Clause 27 - Offences

Part of Renters (Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 28 November 2023.

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Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:00, 28 November 2023

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, which pre-empts one that I am about to make. We think that rent repayment orders can and do provide an incentive for landlords in these areas.

We believe, specifically when it comes to new clause 57, that allowing the tribunal to make rent repayment orders for these additional specific breaches would provide an additional incentive for landlords to comply with the relevant duties, requirements and prohibitions, and enable wronged tenants to be compensated for any losses incurred. Extending rent repayment orders to the relevant requirements of clause 39, for example, would be a powerful stimulus for landlord portal registration, because it would become the norm for tenants to check whether their landlord or prospective landlord was compliant.

Conversely, if the entitlement to apply for a rent repayment order were to apply to the relevant requirements of clause 39, it would provide tenants with a compelling reason to visit the portal, to learn about their rights and access information and resources they might not otherwise come across until the point they had a serious complaint or were engaged in a dispute with a landlord. This example also illustrates how an extension of rent repayment orders could alleviate some of the burdens that would otherwise fall on local authorities as the only mechanism to enforce, by means of financial penalties and criminal offences, a number of the breaches in the Bill to which they currently do not apply.

In the scenario I have outlined, tenants incentivised by the potential to apply an RRO to a landlord who was not compliant would act as an intelligence-gathering mechanism for local authorities, helping them to identify unregistered properties that they might otherwise struggle to locate and register. Put simply, as Dr Henry Dawson said to the Committee in the evidence session on 14 November:

“Using rent repayment orders incentivises tenants to keep an eye on landlords.”––[Official Report, Renters (Reform) Public Bill Committee, 14 November 2023; c. 60, Q74.]

The Minister may assure me that the regulations to come may provide for rent repayment orders in relation to clauses 24 and 39(3). If that is the case, we would welcome it, but I would much prefer him to accept the new clause and expand the use of rent repayment orders in the Bill to encourage compliance and give tenants the means to secure, for themselves, redress for poorly behaving landlords. I look forward to the Minister’s response.