrative fining arrangements, with all the appeals that we see in the schedule, would probably not be worth it for an enforcement authority if it were only going to get £500 at the end of the day, given the difficulty of understanding all the nuance of landlord and tenant law and leases? Is it therefore much more likely that there will not be much enforcement activity?

One of the other concerns for such an officer and an enforcement authority, might be that if there is an appeal to the administrative tribunal by the landlord against the amount being levied by way of penalty, that might be reduced from what the authority originally set out to cover its costs, say, to a much lower figure, closer to £500, which would perhaps most certainly not cover its costs. Is there an incentive in part for the enforcement authority to pitch the fine high, but any tribunal that considers an appeal may cut the fine to such a level that the enforcement authority might not be able to obtain its costs back from the proceeds? Perhaps, therefore, the overall impact will be that the enforcement authority thinks better of engaging in enforcement if it does not have resources it can guarantee will be used to do that. I would be interested to know what the Minister and his Department have considered in respect of the incentives built into the system in the Bill.