asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that some landlords and their agents, in sending notice of rent increases to tenants, advise them to apply to the National Assistance Board for a grant to cover the increase or the whole rent, and that, because of this advice, some tenants are being persuaded to pay increases which might not be payable if referred to a rent officer or rent assessment committee under the Rent Act, 1965; and whether he will take steps to deal with this practice by landlords and their agents.
My hon. Friend has sent my right hon. Friend details of a case of this kind which occurred prior to the commencement of the new Rent Act. With some limited exceptions the Act in effect freezes the rents of unfurnished lettings until a fair rent is registered. A tenant who is asked to pay a higher rent should therefore make sure of his position before he agrees. I would also refer my hon. Friend to the reply given him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance.
Would my hon. Friend agree that while it is important that those who are eligible should be encouraged to apply for National Assistance, this is, at the same time, a sharp practice which is being used by some landlords and agents and that it is important to warn tenants as fully as possible about this?
Yes, but we are doing what we can to give publicity to the Rent Act. Information vans will tour a number of areas, and town halls have been asked to give as much publicity as possible to rent-payers so that they will know their rights under the Act.