Clause 23 - Meaning of “residential landlord”

Part of Renters (Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 28 November 2023.

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Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 9:25, 28 November 2023

I thank the hon. Member for moving amendment 173, which proposes to expand the scope of the mandatory landlord redress scheme, which I will now refer to as the ombudsman, and the database, which I will now refer to as the portal. Specifically, the amendment would expand the ombudsman and portal to include park homes and dwellings occupied under licence, such as private purpose-built student accommodation and buildings occupied under property guardianship schemes.

Clause 23 sets out the tenancies that will fall within the scope of the ombudsman and the portal. It currently provides that they will capture assured and regulated tenancies, which make up the great majority of residential tenancy agreements in England, so under the clause the majority of landlords of private tenancies in England will initially need to be registered with the ombudsman and the portal.

We want to ensure that the introduction of the ombudsman and the portal is as smooth as possible, so tenants and landlords will need to have clarity over their rights and responsibilities. The issues that affect students, property guardians and park home owners can often be quite different from those faced by the majority of those in the private rented sector. Given those differences, it is reasonable to first apply the ombudsman membership requirements to the majority of private landlords. That will mean that all initial landlord members will be subject to the same expectations. We can then consider expanding the remit of the ombudsman to more specialised accommodation.

The clause also gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations to amend the definitions and change the letting arrangements that would be captured by the requirements. We intend to use the regulations to potentially include different types of letting arrangements in future. I assure the hon. Member that we will continue to engage with the sector, and that we have the flexibility to determine the best course of action following such engagement. I therefore ask him to withdraw the amendment.

I turn to Government amendments 62 to 64. The current definition of “dwelling” would potentially preclude shared accommodation from being brought into scope. The amendments change the definition of “dwelling” that could be used in future so that shared accommodation may be included. In addition, clause 23 provides clarity on the meanings of private “residential landlord”, “relevant tenancy” and “dwelling” for the purposes of determining which tenancies are within the ambit of the private landlord ombudsman and the portal. Ministers will be able to make regulations to allow for divergence between the scope of the ombudsman and the portal. That will ensure that each scheme can retain full autonomy and operate independently in the future.