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Clause 7—(Settlement Of Terms Of Statutory Tenancy)

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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Lords Amendment: In page 6, line 32, leave out "and" and insert:

"(d) whether initial repairs to be so carried out are to be carried out by the landlord or by the tenant, or which of them are to be carried out by the landlord and which by the tenant; and."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

I should be glad of your guidance, Mr. Speaker, and I hope I shall have your approval of the way in which I intend to deal with this problem. This is the first of 17 Amendments which the Government moved on the Report stage in another place to meet a point raised by the Opposition in another place during the Committee stage. I hope it will not be transgressing the rules of order if I deal with the general point on the first Amendment, and then I think that a number of the Amendments can be dealt with as consequential.

As the Bill left this House, under Clause 8 (3) it was open to the landlord and the tenant, when the long lease was terminated, to agree that the tenant should carry out the initial repairs. The court had no power to determine that they should be carried out by the tenant. As a result, the tenant could not carry out the initial repairs except with the landlord's consent.

In Committee in another place the Opposition suggested that, where the parties were unable to agree, the tenant should have the right to ask the court, and the court should, in its discretion, be prepared to determine that the tenant, and not the landlord, should do the initial repairs. The tenant was not to be able to insist on the right to do them. He would be able to make out his case to the court, and the court would make such determination as it thought fit. This series of Amendments produces this result. I appreciate the reasons advanced. In many instances the tenant could do some of the repairs, for example, internal repairs, himself more cheaply than by employing a builder. It seems wrong to deny him this way of reducing his liability unless there are special circumstances. On the other hand, the tenant may believe that his builder can do it more cheaply than the landlord's.

The argument on the other side is that ex hypothesi the tenant failed during the tenancy to carry out the repairs for which he was liable, and the landlord should have the right to decide how the initial repairs should be carried out. There will be different sets of circumstances in a variety of cases, and therefore we accepted the suggestion of the Opposition that the matter could best be left to the court's discretion, and each party would be at liberty to make his case.

The rather formidable number of Amendments is needed, in part, because there ceases to be any point in retaining the conception of the tenant's initial repairs. The term "initial repairs" will cover repairs by either landlord or tenant,

11.15 p.m.

I certainly think that the change which the Home Secretary is introducing by this Amendment is an undoubted improvement. We have fought and argued that it should be open to the tenant when he is of the opinion that he could do the repairs more cheaply by his own efforts, or by employing labour himself, that he should be allowed to do so. My only comment with regard to this change is that I notice an Amendment later on—page 55, line 30—which seems to me and my right hon. and hon. Friends to be closely connected, and indeed integrated, with this Amendment.

As I understand the later Amendment, it has the effect that, supposing the tenant, either by the order of the court or by agreement with the landlord, has undertaken to carry out the repairs and fails to do so, his failure shall be regarded as a ground for expelling him from possession of the house. It may well be argued by the Home Secretary that if the tenant does not carry out the repairs there should be some sanction upon him, but I would warn him that we shall certainly want some explanation of the Government's view that the sanction which is to be imposed on the tenant should be so severe as expulsion from his home.

There are, after all, other sanctions which could be imposed. The tenant might be deprived of the right to carry out the repairs wholly or in part if in fact he has failed to comply with the order of the court or the letter of his agreement with the landlord. But, without hearing a further explanation from the Government, we certainly take the view that to expel a tenant from his home, supposing he finds it impossible to carry out his obligations to do repairs, is indeed a severe and over-drastic remedy.

As we have argued on many occasions on earlier stages of the Bill, the tenant may well find himself confronted, besides paying a high rent or market rent for premises he regarded as his home, with the further obligation to carry out repairs which may come to a sum in the region of £50, £100, or £150. Even if he can carry them out himself more cheaply, nevertheless the burden may be very considerable on him.

Therefore, although my right hon. and hon. Friends welcome the change which the Home Secretary is introducing, and the succeeding Amendments to which he has referred, we do give him warning at the outset that we will want to hear somewhat more in justification of this later Amendment which has the unfortunate result I have pointed out.

As one who had a good deal to say on the Committee stage on this particular aspect of the initial repairs, we are very glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman is to meet the point we had in mind when we moved an Amendment that the tenant should have the right to do his own repairs. It really can be a very heavy burden on the tenant to carry out repairs, and as I said then, there are many of us who have had to carry out repairs in our own homes because we cannot afford to pay anyone else to do them.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 7, line 1, leave out " d" and insert " e."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is the second in the series of Amendments to which my right hon. and learned Friend has referred.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 7, line 21, leave out from "shall" to "so" in line 23 and insert:

"be made during the currency of the landlord's notice proposing a statutory tenancy and not earlier than two months after the giving thereof."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

It might be convenient if I said something about the next Amendment to line 26, to leave out paragraph (b), because it is linked with the Amendment now before the House. These two Amendments are not part of the series on initial repairs to which reference has just been made by my right hon. and learned Friend, Clause 7 (5,b) provides that the landlord's application to a count to settle the terms of the statutory tenancy which is to succeed the long tenancy shall not be made later than two months before the date specified in the landlord's notice as the date of termination of the long tenancy. This, however, need not be expressly stated.

Under Clause 7 (2), the landlord's notice lapses two months before the date of termination and he could not anyhow apply to the court after his notice had lapsed. The second of the two Amendments, therefore, omits paragraph (b). In order to draw attention to the fact that the landlord cannot apply to court after his notice has lapsed, the first Amendment makes a slight change in the wording of paragraph (a) of the sub-section, which, as amended, will provide that the landlord's application must be made during the currency of his notice.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 7, line 26, leave out paragraph ( b).

In line 28, leave out "paragraph ( b) of ".