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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

Renters (Reform) Bill (Ninth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Yvonne Fovargue, † James Gray, Ian Paisley

† Aiken, Nickie (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)

† Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Bailey, Shaun (West Bromwich West) (Con)

† Britcliffe, Sara (Hyndburn) (Con)

† Buck, Ms Karen (Westminster North) (Lab)

† Firth, Anna (Southend West) (Con)

† Glindon, Mary (North Tyneside) (Lab)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

McDonagh, Siobhain (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)

† Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Morgan, Helen (North Shropshire) (LD)

† Pennycook, Matthew (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

Russell, Dean (Watford) (Con)

† Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

† Spencer, Dr Ben (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)

† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Simon Armitage, Sarah Thatcher, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 28 November 2023

(Morning)

[James Gray in the Chair]

Renters (Reform) Bill

Clause 19

Tenancy deposit requirements

I beg to move amendment 170, in clause 19, page 24, line 29, after “only if” insert

“both at the date of the service of the notice and the date of the hearing”.

This amendment would ensure that landlords must protect deposits with an authorised scheme and provide prescribed information in connection with it before a notice for possession is served rather than doing so, or repaying a deposit, at any time up to a court making an order for possession.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 171, in clause 19, page 24, line 33, after “only if” insert

“both at the date of the service of the notice and the date of the hearing”.

This amendment would ensure that landlords must protect deposits with an authorised scheme and provide prescribed information in connection with it before a notice for possession is served rather than doing so, or repaying a deposit, at any time up to a court making an order for possession.

Amendment 172, in clause 19, page 24, line 40, after “only if” insert

“both at the date of the service of the notice and the date of the hearing”.

This amendment would ensure that landlords must protect deposits with an authorised scheme and provide prescribed information in connection with it before a notice for possession is served rather than doing so, or repaying a deposit, at any time up to a court making an order for possession.

Clause stand part.

It is a pleasure to continue our proceedings with you in the Chair, Mr Gray.

Clause 19 makes a number of amendments to chapter 4 of part 6 of the Housing Act 2004, the effect of which is to ensure that the requirement for landlords and letting agents to place deposits in a Government-approved tenancy deposit protection scheme is maintained in relation to new assured tenancies and tenancies that were assured shorthold tenancies immediately before the extended application date. Currently, any section 21 notice served on a tenant may be invalid if the deposit requirements are not adhered to, but the clause will ensure that, if landlords take a deposit and do not fulfil the relevant statutory requirements, they cannot be awarded a possession order on any of the grounds set out in the amended schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988.

On the surface, the clause appears simply to apply the existing tenancy deposit requirements to the new tenancy system that will apply whenever chapter 1 of part 1 of the Bill comes into force. However, there is an important difference between the requirements, which speaks to our wider concern about future landlord compliance with the regulatory obligations that have developed around section 21 notices over the course of the 35 years in which the present tenancy system has been in place. We will explore those wider concerns in more detail when we debate our amendment 176 to clause 34.

With regard to tenancy deposit requirements, the main difference between how the relevant protection rules apply to the existing system and how the Government propose that they will apply to the new one is that, under the Bill, they must be adhered to before a court will award possession, rather than, as now, when a notice is served. Put simply, instead of the landlord having to protect a deposit within 30 days of receipt and provide the prescribed information about how that will be achieved before the notice is served, the Bill will allow them to do either of those, or return the deposit, at any time up to the court hearing date.

From a tenant’s perspective, that situation strikes us as a less stringent application of the requirements than we currently have in relation to assured shorthold tenancies. Taken together, amendments 170 to 172 would ensure that landlords must protect deposits with an authorised scheme and provide prescribed information in connection with it before a notice for possession is served rather than doing so, or repaying a deposit, at any time up to a court making an order for possession. I hope that the Minister will consider accepting the amendments.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair again, Mr Gray. I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling amendments 170 to 172, which seek to change the requirement that landlords must comply with the deposit protection rules before a court can order possession. The amendments would require landlords to comply with the deposit protection rules both before serving a tenant with notice and at the time of the possession hearing. If those conditions are not met, courts could not make a possession order.

The Bill already protects tenants from landlords who are not complying with existing tenancy deposit rules, because clause 19 requires landlords to comply with deposit protection rules before a court may make an order for possession. That will impact only on those landlords who are not complying with existing tenancy deposit rules. If the landlord has stored the deposit correctly in one of the prescribed schemes and has complied with all the applicable rules, the measures in the clause will not hinder or delay the possession process. Landlords will also be able to rectify the problem before the case reaches the court, ensuring that those provisions will not trip them up if they have made an honest mistake. Because we recognise that some possession cases are too critical to delay, that will not apply to the grounds relating to antisocial behaviour.

The aim of our measures in clause 19 is therefore not to prevent or frustrate possession, but to ensure that tenancy deposits are protected for the benefit of the tenant. The hon. Member’s amendments would simply act as another administrative trap that good-faith landlords could fall into. The Bill already ensures that deposits will be protected, while giving landlords sufficient time to comply with the rules before the case reaches the court. I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.

I welcome the Minister’s response. What I remain unclear about—if he wishes to clarify this, I will happily allow him to intervene—is whether, in the Government’s view, the change is a less stringent application of the requirements that currently apply to assured shorthold tenancies. That is all we are seeking to probe, and if the Minister can reassure me on that point I will withdraw the amendment.

The existing possession restrictions have made the possession process more complex for all parties, and we do not feel that they are an effective way to ensure that tenants are living in safe and decent homes during a tenancy. That is part of the reason for the changes.

I do not know about other members of the Committee, but from the reasons that the Minister stated, I take it that the change is a less stringent application. I will not press the amendment to a vote at this point, but we may return to this issue, and we will discuss another amendment that we have relating to preconditions and requirements of the Bill around section 21 notices. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 20 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2

Consequential amendments relating to Chapter 1 of Part 1

Amendment made: 60, in schedule 2, page 77, line 13, at end insert—

“7A In section 39 (statutory tenants: succession) omit subsection (7).

7B In section 45 (interpretation of Part 1), in subsection (2) omit ‘Subject to paragraph 11 of Schedule 2 to this Act,’.

7C In Schedule 2 (grounds for possession), omit Part 4.

7D In Schedule 4 (statutory tenants: succession), in Part 3, omit paragraph 15.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment makes changes to the 1988 Act which are consequential on the changes to the regime for prior notice for some grounds for possession.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 22

Penalties for unlawful eviction or harassment of occupier

Amendment made: 61, in clause 22, page 28, line 4, at end insert—

“(10) In this section and Schedule A1, ‘local housing authority’ means a district council, a county council in England for an area for which there is no district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment defines “local housing authority” for the purposes of section 1A of, and Schedule A1 to, the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 23

Meaning of “residential landlord”

I beg to move amendment 173, in clause 23, page 31, line 29, at end insert—

“(c) an agreement to which the Mobile Homes Act 1983 applies; or

(d) any licence of a dwelling”.

This amendment would extend the definition of residential landlord to include park home operators, private providers of purpose-built student accommodation, and property guardian companies.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 62 to 64.

Clause stand part.

Government amendment 70.

Part 2 of the Bill concerns landlord redress schemes and the private rented sector database. We welcome part 2 and the Government’s intention to use its clauses to bring the private rented sector within the purview of an ombudsman and to establish a new property portal, including a database of residential landlords and privately rented properties in England. As the Committee will know, two letting agent redress schemes already exist, but the case for bringing all private landlords within the scope of one, irrespective of whether they use an agent to provide management services on their behalf, is compelling and has existed for some time.

The Government first announced their intention to explore options for improving redress in the housing market in late 2017, and in 2019 committed themselves to extending mandatory membership of a redress scheme to all private landlords through primary legislation. Much like the abolition of section 21, a statutory single private rental ombudsman has been a long time in the making. There are myriad issues with the ombudsman that lie outside the scope of the Bill, not least how the Government will address its role within what is already a complicated landscape of redress and dispute resolution; there are already multiple redress schemes and tenants already have recourse to local authorities, the first-tier tribunal, a deposit protection scheme and ultimately to the courts.

However, we support the principle of bringing the private rented sector within the scope of a single ombudsman. If the ombudsman covering the private rented sector, whoever it ultimately is, makes full use of the powers available to it and is well-resourced, and if the potential for confusion and perverse incentives that might result from multiple schemes is addressed, that should ensure that tenants’ complaints can be properly investigated and disputes can be resolved in a timely, more informal manner. That would help to ease the pressure on local authorities and the courts.

In contrast to the proposal for an ombudsman covering the private rented sector, the commitment to introduce a new digital property portal was made only last year in the White Paper. Nevertheless, we strongly support it. Indeed, I would go so far as to say—I have done so on previous occasions—that we believe a well-designed, resourced and properly enforced portal has the potential to utterly transform the private rented sector and the experience of tenants within it. 

We want the Bill to deliver a property portal that makes it easier for landlords to understand and demonstrate compliance with their existing obligations and evolving regulations; which empowers tenants by rendering transparent the rental history of landlords; and which enables landlords to be held to account by those they are renting to. We also want the property portal to help local authorities with enforcement against non-compliant landlords and to monitor and crack down on the minority of rogues in the sector.

We are concerned that chapter 2 of part 2 of the Bill, which deals with landlord redress schemes, is arguably too prescriptive, and that chapter 3 of part 2, which deals with the private rented sector database, are not nearly prescriptive enough. Fundamental to the operation of both measures is the question of which tenancies fall within their scope. As a means to probe the Minister on this issue, we tabled amendment 173, which would extend the definition of residential landlord to include park home operators, private providers of purpose-built student accommodation and property guardian companies. Each of those was explicitly referenced in the White Paper with regard to the schemes. I will make some brief comments on each to explore how the Government might define the scope of the private rented sector database and landlord redress scheme provisions via regulations in due course.

When it comes to residential park home operators, the Government’s October 2018 review of the legislation in this area found that some site operators

“continue to take unfair advantage of residents, most of whom are elderly and on low incomes.”

Furthermore, the Government said in their 2019 report, “Strengthening Consumer Redress in the Housing Market”:

“Currently, if a site operator fails to meet their contractual obligations a resident has little recourse except via the First-tier Tribunal, and those who rent directly from the site operator also lack access to redress. We are satisfied that there is a gap in redress services for park home residents and are committed to extending mandatory membership of a redress scheme to all residential park home site operators.”

When it comes to purpose-built student accommodation, the 2019 report also stated:

“Responses highlighted a gap in redress provision amongst students living in purpose-built student accommodation run by private companies.”

While the majority of such private companies have signed up to a code of practice administered by Unipol, the Government nevertheless made clear that private providers of purpose-built student accommodation, as opposed to educational establishments that provide student accommodation, should come within the scope of a redress scheme. When it comes to property guardians, recent reports in the press have highlighted rising instances of misconduct on the part of some property guardian companies that operate through licences to occupy rather than tenancies, which provide significantly fewer protections.

Research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University, commissioned by the Department and published last year, found that most property guardians

“reported very poor conditions, with properties frequently described as deteriorating and susceptible to adverse weather conditions. Local authorities also reported poor conditions in properties they had inspected. Persistent issues with damp and mould were very commonly reported, including damp from flooding, faulty plumbing and leaking roofs.”

That research also found that local authority enforcement teams are not routinely reviewing, inspecting or enforcing standards in guardian properties. There would therefore appear prima facie to be a strong case for including property guardians as well as park home sites and purpose-built student accommodation within the scope of the ombudsman and property portal as a means of increasing enforcement action and driving up standards.

It may well be the case that the Government fully intend to include each of those within the scope of the ombudsman and the private rented sector database in chapters 2 and 3 of part 2 when they introduce the relevant regulations and to provide access to redress for residents living in each type of accommodation, but we would appreciate a degree of clarity from the Government so that we can understand how extensive the operation of both schemes should be. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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.

That was a very helpful clarification from the Minister. I take it from his answer that, although the Government are quite rightly focused on bringing assured and regulated tenancies within the scope of the ombudsman and the portal to cover the majority of private landlords, they are open to considering how their remit and scope may expand in the future to cover important other types of tenancy, as I have described. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: 62, in clause 23, page 32, line 5, leave out from second “building” to “it” in line 6.

This amendment removes words that are no longer needed as a result of Amendment 64.

Amendment 63, in clause 23, page 32, line 7, leave out

“so occupied or intended to be so occupied”.

This amendment removes words that are no longer needed as a result of Amendment 64.

Amendment 64, in clause 23, page 32, line 8, at end insert—

“(ia) so that it includes a building or part of a building, and anything for the time being included in the meaning of “dwelling” by virtue of sub-paragraph (i), which is occupied or intended to be occupied as a dwelling that is not a separate dwelling,”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment allows the power to amend the definition of "dwelling" that applies for the purposes of Part 2 of the Bill to be used so as to add to that definition places that are not occupied as a separate dwelling. This will enable the power to be exercised to bring shared living accommodation within the definition of "dwelling".

Clause 23, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 24

Landlord redress schemes

I beg to move amendment 174, in clause 24, page 32, line 27, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

This amendment would impose a duty on the government to require residential landlords as defined in clause 23 to join a landlord redress scheme.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Amendment 196, in clause 25, page 34, line 17, at end insert—

“(ba) providing that complaints about deposits held in tenancy deposit schemes under Chapter 4 of Part 6 of the Housing Act 2004 (tenancy deposit schemes) may be made under the scheme,”.

This amendment would ensure that where there is a dispute regarding deposits this can be submitted to the ombudsperson for redress rather than just to the private schemes themselves.

Clause 25 stand part.

Amendment 24 is a simple and straightforward measure that is designed purely to ensure that the Bill guarantees that the private rented sector will be brought within the purview of an ombudsman. The Opposition are slightly concerned by the deliberate choice of the phrase “may make regulations” rather than “must make regulations” in subsection (1) of the clause, not least because it has been four years since the Government committed to extending mandatory membership of a redress scheme to all private landlords through primary legislation. We would be content to withdraw the amendment if we receive firm assurances that the Government will, at the earliest possible opportunity, bring the private rented sector within the remit of an ombudsman and if the Minister provides further detail about the Government’s intentions in that regard.

Turning to clause 25, the Minister will know that all other ombudsman-level redress schemes that have been set up in recent decades, including the new homes ombudsman, the legal ombudsman, the housing ombudsman and the pensions ombudsman, have all been clearly defined in statute as the only bodies responsible for ombudsman-level redress operating within the relevant sector. That is because the Government think it important to avoid having multiple redress schemes in individual industry sectors. As the relevant Cabinet Office guidance sets out, multiple redress schemes should be avoided because they may

“confuse consumers and may introduce uneven practices in investigation and redress”.

The Government have made it clear since the publication of the White Paper that they intend to introduce a new single ombudsman that all private landlords must join, yet clause 25 and others in this chapter deliberately refer to “redress schemes”, rather than a single ombudsman. Clause 25(6)(a) specifically makes clear that the regulations that the Secretary of State may introduce under clause 24 can provide for a number of redress schemes to be approved or designated.

Given the Government’s position, as outlined in the White Paper, I would be grateful if the Minister explained why it has been felt necessary to draft the Bill in such a way that it would potentially facilitate the creation of multiple redress schemes. Would he explain why the Government believe it necessary for multiple schemes to be set up and why it was not adequate simply to specify, as precedent would dictate, that a singular ombudsman be established in the Bill?

I have a final question for the Minister in relation to this clause that relates to the concern I flagged when speaking to amendment 173 to clause 23—namely, that chapter 2 of part 2 of the Bill concerning landlord redress schemes is too prescriptive. In the evidence he gave to the Committee two weeks ago, Professor Christopher Hodges made the argument for not over-specifying operational details in legislation but leaving a degree of discretion to the ombudsman and the portal operator.

However, rather than limiting the Secretary of State’s powers to approval of the scheme, this clause provides them with powers to direct the operation of the ombudsman in all manner of areas, including fee setting, the time allowed for complaints to be resolved, the circumstances in which complaints may be rejected, the types of sanction available for redress, and the general enforcement decisions made under the scheme. My question to the Minister is simply why do the Government believe that a different approach from the norm is necessary in the case of the new ombudsman with responsibility for the private rented sector?

I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich and to speak to amendment 196, which stands in my name.

Amendment 196 aims to include deposits as an area that the ombudsperson can overview, and it touches on my hon. Friend’s point. The deposit schemes are three in number, which causes great problems for many constituents. Most believe that they will never get their deposit back, because they know that their landlords can run rings around the respective deposit schemes.

The outcomes of deposit scheme disputes are not published; they are secret. There is no precedent set when a scheme determines that a particular action puts someone at fault, and there is no cross-referencing between schemes. A constituent could be treated in one way under one scheme and a completely different way under another, even though the scenarios are exactly the same. It is a complete mess, and most other countries have one deposit protection scheme. I am not proposing that—that is outside the scope of the Bill—although I would love the Minister to look seriously at this when the deposit scheme licences come up. The New South Wales model is much more efficient and involves one scheme, the profits of which are rather large and pay for all legal aid in New South Wales. Early estimates of what would happen in Britain show that the amount raised would far exceed the cuts made to housing legal aid previously. There would be some real wins if the Minister got to grips with that.

My amendment 196 would at least allow for an appeal process. If someone does not believe that the deposit schemes have come to a fair and just conclusion, they can go to the ombudsperson for determination—that is important, because the ombudsperson’s deliberations would be public, which would allow the schemes to take into account what they were each doing—just as we would have to go through a local council complaints system, but can then go to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if we feel there is a problem.

I would expect most complaints to still be resolved within the deposit schemes. However, where there is disagreement and the threshold of going to court is too high, and where maladministration, which is the main part of an ombudsperson’s remit, can also be identified, the ombudsperson can redress that and then publish their findings, and we can ensure harmonisation in the deposit system, which does not currently exist.

If we do not explicitly identify deposit schemes as falling within scope, there is a danger that the anomalies in the deposit system will never be addressed. I therefore hope that the Minister will give me some reassurance that there is an intention to address these problems with deposit schemes, where judgments are sealed and there is no idea of the outcome. It is also important, in relation to the property portal, for residents to know whether the landlord routinely—or every time—keeps the deposit. That would show a pattern of behaviour, which would be important information for tenants. Bringing it within the purview of this Bill is therefore also important.

Amendment 174 would legally oblige the Government to make regulations requiring residential landlords to be members of a landlord redress scheme, rather than giving the Government the discretion to do so. The Government are committed to requiring private landlords to be members of an ombudsman, and a binding obligation is not required on the face of the Bill. We have taken powers in the Bill to allow the Government to ensure that the ombudsman is introduced in the most effective way, and with the appropriate sequencing.

Amendment 196 would require the ombudsman to handle complaints about tenancy deposits. It would be unwise to list in the Bill specific issues that the ombudsman can or cannot look at. The ombudsman would need the flexibility to consider any complaint duly made, but also to direct a tenant elsewhere if more appropriate. As tenancy deposit schemes already provide free alternative dispute resolution, the ombudsman may decide that the case is better handled elsewhere, but it will ultimately depend on the circumstances of each case. The ombudsman will have the final say on jurisdiction, subject to any agreement with other bodies.

We have made provision under clause 25 to enable the ombudsman to publish a Secretary of State-approved code of practice, which would clarify what the ombudsman expects of its landlord members. The ombudsman scheme will also provide more clarity about the circumstances in which a complaint will or will not be considered. I therefore ask the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown not to press his amendment.

As discussed, clause 24 provides the Secretary of State with powers to set up a mandatory redress scheme, which all private residential landlords of a relevant tenancy in England will need to join. We intend for the scheme to be an ombudsman service, and will look to require former landlords, as well as current and prospective landlords, to remain members after their relevant tenancies have ended, for a time specified in secondary regulations.

Members have asked for clarity about who the new PRS landlord ombudsman will be. No new ombudsman can be selected until after regulations have been laid following Royal Assent, but we can show the direction of travel. We have listened to the debates and the evidence given to this Committee, and our preferred approach at this time is for the existing housing ombudsman service to administer redress for both private and social tenants. As an established public body already delivering redress for social tenants, the housing ombudsman is uniquely positioned to deliver the private sector landlord redress scheme. Having one provider for all social and private renting tenants would provide streamlined and simple-to-use redress services for complainants.

To be clear, we are not ruling out the possibility of delivering through a different provider; we are still in the early stages of designing this new service. We now intend to explore how best to deliver on our ambition for a high-quality, streamlined and cross-tenure redress service.

To address the point that the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich made about multiple redress schemes, the intention is to approve a single ombudsman scheme that all private landlords will be required to join. However, allowing for multiple schemes in legislation offers the Government flexibility, should the demand for redress prove too much for a single provider to handle effectively. I hope, on that basis, that the hon. Member will withdraw his amendment.

That is useful clarification from the Minister. Based on the assurances he has given, I do not intend to press amendment 174 to a Division. I understand fully, with the caveats that he has just given, what he is saying about a single ombudsman. We would welcome the Government’s preferred approach—for the housing ombudsman to take on responsibility for the private rented sector. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 does not distinguish between tenures, and we think that the ombudsman is probably best placed to provide that service and to do so quickly.

I would push back slightly against what the Minister said about how the clause is drafted, purely because, in a sense, it diverges from precedent. Most other Bills that we have looked at are very clear about establishing a single body and not being too prescriptive about how it operates. The Government have taken a different approach here. The Minister has given as one reason for doing so that the ombudsman might be overwhelmed by demand. Our response would be that we should ensure that the ombudsman that is given responsibility is properly resourced and adequately supported to do its job, rather than contemplate setting up additional redress schemes. However, it has been useful to hear the Government’s response, so we will not push the issue any further at this stage. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26

Financial penalties

I beg to move amendment 165, in clause 26, page 36, line 21, leave out “£5,000” and insert “£30,000”.

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that they have breached the requirement in Clause 24 to be a member of an approved or designated redress scheme or in instances where a property has been marketed where the landlord is not yet a member of a landlord redress scheme.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 166, in clause 26, page 36, line 22, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£60,000”.

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that a local housing authority may impose on a person as an alternative to prosecution, if it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence under clause 27 has been committed.

Clause stand part.

In precisely the same way that amendments 163 and 164, which we debated previously, sought to raise the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could levy where the provisions in clauses 9 or 10 were contravened or an offence committed, amendments 165 and 166 seek to raise the maximum financial penalty in respect of breaches relating to the requirements in clause 24 to be a member of an approved or designated redress scheme—that is, the ombudsman.

If the ombudsman is to cover all private landlords who rent out property in England, as I think every member of the Committee would wish, the penalty for not complying with mandatory membership must be sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent. We have tabled these amendments because we remain unconvinced that a £5,000 fine for a breach and a £30,000 fine as an alternative to prosecution will deter the minority of unscrupulous landlords who wish to evade regulation from failing to join. We urge the Government once again to reconsider.

As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, we discussed related points in earlier debates. His amendments 165 and 166 relate to the requirement for landlords to be members of the Government-approved redress scheme, which we intend to run as an ombudsman service, and a ban on marketing a property where a landlord is not registered with such a scheme. Our proposed fine regime is fair and proportionate. A £5,000 fine will be enough to deter non-compliance for most, yet fines of up to £30,000 are also possible if non-compliance continues. The legislation allows for fines to be imposed repeatedly every 28 days after a penalty notice has been issued. For repeat breaches, local housing authorities can also pursue prosecution through the court, which carries an unlimited fine. This escalating procedure gives our new ombudsman the necessary teeth for maximum compliance without making the fines unnecessarily excessive. I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.

I will withdraw the amendment, as I made clear, but there is a point of difference here. We do not believe these fines will be enough. I take on board, as I have previously, the Minister’s point that repeat fines can be levied. For us, these fines are important because of their deterrent effect in cautioning landlords away from ever contemplating a breach or repeat offences. The maximum fine level also has implications for enforcement more generally, which we will debate in due course. In this instance we are probing the Government on the maximum levels, so I do not intend to push the amendment to a Division.

On a slight technicality, the Member is seeking the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment. Other members of the Committee may press it to a Division if they wish to, although in this case they do not.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 27

Offences

I beg to move amendment 65, in clause 27, page 38, line 23, leave out subsection (9).

This amendment removes provision that is no longer needed as a result of NC19.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Government amendment 68.

Government new clause 19—Rent repayment orders for offences under sections 27 and 48.

New clause 57—Extension of rent repayment orders

“(1) In Section 40(3) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, at end of table insert—

8

Housing Act 1988

Section 16D, 16E

Duties on landlords and agents as regards information provision and prohibition on reletting

9

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

Sections 24

Landlord redress provisions

10

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

Section 39 (3)

Active landlord database entry”

This new clause would ensure that rent repayment orders can be made to the landlord under the relevant tenancy in any instance where a financial penalty or offence is made relating to clauses 9, 10, 24 or 27 of the Bill.

Clause 27 sets out when a person will be liable for a criminal offence under the redress clauses. The provisions cover landlords who repeatedly fail to sign up with the ombudsman and persons of business who repeatedly market the property of an unregistered landlord. They will specifically include those who breach the same regulations after a previous conviction or who have received a financial penalty for breaching the regulations within the previous five years. These offences will not carry a custodial sentence, but can be subject to an unlimited fine.

Government amendments 65 and 68 and Government new clause 19 will amend existing housing regulations in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 so that, in the most extreme cases, local councils can ban landlords who have been successfully prosecuted under the redress provisions. Tenants and councils will be able to apply to the first-tier tribunal for rent repayment orders against landlords convicted of failing to join the ombudsman. Landlords who refuse to join cannot be legally bound by its decisions. Allowing rent repayment orders will make sure that tenants are entitled to some recompense, regardless of whether a landlord follows the rules or not.

I thank the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich for tabling new clause 57, which would allow rent repayment orders to be made against landlords for less serious, non-criminal breaches of the Bill and for some of the new tenancy reform offences. We tabled new clause 21 to increase the maximum amount that a landlord may have to pay under a rent repayment order from 12 months to two years of the rent paid by tenants. New clause 57 would therefore mean that, for example, a landlord who failed to be a member of a redress scheme could be ordered to pay up to two years-worth of rent. We think that would be disproportionate. We will debate new clause 21 fully when we reach clause 67. I therefore ask the hon. Member not to press his new clause.

I will speak to new clause 57. I will state up front that we welcome the Government amendments to clause 27 and in this area to toughen the sanctions on landlords who display the types of behaviour the Minister has just set out. As I indicated last week when we debated amendments 163 and 164 and the financial penalties that local authorities could levy for breaches and offences under clauses 9 and 10, we believe that rent repayment orders should be a more significant feature of the Bill as a means to aid enforcement of the new tenancy system; to ensure compliance with the requirements to be a member of the ombudsman and maintain an active landlord database entry; and to fairly compensate tenants for losses incurred due to a failure on the part of landlords to comply with the duties and obligations provided for in the Bill.

As the Committee will know, rent repayment orders were introduced by the Housing Act 2004, and were hugely expanded via section 40 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. They allow the occupier of a property—usually a tenant—and local authorities to apply to the first-tier tribunal for an order that a landlord or his or her agent should repay rent of up to a maximum of 12 months—although the Minister has just made it clear that, in certain circumstances, the Government propose to lengthen that period to 24 months. Rent repayment orders are an accessible, informal and relatively straightforward means by which tenants can obtain redress in the form of financial compensation without having to rely on another body in instances where a landlord or his or her agent has committed, beyond reasonable doubt, an offence that relates to the occupation or letting of a property.

As Simon Mullings, the co-chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, argued in the evidence he gave to the Committee on 16 November:

“Rent repayment orders create, as I have said before to officials in DLUHC, an army of motivated enforcers, because you have tenants who are motivated to enforce housing standards to do with houses in multiple occupancy, conditions and all sorts of things.”––[Official Report, Renters (Reform) Public Bill Committee, 16 November 2023; c. 114, Q146.]

We know that rent repayment orders are already being utilised on a scale the dwarfs the use of other enforcement tools. In London, for example, the available data suggests that more properties were subject to a rent repayment order in the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 than civil penalties and criminal convictions relating to licensing in the same period.

The Bill as originally drafted allowed for rent repayment orders to be made only where a landlord had committed an offence under clause 27(9) relating to continuing or repeat breaches after a penalty had been imposed. As the Minister has made clear, Government new clause 19 adds a series of offences under clause 48 concerning the provision of false or misleading information to the private rented sector database and continuing or repeat breaches. We welcome that.

Separately, Government new clause 21 provides that a rent repayment order can be made against a superior landlord, thereby overriding the judgment made in the recent case of Rakusen v. Jepsen and others, which was heard by the Supreme Court. We welcome its incorporation into the Bill. We take the Government’s decision to table it as a clear indication that they view rent repayment orders as a practical and accessible means of enforcement by tenants or occupiers.

However, we want the Government to go further and extend the tribunal’s ability to make rent repayment orders for the following: first, a breach of new sections 16D and 16E of the Housing Act 1988, relating to the duty on landlords and contractors to give a statement of terms and other information, and the no-let prohibition in respect of grounds 1 and 1A; secondly, a failure to register with the ombudsman, as required by clause 24 of the Bill; and thirdly, a failure to keep an entry on the database up to date and to comply with all the relevant requirements of clause 39.

Despite my reservations about having three different deposit schemes, one of the reasons that the deposit scheme compliance is so high is because it comes with an element of rent repayment orders. The likelihood of local authorities being able to chase that up is next to zero. The likelihood of tenants being able to do that is extremely high.

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.

The purpose of rent repayment orders is to provide an effective means through which tenants can hold criminal landlords to account and receive due remedy. Extending rent repayment orders to cover non-criminal civil breaches would mean landlords could be ordered to pay up to two years’ worth of rent for a relatively minor non-compliance. We think that this would be disproportionate. We think that scarce court time should be focused on dealing with serious offences rather than more minor breaches. For first and minor non-compliance, with provisions in the Bill there will be several means of redress and enforcement, including the ombudsman and civil penalties of up to £5,000, but I am happy to continue this conversation with the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich further.

I welcome the Minister’s response. There may be a difference of principle here, in that we feel quite strongly, actually, that rent repayment orders should be extended to non-criminal civil breaches of requirements set out in the Bill. I take the Minister’s point about this being an excessive response to landlord non-compliance for first or minor breaches. I say to him that perhaps the Government could explore a grace period as the schemes are being introduced, where landlords are not caught within an extended rent repayment order scheme, or some sort of get-out from first or minor offences.

We are trying to address a way, once the scheme is bedded in and landlords—without committing a criminal offence—are regularly not complying with mandatory membership of the ombudsman or registering with a portal, for landlords to be further incentivised, so that tenants are aware of their rights and hold their landlords to account. This may be an issue that we will come back to, but I very much welcome the Minister’s assurance that we will continue the dialogue on this point.

Amendment 65 agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29

Guidance for scheme administrator and local housing authority

Amendment made: 66, in clause 29, page 39, line 4, leave out “in England”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment leaves out words which have no legal effect because a “local housing authority” as defined by clause 57(1) could not be situated outside of England.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Clause 29 allows the Secretary of State to issue or approve guidance on effective working between local councils and the ombudsman, who will run the only approved or designated landlord redress scheme. Both must have regard to any guidance published under provisions in this clause. We have designed the guidance alongside local councils and the ombudsman. Local councils and the ombudsman will have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in the private rented sector. We intend for the guidance to provide clarity on a range of situations where communication and co-operation between councils and the ombudsman would be advantageous or necessary. We also want it to set out roles and responsibilities for when a tenant complains about a problem that both the ombudsman and local councils can help to resolve.

We agree that the new or expanded ombudsman, with responsibility for dealing with complaints from tenants in the private rented sector, will have to work effectively with local authorities given the latter’s enforcement role. When the new ombudsman has been established, a complaint from a tenant concerning the breach of a regulatory threshold will be able to be made either directly to the ombudsman or to the local authority that would have the power to take enforcement action to bring the landlord in question into compliance with the said regulations, and if they fail to do so, to sanction them. There is therefore a clear risk not only that the role of the ombudsman vis-à-vis local authorities is not clearly delineated, but that tenants themselves will be confused about which body it is appropriate to approach in any given circumstance.

This issue was raised during the progress of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 because there is a general issue about how the ombudsman relates to local authorities. Given the Minister’s indication that the Government’s preferred approach is to have that ombudsman take on a responsibility for the private rented sector, I think—if anything—this point becomes more pertinent. The Government acknowledge, as is clearly stated in the explanatory notes accompanying the Bill, that the new ombudsman and local authorities must have “complementary but separate roles.” I put this point to the housing ombudsman, Richard Blakeway, in one of our evidence sessions two weeks ago. He replied that

“that is a really important point, because there is a risk of duplication between the role of a council and the role of an ombudsman. Again, there is a lack of clarity for residents—tenants—about which route to take. An ombudsman does not operate in isolation—it will not operate in a bubble—so the relationship between the ombudsman and the courts will be critical, as well as the ombudsman discharging its own functions.”[Official Report, Renters (Reform) Public Bill Committee, 14 November 2023; c. 28, Q28.]

It is crucial that guidance on how local authorities and the ombudsman will work together to resolve complaints, including how they share information and how each signpost to the other where appropriate, is fit for purpose. The clause allows for such guidance to be published, and I would be grateful if the Minister, either now or in writing, could perhaps give us a little more insight into how the Government will ensure that the roles of the two are separate but complementary, as the Government have indicated they must be.

Redress and enforcement achieve different but complementary outcomes. Local councils enforce regulatory standards. Ombudsman schemes are not enforcement or regulatory bodies but instead protect consumer rights by providing redress, in this case where a landlord has failed to adequately deal with a legitimate complaint. Where the complaint from a tenant concerns the breach of a regulatory threshold, local councils may take enforcement actions to bring the landlord or property into compliance with the regulations and use their discretion to sanction landlords. In such circumstances, tenants will be able to complain to both the council and the ombudsman. The local council will address the regulatory breach and the ombudsman will provide redress for the tenant. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 30

Interpretation of Chapter 2

Amendment made: 67, in clause 30, page 39, leave out lines 16 and 17.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment removes a definition which is redundant because the term that it defines is not used in Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Bill.

Clause 30, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 31

Housing activities under social rented sector scheme

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The clause removes the jurisdiction of the housing ombudsman service over private residential landlords and the private rented sector housing activities of social housing providers. I simply want to ask the Minister, given his announcement today about the housing ombudsman being the Government’s preferred provider of private rented sector redress, whether the provisions of this clause are still necessary, as the Government have made it clear that they intend the existing ombudsman to extend its remit to cover the private rented sector. Will the Government review the clause in the light of that announcement?

Any social housing redress scheme approved under the Housing Act 1996 provides redress services for the private rented tenancies of social landlords. An approved social redress scheme can also provide redress to tenants of private landlords who choose to join voluntarily. Currently, only one approved social housing redress scheme is administered by the housing ombudsman service.

Once brought into force, the clause will remove the private rented sector activities from the general jurisdiction of any approved social housing scheme. The clause will also stop any social housing redress scheme accepting relevant private landlords as voluntary members in relation to their private sector interests. However, the clause allows a social housing redress scheme to retain some jurisdiction over private rented sector activities if agreed with the Secretary of State. It does not prevent one organisation, such as the housing ombudsman, from administering both social and private redress schemes through a single, joined-up service. The clause will ensure that tenants who complain under the joined-up service are treated in exactly the same way as others who rent in the same sector.

The Bill provides a mechanism to bring the clause into force, but only once the new private rented sector ombudsman scheme is established. That will prevent disruption to members of existing schemes and avoid gaps in redress for tenants. If the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich has further questions, I am happy to write to him.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 31 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 32

The database

I beg to move amendment 175, in clause 32, page 40, line 18, at end insert—

“(ba) details, which may include copies, of all notices seeking possession served by the residential landlord in respect of each dwelling of which he is the landlord, and”.

This amendment would require the database to record details of notices of possession served by a landlord in respect of each dwelling of which they are the landlord.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clause 33 stand part.

In the debate on our amendment 173 to clause 23, I remarked on the concern among Opposition members of the Committee that, in contrast to chapter 2 of part 2 concerning the ombudsman, chapter 3 of part 2 concerning the private rented sector database is not nearly prescriptive enough.

To be clear, when it comes to establishing a private rented sector database and developing the new digital property portal service that it will support, we do not wish to tie the Government’s hands too tightly. We believe it is right that much of the detail is put in regulation at a later date: how the database will be operated and overseen; how entries are verified, corrected and removed; what the registration fees are and how they will be collected; and how information on the database is shared with third parties. However, we also believe that certain requirements of the functioning of the portal should be placed on the face of the Bill.

In our view, such requirements should include one for landlords to submit key information on their history and for that information to be publicly available so that tenants may make informed decisions when entering into a tenancy agreement and hold their landlord to account. Key information might include details of past enforcement action taken against a landlord or an agent representing them; any rent repayment, banning or management orders made against them; rent levels for the property over time in the form of past section 13 notices; and details of notices of possession served to previous tenants.

Amendment 175 would add to the Bill a requirement for

“the database to record details of notices of possession”

—as one example—

“served by a landlord in respect of each”

of their dwellings let. As I said, we feel strongly that the Bill should be amended to guarantee a minimum set of expectations for the database and the new digital property portal service; the amendment would go some way to ensuring that is the case. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s thoughts on it.

Clause 32 provides for the establishment and operation of the portal, as we have been discussing. With access to a comprehensive and standardised dataset on private rented sectors across England, local authorities will be best equipped to develop and implement their enforcement strategies. By requiring landlords to undertake a registration process, as provided by clause 34—which I will turn to in due course—the portal will help them to meet standards within the private rented sector by making them aware of their legal requirements.

With legislative backing and clear duties on users, a portal with entries for private landlords and dwellings will support a much richer understanding of the private rented sector and assist the Government in developing targeted policy. As such, the portal will be key to the successful implementation and enforcement of the wider reforms legislated for in the Bill.

Clause 33 sets out who can be the portal operator; a role required to create and maintain a working database of private landlords and their properties. The operator can appointed by the Secretary of State or a person arranged by the Secretary of State. The Government envisage the portal will be centrally co-ordinated by a single operator. Our legislation allows for the portal to be operated by the Department or to arrange for an alternative, such as a public body, to take on that responsibility.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his Amendment 175. This would require landlords to record their use of possession grounds, under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, on the property portal. To ensure the portal maintains the flexibility to meet the future needs of the sector, it is necessary that we use regulations to prescribe the information it collects, rather than including these in the Bill.

We intend for the portal to be a source of basic information about properties and their health and safety compliance. This legislation also allows for the ability to record tenancy-related issues, such as details of possession notices. We will consider the matter of recorded possession notices on the portal ahead of passing regulations, and carefully consider the balance of benefits and burden on landlords and local authorities when deciding what information to record. We will continue to work with stakeholders to assess the merits of information requirements, ahead of introducing any regulations. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

That is a helpful response. I took from it that the Government are considering including a history of past possession notices granted to a landlord. That is very welcome.

We tabled this amendment because it gets to the heart of how the new portal will operate. It could be a source of very basic information about a property, and whether it is strictly compliant with health and safety standards. We would hope the Government—the noises the Minister has made indicate they might—will take a more expansive view of how the property portal might work. Namely, that it will give tenants, as consumers, real power, because of the transparency and the amount of information recorded, to be able to know whether the tenancy agreement they are prospectively entering into is good for them, and whether the landlord is a good-faith landlord—as we know the majority are—or potentially an unscrupulous landlord. I welcome the indications the Minister has given, and look forward to debating—whether between us, or with other Ministers—the regulations in due course. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34

Making entries in the database

I beg to move amendment 202, in clause 34, page 41, line 33, at end insert—

“(2A) The regulations must provide for information or documents to be provided relating to disputes and their resolution under deposit protection schemes under Chapter 4 of Part 6 of the Housing Act 2004 (tenancy deposit schemes).”

This amendment would require regulations made by the Secretary of State to require the provision of information relating to dispute resolution for deposit protection schemes.

Amendments 202 and 176 both seek to ensure that certain things are included in this property portal. We have just heard from the Minister that he intends to set out in regulations the lists of what needs to be included. I think it is important that we have confirmation that these are the things that the Minister is considering.

My amendment 202 proposes that disputes and outcomes of the deposit protection scheme be included in the property portal. It is so important that tenants know whether their landlord is routinely in dispute over the deposit. I am not talking about situations in which the tenant agrees that there was damage, and there is no dispute about the deposit deduction; I mean those in which a tenant disputes the damage. The tenant should be able to see whether there are regular disputes and whether the outcome is in the landlord’s favour—the landlord might actually be pretty good—or in the tenant’s. The recording of disputes would also allow us to start to develop case law on deposit disputes and their outcomes.

I also support amendment 176—

I thank the hon. Member for moving amendment 202. As I have said in response to earlier amendments, we will consider these points and others ahead of the regulations on what information is to be recorded on the portal. Our aim is to create a database that is future-proofed and responsive to the needs of the sector now and in future. Tenancy deposit schemes already provide free alternative dispute resolution with respect to deposit deductions. As I say, we will take all the hon. Member’s points and others into consideration when developing the portal and the regulations.

As I take it, the Minister has agreed that he will consider including disputes. That is a separate point from whether they are part of the ombudsperson; it is about whether their own processes and outcomes are being recorded properly. I will not push the amendment to a vote, but I do hope that the Minister will keep us in touch with his thinking as matters progress.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment 176, in clause 34, page 41, line 33, at end insert—

“(3A) The regulations must provide for the following information or documents to be provided to the database operator as part of the process of creating entries on the database—

(a) an address, telephone number and email address for the residential landlord;

(b) an address, telephone number and email address for all managing agents engaged by the residential landlord;

(c) details of every dwelling that is being let by the residential landlord;

(d) evidence that the residential landlord has supplied a copy of the ‘How To Rent’ booklet to each relevant tenant;

(e) the rent that is currently being charged in respect of every dwelling that is being let by the residential landlord;

(f) details of any enforcement action that a local housing authority in England has taken against the residential landlord;

(g) details of any banning orders that have been made against the residential landlord pursuant to Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016;

(h) in respect of every dwelling that is being let by the residential landlord, copies of the documents required by:

(i) Regulation 6(5) of the Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations 2012;

(ii) Paragraph(s) 6 and/or 7 of Regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998;

(iii) Regulation 3 of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020;

(iv) Regulation 4 of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015;

(i) details of whether the dwelling house is required to be licenced under Part 2 (Houses in Multiple Occupation) or Part 3 (Selective Licensing) of the Housing Act 2004”

This amendment would ensure that a number of the regulatory obligations that built up around section 21 notices are maintained by means of the database following the removal of section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

We discussed, in relation to amendment 175, the fact that we believe that certain requirements relating to the functioning of the portal should be placed in the Bill. In speaking to amendments 170 to 172 to clause 19 in relation to deposit protection, I briefly touched on the fact that a number of regulatory obligations that have developed around section 21 notices over the 35 years for which the present system has been in place will fall away when it is abolished at the point at which chapter 1 of part 1 of the Bill comes into force.

The preconditions and requirements that have built up around section 21 notices, which presently prevent landlords from using the no-fault eviction process unless they can show compliance, include providing copies of gas safety certificates; providing copies of energy performance certificates; providing copies to each tenant of the ever-evolving how-to-rent booklet; and showing evidence of complying with the licensing requirements for houses in multiple occupation. There are no provisions in the Bill to ensure that landlords will have to continue to meet these and other regulatory obligations as a precondition of operating under the new tenancy system.

We fear that that will leave under-resourced local authorities—or tenants themselves, through the pursuit of civil claims—as the only means of enforcing these important statutory duties. We believe that compliance should instead be achieved by making it mandatory for landlords to submit the relevant information and proof of compliance to the database operator as part of the process of creating entries on the database. Amendment 176 would ensure that that is the case in respect of a wide range of existing regulatory obligations. We urge the Minister to accept it.

I thank the hon. Member for moving amendment 176, which would require certain information to be recorded on the property portal. I very much agree with the sentiment of it; we already intend to record much of that information on the portal. Alongside basic personal and property details, we intend to require landlords to supply evidence that health and safety standards are being met within their rental property. This is likely to include the selected information that landlords are currently legally obliged to provide to tenants, such as gas safety certificates.

To ensure that the portal maintains the flexibility to meet the future needs of the sector, it is necessary that the information it collects be specified in regulations, rather than in the Bill. I therefore ask the hon. Member to withdraw his amendment.

I very much welcome the Minister’s response and his statement that “much of” that information will be included on the portal. However, I want to press home why we think this is important. These are not add-ons that we might seek to include in the portal; they are existing preconditions and regulatory obligations that have developed around section 21, and surely they cannot fall away under the new tenancy regime. I welcome what the Minister said, but I urge him to ensure that all the preconditions and obligations that exist around section 21 are a mandatory requirement as part of the portal process.

It is also important that everything be recorded in one place, not only for tenants but for landlords, who will not have to fill in a plethora of information in different places about the EPC, gas safety and so on. It will make it easier for everyone if the Government get it right. It is so important that they be clear early on, so that we are not in a rush at the last moment.

My hon. Friend’s point is well made. There is the potential—hopefully the Government recognise it—to reduce the burden on landlords by ensuring that there is a clear set of requirements associated with registration on the portal that do not exist around the serving of a notice, as they do currently. We hope that the Government will take our points on board and bring all these preconditions within the scope of the portal in due course. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 35

Requirement to keep active entries up-to-date

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

I commend the clauses to the Committee. I am interested to hear the thoughts of the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich.

I have two brief questions for the Minister in relation to this group of clauses. I am more than happy for him to write to me on these points, as they are quite niche.

First, the powers under clause 38 will be used to set fees in relation to registration on the database. Clause 38(5) allows for all or part of the amount received in fees to be paid to local housing authorities or into the Consolidated Fund. Is the implication of the inclusion of this provision in the Bill that the Government expect there to be a surplus from fees collected by the database? If so, why do the Government not believe, given that they are the relevant enforcement body, that any available funds should be allocated to local authorities alone rather than central Government?

Secondly, we take it from the nature of the charging regime that the Government hope the database will be financially self-sufficient. However, the work needed to maintain and verify entries on the database will be onerous, and the start-up costs could be significant. Can the Minister provide any detail at this stage as to what the Government expect the resourcing requirements of the database to be? Can he provide assurances as to how its implementation and running costs will be met?

In answer to the hon. Member’s question about landlords having to pay to join the service, we intend to fund the service through fees charged to private landlords when they register on the portal. We will take steps to ensure that these costs remain reasonable, proportionate and sustainable. The new service will bring substantial benefits to landlords as well as tenants, providing a single source of information about their legal responsibilities and helping them to showcase their compliance. It will also support local councils to enforce against unscrupulous landlords, who undercut the responsible majority.

On resourcing for local authorities, the information recorded on the portal will save local authorities time when enforcing health and safety standards in the PRS. Our research has shown that locating landlords and properties takes up a significant proportion of local authorities’ resources. Additionally, we are undertaking a new burdens assessment and will ensure that additional burdens created by the new system are fully funded.

Question agreed to.

Clause 35 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 36 to 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43

Access to the database

I beg to move amendment 195, in clause 43, page 48, line 32, at end insert—

“(f) tenants and prospective tenants of a relevant property and all other properties linked to the unique identifier of the landlord with whom they are proposing to or have signed a tenancy agreement.”

This amendment would ensure that tenants and prospective tenants have access to information held in the database relating to the landlord of the relevant property.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Clauses 44 and 45 stand part.

The Bill contains a list of organisations and agencies that will have access to the portal. Tenants are not included in that list. I hope that that is because they have access through some other means, or that the Minister will stand up and say, “Don’t worry, you’ve missed it—it’s in x, y and z.” But my reading is that there is no presumption that tenants and presumptive tenants will have full access to all the information about the house they are moving into and its landlord.

We have heard in evidence that it is important that tenants have the information before they sign a contract. Any effective free market has to be based on the knowledge of the person who is making a choice to purchase something. The tenant is clearly one such person, so the tenant needs to know the background of the person and the quality of the house before they sign.

It might be that the Government plan for such information to be public—that would mitigate the need for the amendment—but I worry that some information will be public and some redacted, particularly information on house prices, former house prices and rental prices. That kind of information should be made available to the tenant. Tenants and prospective tenants should have full, unredacted information about the house and the landlord of the property that they are in or want to be in. I seek reassurances from the Minister on the matter.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his amendment, which relates to the publicly available information on the property portal. One of our core objectives is to enhance the information available to tenants so that they can make more informed choices and have a better renting experience. As I have said, we are carefully considering what information will be available to tenants via the portal, but it is likely to include information about property standards. We also intend to publish information about certain relevant offences committed by landlords. As I have set out, we believe that outlining what information is available to tenants through regulations will allow us to respond to changes in the market and to remain sensitive to landlords’ privacy rights. We have the power to amend what information is accessible by tenants in the future if doing so would benefit the operation of the sector.

The Minister is talking about what he expects will be available to tenants. Could he outline what he expects might not be available to tenants, so that I can understand his thinking on the other side?

Specifically on the question of a landlord’s privacy, there will be some information that is relevant for a local authority to know about a landlord but not necessarily relevant for a tenant to know about a landlord. As I say, such things are best set out in regulations.

Can the Minister give examples of what that information would be? That would help to flesh out what we are talking about.

I am not in a position to give an example today. If an example comes to mind, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with it.

I just want to press the Minister on this point. It is right that there is an issue about balance, but by asking the Committee to accept that the detail will be brought forward in regulations—without our having any idea of where the balance might lie and what kind of exceptions we are talking about—the Minister is asking us to approve the clause rather in the dark.

I reject the suggestion that the Committee is being asked to approve the clause in the dark. Obviously, any regulations will come before the House will be debated at that time. These things could breach someone’s human rights or affect their ability to protect their own data, therefore it is right that we properly consider them once we know what the portal actually looks like, and we have information recorded on it and so on.

I encourage the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown to withdraw his amendment. A landlord’s national insurance number or date of birth, for example, is key information that should remain private to a landlord and is not necessarily for tenants’ viewing. I respect the hon. Member’s points and the issues that he raised; as I say, we will consider them fully when we come to make regulations after Royal Assent.

It might be understandable if, for example, the landlord’s day of birth was redacted on Companies House but the month and year were shown. If we had no national insurance numbers, but we had a contactable address where that person could be found—not necessarily their home address, but a non-PO box address—that might, again, be acceptable.

The Government need to be clear in their intention that this is about privacy grounds only where necessary for the safety and functioning of a landlord, and not about withholding information that would be useful for the tenant in reaching out to the landlord. I will withdraw the amendment, but I expect the Minister to provide some more details in writing about what will be excluded.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 44 to 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 47

Financial penalties

I beg to move amendment 167, in clause 47, page 50, line 36, leave out “£5,000” and insert “£30,000”.

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person for breach of a requirement imposed by clause 39.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 168, in clause 47, page 51, line 1, leave out “£30,000” and insert “£60,000”.

This amendment would increase the maximum financial penalty that local authorities could impose on a person for committing an offence under section 48.

Clause stand part.

Amendments 167 and 168 would raise the maximum financial penalty that local authorities can levy when there has been a breach of a requirement imposed by clause 39 for private landlords to be registered on the database before they can market, advertise or let associated dwellings, or an offence has been committed under clause 48.

I intend to speak to the amendments only briefly, as we have already debated the issue of maximum financial penalties on two occasions. Suffice it to say that the Opposition remain of the view that the Government should reconsider the proposed maximum limits of £5,000 and £30,000 respectively, on the grounds that fines of up to those levels are unlikely to act as an effective deterrent. I come back to this point briefly because it has a direct bearing on the ability of local authorities to finance enforcement activity, an issue that we will debate shortly in relation to clauses 58 to 61. That is why the Local Government Association supports the amendments.

I remind the Minister that the amendments would bring the maximum financial penalties in line with others that can be issued by enforcement authorities against landlords who breach the legislation, for example in respect of the Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022.

I do not want to press the point, and I do not necessarily expect a response from the Minister, but we urge the Government to reconsider.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for tabling the amendments. As he says, we have discussed these points a few times.

Our proposed fines regime is fair and proportionate. Fines of up to £30,000 are possible if non-compliance continues. The legislation allows fines to be imposed repeatedly every 28 days; and for repeat offences, local housing authorities can pursue prosecution through the courts, which carries an unlimited fine. This escalating procedure will give local authorities the ability to effectively enforce the requirements of the new property portal, without fines being excessive. The Department will issue guidance to local authorities to help them to make use of the new fine-setting powers. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 48

Offences

Amendment made: 68, in clause 48, page 53, line 7, leave out subsection (10)—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment removes provision that is no longer needed as a result of NC19.

Clause 48, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 49 to 51 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 53 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 57

Interpretation

Amendments made: 69, in clause 57, page 56, leave out lines 39 to 41.

This amendment removes the definition of “local housing authority” for the purposes of Part 2 of the Bill. It is consequent Amendment 107 which inserts a definition of “local housing authority” for the purposes of the Bill as a whole.

Amendment 70, in clause 57, page 57, leave out line 1 and insert—

“(1A) For the meanings of “residential landlord”, “residential tenancy” and “residential tenant” in this Part, see section 23.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment makes clearer that in Part 2 references to a “residential landlord”, “residential tenancy” and “residential tenant” are to be read in accordance with clause 23.

Clause 57, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 52

Financial penalties under sections 26 and 47

I beg to move amendment 71, in clause 52, page 55, line 5, after “section” insert “(Financial penalties),”

This amendment provides for the provisions about financial penalties in Schedule 3 of the Bill to apply in relation to penalties under NC10, which relates to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies, as well as in relation to penalties under Part 2 of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clause stand part.

Government motion to transfer clause 52.

Government amendments 72 to 75.

Schedule 3.

Government amendments 80, 104 and 106.

Government motion to transfer clause 56.

Government amendments 113 and 125 to 129.

Government new clause 8—Prohibition of discrimination relating to children.

Government new clause 9—Prohibition of discrimination relating to benefits status.

Government new clause 10—Financial penalties.

Government new clause 11—Discriminatory terms in a tenancy relating to children or benefits status.

Government new clause 12—Terms in superior leases relating to children or benefits status.

Government new clause 13—Terms in mortgages relating to children or benefits status.

Government new clause 14—Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status.

Government new clause 15—Power of the Secretary of State to amend Chapter 2A to protect persons of other descriptions.

Government new clause 16—No prohibition on taking income into account.

Government new clause 17—Interpretation of Chapter 2A.

Government new clause 47—Power of Welsh Ministers to make consequential provision.

Government new clause 48—Prohibition of discrimination relating to children or benefits status: Welsh language text.

Government new clause 49—Prohibition of discrimination relating to children or benefits status: English language text.

Government new clause 50—Amendment of short title of the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Act 2019.

Government new clause 51—Regulations under sections 8C and 8J of the Renting Homes (Fees, Discrimination etc.) (Wales) Act 2019.

Government new clause 52—Amendments of the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 regarding discrimination.

New clause 61—Ending blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits—

“The Secretary of State may, by regulation, specify behaviour which, for the purposes of Part 4, Equality Act 2010, shall be considered unlawful discrimination unless the contrary is shown.”

This new clause would ensure that blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits are presumed to be unlawful discrimination unless proved otherwise.

Blanket bans on letting to families with children or people who receive benefits have no place in our modern housing market. We agree that landlords and agents must not discriminate on that basis, and should fairly consider individual prospective tenants. Our package of amendments and new clauses prohibits landlords from discriminating against families with children or people who receive benefits in England and Wales. The blanket ban measures respond to calls for additional safeguards for some of the most vulnerable renters, while confirming that landlords can ensure that a tenancy is affordable, and that they retain the final say on whom they let to.

Clause 52 simply provides local authorities with the power to impose financial penalties on those who do not meet the requirements of the private rented sector database, as set out in clause 39, or an offence relating to it, as set out in clause 48.

The large group of Government amendments and new clauses that we are considering with this clause add proposed new chapter 2A to part 1 of the Bill. It includes several new clauses, commenced by regulations made by the Secretary of State, that seek to prohibit discriminatory practices associated with children and benefits status in relation to the grant of tenancies, as the Minister made clear. Incidentally, proposed new chapter 2B will provide for the same clauses to apply in Wales, pending commencement by order of Welsh Ministers.

Without question, we welcome the intent behind the amendments and new clauses. As I am sure the Minister can see, we have consistently expressed concern since the Bill’s publication that the commitment in the White Paper to ban so-called “No DSS” or “No kids” practices was not on the face of the Bill. The Government deserve credit, as they do for deciding to extend a decent homes standard to the private rented sector and for seeking to make these important changes through this Bill rather than separate future legislation.

The case for prohibiting “No DSS” and “No kids” practices is indisputable. All renters should be treated fairly in their search for a safe, secure, decent, and affordable place to call home, regardless of whether they are in receipt of benefits or their family circumstances. Yet in addition to the various informal barriers to renting privately that we know exist, some of which we debated when considering advanced rent payments in relation to clause 5, there is incontrovertible evidence that some landlords and agents acting on behalf of landlords actively discourage, or even prevent, people in receipt of benefits or with children from renting their properties.

We know that some landlords refuse to allow benefit claimants to even view an affordable property or to consider them as a potential tenant, and prospective renters across the country will be familiar with messages in property adverts such as “No DSS”, “No benefits”, “Working households preferred” or “Professional tenants only”. The scale of this discrimination is almost certainly significant. Successive YouGov surveys of private landlords in England have made clear not only that a comfortable majority of them prefer not to rent to people in receipt of benefits but that a significant minority operate an outright ban. Outright bans on renters with children may be less prevalent, but they are still extremely commonplace. The result is that hundreds of thousands of families have been unable to rent a home that they wanted and could afford, simply due to their benefit status or because they have children.

As we have touched on numerous times during the Committee’s proceedings, the number of such families in the PRS has increased markedly over recent decades, with woefully inadequate social housing supply and rising house prices making private renting the only option for many families, including working families with children. Of course, such discrimination does not affect all people equally. The reality, particularly in hot, competitive rental markets, is that women, disabled households and people of colour will be disproportionately affected by it. For example, we know that the overwhelming majority of single parents receiving housing benefit are female. I grew up in one of those households; the challenges they face daily are considerable enough without having to navigate discriminatory and potentially unlawful policies in the private letting industry.

Whether they are the result of landlords’ misperceptions, of frustrations with the workings of the benefit system or of ill-informed advice from letting agents, blanket bans of the kind in question are simply unacceptable. They are not only unacceptable but almost certainly already unlawful by virtue of the premises provisions in the Equality Act 2010, which provide for a prohibition against discrimination in letting, managing or disposing of premises. However, although a number of court rulings have confirmed that rejecting tenancy applications because of an applicant’s benefit status or family circumstances is a breach of the 2010 Act, proving discrimination is incredibly difficult. As a result, despite the growing body of case law, “No DSS” and “No kids” practices remain widespread.

The Government amendments in this group perfectly demonstrate the nature of the problem. They specify discriminatory practices that are already unlawful under part 4 of the Equality Act 2010. Indeed, Government new clauses 8 and 9 even mirror the language of the Equality Act—“provision, criterion or practice”—in relation to discriminatory practices, yet they do nothing to clarify that the various practices are henceforth always to be deemed discriminatory. As such, although we welcome the motivation behind the Government amendments in attempting to provide for a strict prohibition of such practices, we are concerned that they will not achieve that objective, because, although they will have the effect of removing terms discriminating against benefit claimants and families with children from contracts, they will not prevent the underlying discrimination from occurring in practice.

What we propose, by way of our new clause 61, is that the weaknesses of the various Government amendments in question are resolved by ensuring that the underlying conduct is clearly unlawful by making it a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Our new clause is aimed at prohibiting indirect discrimination and discrimination arising from disability, by giving the Secretary of State the power to define, by regulation, what behaviour is, for the purposes of part 4 of the 2010 Act, considered to be unlawful discrimination unless the person accused of discriminating can prove the contrary. It would remove, for example, the need for a female prospective private renter to prove that a “No DSS” blanket ban had a disproportionate impact on her as a woman. It would mean that, in any court proceedings, the first threshold stage would always be passed unless the landlord in question could convince the court that the ban had no discriminatory impact—which, of course, would never happen.

By forcing landlords to prove that some objective justification exists for refusing to rent to people in receipt of benefits or with children in order to advertise or market a property on the basis of a “No DSS” or “No kids” ban, our amendment would have the effect of ensuring that such discriminatory practices were finally banned in practice, because the number of privately rented properties where there could be such an objective justification is tiny.

I hope the Minister will respond to this amendment in the spirit in which it is intended—namely, as a constructive means of compelling the Government to consider whether their proposed new chapter 2A to part 1 of the Act may fall short in practice. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for tabling new clause 61. As I set out earlier, we agree that blanket bans against letting to families with children or to people who receive benefits have no place in our modern housing market. That is why our amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill make express provisions to ensure that landlords and agents cannot discriminate on that basis.

Our measures take direct action to address blanket ban practices in the private rented sector, and our targeted approach tackles both overt and indirect practices. We have designed our enforcement approach with the tenants that are most vulnerable to this type of discriminatory practice in mind, and we understand that their priority is finding a safe and secure home in the private rented sector. Unlike the provisions in the Equality Act 2010, we are giving local councils investigatory and enforcement powers to tackle unlawful blanket ban practices. Tenants will not have to shoulder the burden of taking their complaint to court; local councils will be enabled to take swift and effective enforcement action. We think that it is right that prohibitions on blanket bans in the private rented sector are part of the Renters (Reform) Bill and that they are incorporated into the enforcement framework, rather than the Equality Act 2010.

I say to the hon. Gentleman that we are of one mind when trying to stop these blanket bans, so I am happy to have further conversations with him to that effect. I therefore ask him to withdraw his amendment.

I absolutely agree with the Minister that we are of one mind in wanting to ensure that these blanket bans are prohibited: he is right that they have no place in our modern housing market. However, we remain concerned—I do not think that the Minister addressed the specifics of our new clause—that the Government’s amendments will not achieve that objective. As I said, although they will have the effect of removing, from contracts, terms discriminating against benefits claimants and families with children, they will not, in practice, prevent that underlying discrimination from occurring.

We feel very strongly about this issue. If the Government do not get this right and these practices are not abandoned, we will have to return with a future piece of legislation to ensure that they are prohibited in practice. For that reason, we will seek to press the new clause to a Division at the appropriate time.

Amendment 71 agreed to.

Clause 52, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered,

That clause 52 be transferred to the end of line 30 on page 57.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 71 which expands clause 52 so that it is no longer limited to penalties under Part 2 of the Bill. This amendment moves clause 52 into Part 3 of the Bill (enforcement authorities). Part 3 is expected to be added to so as to include other provision about enforcement generally. Clause 52 is expected to form its first Chapter.

Schedule 3

Financial Penalties

Amendments made: 72, in schedule 3, page 78, line 8, after “section” insert “(Financial penalties),”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 71.

Amendment 73, in schedule 3, page 80, line 20, after “section” insert “(Financial penalties),”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 71.

Amendment 74, in schedule 3, page 80, line 25, after “section” insert “(Financial penalties),”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 71.

Amendment 75, in schedule 3, page 80, line 33, at end insert—

“(ca) the activities of a superior landlord in relation to such a tenancy,”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment ensures that the proceeds of financial penalties imposed under clauses 26 and 47 can be applied towards meeting enforcement costs relating to superior landlords as well as immediate landlords.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 58

Enforcement by local housing authorities: general duty

I beg to move amendment 76, in clause 58, page 57, line 35, after second “of” insert “, or an offence under,”.

This amendment ensures that the duty in clause 58(1) does not prevent a local housing authority from taking enforcement action in respect of an offence under the landlord legislation which occurs outside of its area.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 77, 78, 81 and 82.

Clause stand part.

Government amendments 83 to 85.

Clauses 59 and 60 stand part.

Government amendments 86 to 91.

Clause 61 stand part.

Government amendments 92, 93 and 95.

Government new clause 22—Enforcement by county councils which are not local housing authorities: duty to notify.

Government new clause 23—Duty to report.

Part 3 of the Bill concerns the enforcement authorities, and clause 58 is the key clause. It imposes a new duty on local authorities to enforce, by means of financial penalties or by instituting offence proceedings, prohibitions of the landlord legislation in their areas. Subsection (4) sets out the definition of “landlord legislation”, referring to sections 1 and 1A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and chapter 1 of part 1 of the Housing Act 1988. Neither of those are new, obviously, but local authorities have never had a duty to enforce them before, and the 1977 Act will require a different approach from the police to unlawful evictions. It also refers to the whole of part 2 of the Bill—all the prohibitions relating to the ombudsman and the property portal. By any definition, that constitutes a significant array of new regulatory and enforcement responsibilities for local authorities to meet.

Various proposals in the Bill could, if they work well, make local authority enforcement of prohibitions of the landlord legislation in their areas easier. The new ombudsman has the potential, for example, to provide an alternative route for dispute resolution and a distinct and effective route to redress when it comes to breaches of prohibitions relating to the misuse of possession grounds and for not providing a written statement of terms, thus ensuring that local authorities are not the only enforcement body for such contraventions. Similarly, the new private rented sector database has the potential, for example, to allow local authorities to far more easily identify poor-quality and non-compliant properties and who owns them, thus addressing a key barrier for local authorities when it comes to enforcing standards.

However, there is a circular reasoning fallacy at work here, because the new ombudsman and the new private rented sector database will work effectively only if all landlords, including the more unscrupulous, feel compelled to become members of the former and register with the latter. Yet the only means of compulsion that the Bill provides for are discretionary financial penalties that we believe—as we have already debated at great length—are not only capped at levels that many unscrupulous landlords will judge are sufficiently low to make a breach worth the risk, but are enforced by local authorities themselves. As a result, the extent to which the totality of provisions in this legislation will be effectively enforced ultimately depends on whether local authorities can, in practice, meet the array of new regulatory and enforcement responsibilities the Bill has conferred upon them. There is very good reason to believe that, as things stand, they may struggle to do so.

I want therefore to take the opportunity to raise two distinct issues of concern with the Minister, and the first concerns oversight. Current levels of local authority enforcement are generally far too low, and within that there are huge disparities in activity levels between different local authorities. Local authorities are also making little use of their power to issue civil penalties, with a small number of proactive councils responsible for the bulk of those issued. Yet there are no provisions in the Bill to ensure that the Government will be able to monitor which councils are prioritising enforcement and using the full range of tools and legal powers at their disposal, and which are not.

I will be grateful if the Minister can tell the Committee why the commitment made in the White Paper to

“bolster national oversight of local councils’ enforcement, including by exploring requirements for councils to report on their housing enforcement activity”,

seemingly has not been taken forward in the Bill, and whether the Government plan to take any non-legislative steps to boost oversight of local authority enforcement strategies. I would also be grateful if he could let us know whether we can expect the Department to issue future guidance to local authorities on how the relevant provisions in the Bill can be most effectively enforced.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to talk about the variation in performance between local authorities. Enforcement in some of them definitely reflects a variation in interest and concern. Does he also recognise that there is also a fundamental issue of resource capacity for enforcement in local government? As this largely discretionary service is being squeezed by the pressures on local authorities, requiring extra duties from local authorities without resources is a recipe for inaction.

My hon. Friend’s point is extremely well made. As I have commented already, there is an issue about which local authorities prioritise these services, but precisely because they are a discretionary service, there is an issue of resources and funding. That is the second of the points I wish to put to the Minister.

In assessing why the approach of so many local authorities to enforcement is inherently reactive, one cannot escape the issue of capacity and capabilities. Not only are councils across the country under huge financial pressure at present but many are struggling, and indeed have struggled for some time, to recruit experienced officers to carry out enforcement activity. Yet the White Paper was entirely silent on the challenge of local authority resourcing and staffing. The provisions in the Bill that enable local authorities to keep the proceeds of financial penalties to reinvest in enforcement activity are welcome. However, the funds that will raise—not least because the Government have chosen to cap financial penalties at £5,000 and £30,000 respectively—are unlikely to provide the initial funding required to implement the new system, and even in the medium to long term will almost certainly not cover the costs of all the new regulatory and enforcement responsibilities that clause 58 will require local authorities to meet.

The White Paper committed the Government to conducting a new burdens assessment into the reform proposals it set out, assessing their impact on local government, and, where necessary, fully funding the net additional cost of all new burdens placed on local councils. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister can give us today a clear commitment on resources. Specifically, can he tell us whether the commitment to a new burdens assessment will be honoured and, if so, when it will be published?

Can the Minister also give us a clearer view of the Government’s view of the future of selective licensing following the Bill’s enactment, given that such schemes are crucial sources of local authority funding in a number of areas? I look forward to the Minister’s response to those points.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich for speaking to his amendments, and to the hon. Member for Westminster North for her comments. We expect the vast majority of landlords to do the right thing and meet their new legal responsibilities but, as ever, a minority will fail to do so. The Government are committed to supporting local authorities and taking proactive enforcement against this minority of landlords.

Clause 58 will place a new duty on every local housing authority in England to enforce the new measures in their area. When considering enforcement, local authorities will be able to use a civil penalty as an alternative to a criminal prosecution for an offence, allowing them to decide the most effective method of enforcement in each case.

Government amendments 78, 81 and 82 will extend the power in clause 58, though not the duty, to enforce the landlord legislation to county councils in two-tier areas in England. While local housing authorities have a duty to enforce the landlord legislation in their areas under clause 58, there may be some instances where breaches and offences are better pursued by the authority responsible for trading standards. For example, in relation to advertising a property to rent, county councils also have this responsibility. In this Bill, we make a distinction between less serious breaches of the legislation and more serious offences. Government amendments 76, 83, 84 and 85 strengthen clause 58 to ensure that the ability of a local housing authority to take enforcement action outside its local area extends to offences as well as breaches.

Clause 59 will further support effective enforcement by ensuring that the local authorities are fully aware of the enforcement action in their areas that is going to be taken by a different authority, and of the final results of such action. This will facilitate local authorities to take cross-border enforcement action, and deliver greater efficiency and enable local authorities to provide the most complete case to the courts.

Clause 60 will allow the Secretary of State to appoint a lead enforcement authority for the purpose of provisions in the landlord legislation, which includes many of the provisions in this Bill. We plan to carefully consider whether having a lead enforcement authority for any of the provisions in the landlord legislation will be beneficial. We plan to engage with local authorities and other stakeholders to establish this.

Clause 61 sets out the various duties and powers of a lead enforcement authority. The principal duty is to oversee the operation and effective enforcement. This includes the duty to provide advice to local authorities about the operation of the legislation and may include information relevant to the enforcement of specific cases.

Government amendments 86 to 91 will ensure that a lead enforcement authority’s duties and powers provided in the Bill to help local housing authorities are extended to county councils in England that are not local housing authorities. Government amendments 92, 93 and 95 ensure that county councils in England that are not local housing authorities are required, when requested, to report to a lead enforcement authority, in the same way that a local housing authority is on the exercise of its functions. New clause 22 will ensure that enforcement action is not duplicated when those county councils that are not also local housing authorities take enforcement action in relation to landlord legislation. Government amendment 77 ensures that new provisions of the new clause 22 are referenced in clause 58, which is the clause that encloses the duty to enforce on local housing authorities.

Finally, new clause 23 will place a duty on local authorities to supply data to the Secretary of State in relation to the exercise of their functions—I believe that point was mentioned by the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich—under part 2 of this Bill, and other relevant legislation as and when it is requested. In order to evaluate the impact of our reforms and understand the action that local authorities are taking against the minority of landlords who flout the rules, it is vital that the Secretary of State is able to seek regular and robust data from local authorities. My officials will work with local authorities to agree a data reporting framework that is rational, proportionate and helpful to both local and central Government, and in line with other similar data collections. With their input, we will undertake a new burdens assessment and fully fund any additional costs generated to fulfil this duty. I hope that addresses the points raised in Committee.

Amendment 76 agreed to.

Amendments made: 77, in clause 58, page 57, line 38, after first “authority)” insert—

“, (Enforcement by county councils which are not local housing authorities: duty to notify)(3) (enforcement by county council in England which is not a local housing authority)”.

This amendment is consequential on NC22.

Amendment 78, in clause 58, page 57, line 38, at end insert—

“(3A) A county council in England which is not a local housing authority may—

(a) enforce the landlord legislation;

(b) for that purpose, exercise any powers that a local housing authority may exercise for the purposes of enforcing that legislation.”

This amendment confers a power to enforce the landlord legislation on county councils in England which are not local housing authorities and for that purpose enables such councils to exercise powers equivalent to local housing authorities.

Amendment 79, in clause 58, page 58, leave out lines 1 to 3.

This amendment removes the definition of “local housing authority” for the purposes of Part 3 of the Bill. It is consequential on Amendment 107 which inserts a definition of “local housing authority” for the purposes of the Bill as a whole.

Amendment 80, in clause 58, page 58, line 4, at end insert—

“(za) Chapter 2A of Part 1 of this Act,”.

This amendment adds the new Chapter expected to be formed of new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies to the definition of “the landlord legislation” in clause 58.

Amendment 81, in clause 58, page 58, line 9, leave out “a local housing authority”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 78.

Amendment 82, in clause 58, page 58, line 10, leave out “that authority”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 78.

Clause 58, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill. 

Clause 59

Enforcement by local housing authorities: duty to notify

Amendments made: 83, in clause 59, page 58, line 16, after second “of” insert “, or an offence under,”.

This amendment ensures that a local housing authority notifies another local housing authority if it proposes to take enforcement action in respect of an offence under the landlord legislation which occurs in the area of that other authority.

Amendment 84, in clause 59, page 58, line 23, after “breach” insert “or offence”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 83.

Amendment 85, in clause 59, page 58, line 27, after “breach” insert “or offence”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment clarifies that a financial penalty imposed under the landlord legislation may also relate to an offence under that legislation.

Clause 59, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 60 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 61

General duties and powers of lead enforcement authority

Amendments made: 86, in clause 61, page 59, line 30, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

This amendment requires a lead enforcement authority to provide information and advice to county councils in England which are not local housing authorities.

Amendment 87, in clause 61, page 59, line 35, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

This amendment provides for a lead enforcement authority to disclose information to county councils in England which are not local housing authorities for certain purposes.

Amendment 88, in clause 61, page 60, line 1, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

This amendment provides for a lead enforcement authority to issue guidance to county councils in England which are not local housing authorities.

Amendment 89, in clause 61, page 60, line 4, leave out “Local housing” and insert “Relevant local”.

This amendment requires county councils in England which are not local housing authorities to have regard to guidance issued by a lead enforcement authority under subsection (4) of clause 61.

Amendment 90, in clause 61, page 60, line 14, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

The amendment provides for a direction given under subsection (7) of clause 61 to relate to county councils in England which are not local housing authorities.

Amendment 91, in clause 61, page 60, line 16, at end insert—

“‘relevant local authority’ means—

(a) a local housing authority, or

(b) a county council in England which is not a local housing authority;”.—(Jacob Young.)

The amendment defines “relevant local authority” for the purposes of clause 61.

Clause 61, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 62

Enforcement by the lead enforcement authority

Amendments made: 92, in clause 62, page 61, line 1, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

This amendment requires a county council in England which is not a local housing authority to report at the request of a lead enforcement authority on the exercise of the county council’s functions under the provisions for which the lead enforcement authority is responsible.

Amendment 93, in clause 62, page 61, line 3, leave out “local housing” and insert “relevant local”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 92.

Amendment 94, in clause 62, page 61, line 5, at end insert—

“(7) The powers of a local housing authority referred to in subsection (1)(b) include the power to authorise persons to exercise powers of officers under sections (Power of local housing authority to require information from relevant person) to (Investigatory powers: interpretation) (see section (Investigatory powers: interpretation)(2)).

(8) Section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(7) is to be read, in relation to an officer of a lead enforcement authority, as if—

(a) the reference to a deputy chief officer whose duties relate to a purpose within subsection (1)(b) of that section were a reference to—

(i) a person who is employed by, or acts on the instructions of, the body which is the lead enforcement authority and has overall responsibility for the exercise of the functions of that body in that capacity (‘the head of the lead enforcement authority’), or

(ii) a person who is employed by, or acts on the instructions of, the lead enforcement authority, and has been authorised by the head of the lead enforcement authority to give special authorisations within the meaning of section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant), and

(b) paragraph (b)(ii) were omitted.”

This amendment is consequential on other new clauses which provide for investigatory powers of local housing authorities. It deals with how the references to officers of a local housing authority are to apply in the case where the powers of a local housing authority are to be exercised by a lead enforcement authority.

Amendment 95, in clause 62, page 61, line 5, at end insert—

“(9) In this section ‘relevant local authority’ has the same meaning as in section 61.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment defines “relevant local authority” for the purposes of clause 62.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mr Mohindra.)

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Renters (Reform) Bill (Tenth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: † Yvonne Fovargue, James Gray, Ian Paisley

† Aiken, Nickie (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)

† Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Bailey, Shaun (West Bromwich West) (Con)

† Britcliffe, Sara (Hyndburn) (Con)

† Buck, Ms Karen (Westminster North) (Lab)

† Firth, Anna (Southend West) (Con)

† Glindon, Mary (North Tyneside) (Lab)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

McDonagh, Siobhain (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)

† Mohindra, Mr Gagan (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)

† Morgan, Helen (North Shropshire) (LD)

† Pennycook, Matthew (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)

Russell, Dean (Watford) (Con)

† Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

† Spencer, Dr Ben (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)

† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Simon Armitage, Sarah Thatcher, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Tuesday 28 November 2023

(Afternoon)

[Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

Renters (Reform) Bill

Clause 62, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 63

Government policy on supported and temporary accommodation

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to consider the following:

Government amendments 112, 115 and 116.

Government new clause 20—Decent homes standard.

New clause 60—Extension of Awaabs law to the private rented sector

“(1) Section 10A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 is amended as follows.

(2) Omit subsections (1)(b) and (6).

(3) In subsection (7), omit the definitions of ‘low-cost home ownership accommodation’ and ‘social housing’.”

This new clause would require private landlords to deal with hazards affecting their properties.

Government new schedule 1—Decent homes standard.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Fovargue.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe and decent home. It is completely unacceptable in this day and age that people are forced to live in homes that do not meet basic standards of decency. There is already a decent homes standard for social housing that has been successful in improving housing conditions. Since the standard was last updated in 2006, the level of non-decency in social housing has fallen from 29% to 10%, but there is no equivalent standard for the private rented sector, and homes in that sector are more likely to be non-decent.

Of the 4.6 million households that rent privately, 23% live in properties that would fail the decent homes standard that currently applies to social housing. That is around 1 million homes. That is why we committed in the levelling-up White Paper to halving the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030 and, in the “Fairer Private Rented Sector” White Paper, to introducing a legally binding decent homes standard in the private rented sector for the first time. It is also why we have tabled the Government amendments, which will allow Ministers to set a new standard to apply the private rented sector and for it to be enforced.

It is imperative that we get the content of the new standard right and that we ensure that it is both proportionate and fair. We are working closely with a range of stakeholders to co-design the standard and make sure the balance is right for landlords and tenants. For most PRS properties, our expectation is that the landlord will not need to do any additional work to meet the decent homes standard beyond what is needed to meet existing requirements and keep their properties in a good state of repair. We will provide further details on our proposals for the standard in due course.

It is a pleasure to continue our deliberations with you in the Chair, Ms Fovargue.

Clause 63 is a short and straightforward clause that would require the Secretary of State to prepare a report that sets out the Government’s policy on safety and quality standards in relation to supported housing and temporary accommodation and to publish it within one year of the day on which the measure comes into force. The group of Government amendments we are considering with the clause, which are intended to replace it entirely, will extend part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, which relates to housing conditions, to cover temporary accommodation, and provide for regulations to specify new requirements that will form part of a decent homes standard that applies to temporary accommodation, supported exempt accommodation and rented property more generally. We welcome both the intent and the design of the amendments.

The private rented sector is manifestly failing to provide safe and secure homes for all those who live in it. We fully accept that the absolute number and proportion of poor-quality private rented homes continues to fall—albeit steadily rather than drastically—as part of a half-century, if not longer, of improvement in housing standards. However, it remains the case that some of the worst standards in housing are to be found in the private rented sector. It should be a source of real shame for the Government that after they have been in office for 13 years, an estimated one in four homes in the private rented sector—the Minister made it clear that that equates to around a million properties—do not meet the decent homes standard, and one in 10 has a category 1 hazard that poses a risk of serious harm.

For the considerable number of private tenants who are forced to live in substandard properties—those who wake up every day to mould, vermin or dangerous hazards—what should be a place of refuge and comfort is instead a source of, at best, daily unease and, at worst, torment and misery. More must be done to bear down decisively on this problem. Measures designed to drive up standards in the sector should be enacted as a matter of urgency.

As I made clear during the debate on clause 52, the Government deserve appropriate credit for seeking to introduce a decent homes standard that covers the private rented sector through this Bill rather than through separate future legislation. We believe that Government new clause 20, new schedule 1 and the related amendments are well drafted and that they have the potential to tackle the blight of poor-quality homes in local communities and ensure that renters have safer and better homes to live in; however, I would like to take this opportunity to put to the Minister several questions about those provisions.

My first question concerns enforcement. A decent homes standard that covers the social rented sector has been in place since 2001, yet we know that far too many social tenants still live in damp, cold and mouldy properties that harm their health and their life chances. Indeed, that was one of the chief reasons why the Government felt it necessary to enact the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023. That demonstrates that over the 22 years of the decent homes standard’s existence, although it has led to some improvements it has not been enforceable in the social rented sector. That experience suggests that introducing a decent homes standard covering the private rented sector will not achieve its objectives unless it is properly enforced.

Given that the Government intend, by means of new schedule 1, which amends part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, for enforcement of the new standard in the PRS to be undertaken using the same powers as the regime for the housing health and safety rating system, it should be a relatively straightforward matter for local authorities. However, local authorities’ ability to do so successfully depends in practice on their capacity and capabilities. As we debated just prior to the break, in relation to clauses 58 to 61, a great many authorities are struggling when it comes to resources and skills. Will the Minister provide more detail on what steps, if any, the Government intend to take, in addition to the various proposals in the Bill, to ensure that local authorities can appropriately enforce the application of the decent homes standard to the private rented sector where it is not already being met?

My second issue concerns the nature of the standard itself. The Government consulted on the introduction and enforcement of a decent homes standard in the private rented sector in England late last year, and the responses to that consultation obviously fed into the Government amendments we are considering. However, the Government have also committed themselves to a more fundamental review of the standard at some unspecified point in the future. Will the Minister confirm whether that commitment remains in place? If so, will he give us some idea of when that more fundamental review, presumably across both the social rented and private rented sectors, might begin?

The third issue relates to the current enforcement regime for the housing health and safety rating system. The regime is primary means by which local authorities can tackle poor property conditions and compel prompt action from landlords who do not fulfil their responsibilities to provide homes free from dangerously hazardous conditions. We take it from the Government amendments that while the new decent homes standard for the private rented sector will be located in part 1 of the Housing Act 2004, it will not necessarily be the same thing as the HHSRS, which is also in part 1 of that Act. We will presumably need to wait for secondary legislation to work out how, if at all, the decent homes standard and the HHSRS differ, but their workings will need to complement each other.

In answer to a written question that I tabled on 2 May, the then Housing Minister confirmed that a review of the HHSRS, including the statutory operating and enforcement guidance, was under way. Given the obvious implications of that answer for the functioning of the new decent homes standard introduced by this group of Government amendments, will the Minister tell us whether that review has concluded, as the decent homes consultation suggested? If it has, when did it conclude, when will the results be published, and does it remain the Government’s view that any changes will require further legislation? The status and outcome of the review of the HHSRS and its associated statutory, operating and enforcement guidance are important because that guidance is applied when local authorities consider using their statutory powers to remedy defective housing conditions, including and especially damp and mould.

That brings me to our new clause 60. When the Social Housing (Regulation) Act 2023 was on Report, the Government tabled and passed, with our support, amendments designed to force social landlords to investigate and fix damp and mould-related health hazards within specified timeframes, with the threat of legal challenge if they do not, owing to the insertion of an implied covenant into tenancy agreements. The provisions were termed Awaab’s law because they were a direct response to the untimely death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from respiratory arrest, as a result of prolonged exposure to mould in the rented Rochdale Boroughwide Housing property in which he and his family lived. Although enactment of the new requirements is dependent on secondary legislation, with the consultation having closed last week we are hopeful that the necessary statutory instrument will soon be forthcoming. We look forward to its enactment so that social landlords who continue to drag their feet over dangerous damp and mould will face the full force of the law.

New clause 60 would simply extend Awaab’s law to the private rented sector by amending the relevant section of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the reasoning behind that is straightforward. The Government were right to introduce Awaab’s law in the social housing sector, but the problem of debilitating damp and mould, and landlords who fail to investigate such hazards and make necessary repairs, is not confined to social rented homes.

A Citizens Advice report published in February made it clear that the private rented sector has widespread problems with damp, mould and cold, driven by the poor energy efficiency of privately rented homes—an issue that we are minded to raise later in the Bill’s proceedings. The report went on to evidence the fact that 1.6 million children in England currently live in cold, damp or mouldy privately rented homes. In the face of such a pervasive problem, we can think of no justification whatsoever for restricting Awaab’s law purely to the social housing sector. We hope that the Government will agree and accept new clause 60, because we can think of no reason whatsoever why they would resist doing so.

Before I conclude, I want to touch briefly on a final issue in relation to this group of amendments. We welcome the inclusion of supported exempt accommodation in a decent homes standard and part 1 of the Housing Act 2004. We believe that will resolve an issue of concern that we flagged in the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill Committee—namely, the loophole that exists, and is being exploited by unscrupulous providers, as a result of non-profit-making providers of supported exempt accommodation being able to let properties at market rents that are eligible for housing benefit support, on the basis that “more than minimal” care, support or supervision is being provided, without those properties coming within the scope of consumer regulation.

The inclusion of temporary accommodation is also welcome, but it is slightly more problematic, because local authorities are responsible both for enforcing part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and for procuring sufficient temporary accommodation to meet their duty to prevent and relieve homelessness. As such, while there may not be a legal conflict of interest, there is certainly a potential practical conflict of interest, as local authorities will be forced to weigh the case for any potential enforcement action, outside the scope of the contract in question, against the need to retain private landlords as an ongoing source of desperately needed temporary accommodation. It is for precisely that reason that we tried to convince the Government, in the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill Committee, to have temporary accommodation regulated by a third party, such as the Regulator of Social Housing.

The Government amendments will undoubtedly help to improve the quality of some temporary accommodation, and the inclusion of temporary accommodation in a decent homes standard and part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 is to be welcomed for that reason. However, we encourage the Government to consider whether they might go further. For example—here, I again commend my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North for her Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018—could the Government extend section 9A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to also cover properties occupied under licences as homelessness temporary accommodation? I would welcome the Minister’s thoughts on that, and I look forward to his response to new clause 60 and all the other issues that I have raised regarding this group of amendments.

Let me address the hon. Gentleman’s point about local authorities and their ability to enforce. We will establish a new duty on landlords to ensure that their properties meet the decent homes standard. For landlords who fail to take reasonably practicable steps to keep their properties free of serious hazard, local councils will be able to issue fines of up to £5,000. That will encourage those landlords who do not already do so to proactively manage their properties, which will allow local councils to target their enforcement more effectively on a small minority of irresponsible and criminal landlords.

We will also explore requiring landlords to register compliance with the decent homes standard on the property portal. That will support local councils in identifying non-decent properties to target through their enforcement activity. As I have already said in response to different parts of the Bill, we will also do a full new burdens assessment for local authorities, and where there is a new burden, they will be resourced to fund that.

On the hon. Gentleman’s questions about the HHSRS review, the simple answer is that we will publish that in due course. Secondary legislation obviously needs to coincide with that, so I do not have anything further to add at this point. However, I am happy to write to him in further detail on that. Similarly, I will commit to writing to him on on the DHS review too.

The hon. Member is trying to press me for a specific timeframe, but I am unable to give him that commitment today.

I thank the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich for tabling new clause 60. The tragic case of Awaab Ishak’s death has thrown into sharp relief the need for the Government to continue our mission to rebalance the relationship between landlords and tenants in this country. It is right that all tenants across both sectors should expect safe and decent homes from their landlords. However, our focus for the private rented sector is to strengthen the enforcement of standards by local housing authorities, as well as introducing new means of redress through the PRS ombudsman.

We do not consider it to be of interest to private rented sector tenants to introduce a further route for potential litigation and enforcement. Private tenants already have rights when it comes to repairs in their home and the safety of their home. Private landlords are required to make sure that their homes are free from the most serious health and safety hazards. If hazards are present, the local housing authority can issue an improvement notice requiring them to be remedied within a specific time. Landlords who fail to comply can be prosecuted or fined up to £30,000. Additionally, if tenants consider that their rented home is not fit for human habitation, they can seek remedy through the courts under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, to which the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich referred.

Our focus is on strengthening the new system through the Bill. As I have just set out, we intend to introduce a decent homes standard in the private rented sector for the first time. The Government’s amendment to introduce the relevant provisions will place a stronger duty on landlords to keep their properties free from serious hazards, and allow local housing authorities to take enforcement action if private rented homes fail to meet decent homes standards. Through the Bill, we are also introducing a private rented sector ombudsman, which will be able to help private tenants to resolve repair issues quickly and for free if their landlord has not acted appropriately to remedy an issue within a reasonable timeframe.

Through existing legislation and new measures introduced by the Bill, private rented sector landlords will be held to account for providing safe and decent homes, and for providing timely repairs. We do not consider that it would be in the interest of private rented sector tenants to introduce a further route for potential litigation.

Before the Minister sits down, will he deal with the issue of licences? Those of us who deal with a large number of people in homeless accommodation know that those in temporary accommodation, whose accommodation is held under licence, often endure the worst conditions of all, and very little of this legislation currently applies to them. Will he bring something forward?

I am happy to have that conversation with the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich at a later date. If there are specific points that I have not addressed, I am happy to write to her, but I ask the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich to withdraw the new clause.

I welcome that response from the Minister. With regard to Government amendments, I thank him for what he said about the HHSRS and the more fundamental review of the decent homes standard across both tenures. If he has any further detail on that, I would welcome it. I particularly welcome the implied suggestion that the registration of a decent homes standard, when it is forthcoming, will form part of what is required for landlords to submit on the portal. That is a very good idea, and in that way we could help to drive up standards by making it part of the general information that needs to be submitted as part of registration with the database. That is very welcome.

On Awaab’s law and new clause 60, I have to say to the Minister that he gave a particularly unconvincing answer. I entirely understand that when it comes to standards, the Government’s focus is on the measures in the Bill. We all want to see local authorities able to enforce properly, and we all want to see the ombudsman provide a mechanism for redress. However, I still fail to understand—I do not think the Minister responded to this point—why the Government believe that Awaab’s law is appropriate for the social rented sector, but not for the private rented sector.

I will just make this point. The Minister said that the Government do not think it is of interest to tenants; I would be very interested to know what surveys the Government have done of tenants to find out their views on this matter, because I am certainly not aware of any such evidence. I think it would be of real interest to tenants if their landlords could be forced to respond within specific timeframes to sufficiently serious cases of damp and mould, as Awaab’s law provides for the social rented sector, with the threat of legal challenge as a stock response. I am happy to give way, but I find the Minister’s arguments on this point quite unconvincing. If these measures are appropriate for the social rented sector, with all the other measures in place in that sector, they should be appropriate for the private rented sector.

I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that there is an obvious difference between a large social housing sector landlord, which has maintenance teams that can quickly act to address an issue, and an individual landlord, who may have only one or two properties, and may not have a wealth of skill behind them to address such issues in the timeframes that we hope to set out for social landlords. As I said, local authorities can request timely changes to properties.

I thank the Minister for that answer. I fully accept that there is a difference between a large registered social landlord, and a mum-and-dad landlord, who might own only one or two buy-to-let properties. However, we should not therefore say that it is acceptable for the kinds of cases that Awaab’s law would cover, if extended to the private sector, to go on unchallenged. I am not satisfied that there are existing powers to challenge those cases. If there were such powers in the social rented sector, the Government would not have needed to bring forward Awaab’s law. Actually, if the Government were properly resourcing local authorities to enforce, Awaab’s law might not be necessary, but the Government deemed it necessary in the social rented sector.

As the Bill demonstrates, the difference between the private rented sector and the social sector will break down to some extent, whether as a result of the ombudsman, who will cover both sectors, or other measures. We think the law should cover both sectors, and I find the Minister’s response unconvincing. I will press new clause 60 to a Division.

It is worth pointing out that the Minister himself said that the condition of the housing stock in the private rented sector was now considered to be worse than the condition of the housing stock in the social rented sector. Surely the Minister should therefore argue that we need tougher regulation, because regulation is failing more badly in the private sector than in the social sector, but he seems not to have followed through on his argument.

My hon. Friend is right. We know that standards in the social rented sector are inadequate; that is why the Government brought forward their recent legislation, which we supported. Things are worse in the private rented sector. I quoted the Citizens Advice statistic: 1.6 million children are in damp, mouldy or cold homes. If anything, there is a stronger case for Awaab’s law applying to the private rented sector than to the social, but the Minister is trying to have it both ways, for the obvious reason that the Government do not want to accept our new clause. I encourage them to go away and think. We will press the new clause to a vote. If the measures are good enough for the social rented sector, surely they are good enough for tenants in the private rented sector; I have seen no evidence that those tenants are not interested in the tougher powers that Awaab’s law would provide.

Finally, I would welcome any further detail from the Minister on whether there is a need to go further on licensed temporary accommodation properties.

Question put and negatived.

Clause 63 accordingly disagreed to.

Clause 54

Crown application

Amendments made: 97, in clause 54, page 55, line 15, leave out “(4), this Part” and insert “(4D), this Act”.

This amendment provides for a default rule which will have the effect that, subject to any specific provision about them, the new clauses which make freestanding provision in the Bill will bind the Crown. This is intended to mean that the Crown will be bound by the new clauses containing prohibitions on discriminatory practices in relation to tenancies and (subject to exceptions in Amendment 98 for powers of entry) the new investigatory powers.

Amendment 98, in clause 54, page 55, line 30, at end insert—

“(4A) Sections (Business premises: entry without warrant), (Requirements where occupiers are on business premises entered without warrant), (Business premises: warrant authorising entry), (Business premises: entry under warrant), (Power to require production of documents following entry), (Power to seize documents following entry), (Access to seized documents), (Appeal against detention of documents), (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant), (Requirements where occupiers are on residential premises entered without warrant), (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry), (Suspected residential tenancy: entry under warrant) and (Powers of accompanying persons) do not bind the Crown.

(4B) Nothing in section (Offences) makes the Crown criminally liable.

(4C) The High Court may declare unlawful any act or omission for which the Crown would be criminally liable under section (Offences) but for subsection (4B).

(4D) An amendment or repeal made by this Act binds the Crown to the extent that the provision amended or repealed binds the Crown (but in the case of an amendment of the 1988 Act, this is subject to the amendments made by section 13).”

This amendment provides that the new clauses conferring powers of entry do not bind the Crown. It also provides that the offences applying in relation to the new clauses about requiring information do not make the Crown criminally liable (but can lead to a declaration of unlawfulness) and deals with Crown application of amendments made by the Bill to other legislation.

Amendment 99, in clause 54, page 55, line 31, leave out

“Subsection (2) does not affect”

and insert

“Nothing in this section affects”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 98.

Clause 54, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered,

That clause 54 be transferred to the end of line 30 on page 61. —(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 97. It moves clause 54 into Part 5 of the Bill (general provisions). This is necessary because once clause 54 deals with the application to the Crown of new provisions added to the Bill, it will no longer relate only to Part 2, and therefore needs to be moved out of that Part.

Clause 55

Application to Parliament

Amendments made: 100, in clause 55, page 55, line 36, leave out “this Part” and insert

“Part 2 (and Part 3 so far as relating to Part 2)”.

This amendment is consequential on the motion to transfer clause 55. It also makes it clear that the general provisions about enforcement action in Part 3 of the Bill apply in relation to any tenancies and licences referred to in clause 55.

Amendment 101, in clause 55, page 56, line 16, at end insert—

“(2) The following provisions do not apply in relation to premises that are occupied for the purposes of either House of Parliament—

(a) Chapter 2A of Part 1;

(b) sections (Power of local housing authority to require information from relevant person), (Business premises: entry without warrant), (Requirements where occupiers are on business premises entered without warrant), (Business premises: warrant authorising entry), (Business premises: entry under warrant), (Power to require production of documents following entry), (Power to seize documents following entry), (Access to seized documents), (Appeal against detention of documents), (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant), (Requirements where occupiers are on residential premises entered without warrant), (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry), (Suspected residential tenancy: entry under warrant) and (Powers of accompanying persons).

(3) Nothing in section (Offences) makes the Corporate Officer of the House of Commons or the Corporate Officer of the House of Lords criminally liable.

(4) The High Court may declare unlawful any act or omission for which the Corporate Officer of the House of Commons or the Corporate Officer of the House of Lords would be criminally liable under section (Offences) but for subsection (3).

(5) Nothing in this section affects the criminal liability of relevant members of the House of Lords staff or of the House of Commons staff (as defined by sections 194 and 195 of the Employment Rights Act 1996).”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment provides that the new Chapter containing prohibitions on discriminatory practices in relation to tenancies and the new clauses on investigatory powers (except the power to require information from any person) do not apply in relation to premises occupied for the purposes of Parliament. It also provides that nothing in NC41 makes the Corporate Officers of the Houses criminally liable (though there can be a declaration of unlawfulness).

Clause 55, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered,

That clause 55 be transferred to the end of line 30 on page 61. —(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 101. It moves clause 55 into Part 5 of the Bill (general provisions). This is necessary because once clause 55 deals with the application to Parliament of the new clauses relating to discriminatory practices and to investigatory powers, it will no longer relate only to Part 2 of the Bill.

Clause 56

Regulations

Amendments made: 102, in clause 56, page 56, line 18, leave out “Part” and insert “Act”.

This amendment provides for the provisions about regulations in clause 56(1) to apply in relation to regulations under the new clauses expected to be added to the Bill.

Amendment 103, in clause 56, page 56, line 28, leave out “Part” and insert “Act”.

This amendment provides for the provision for regulations to be made by statutory instrument to cover all the regulations under the Bill.

Amendment 104, in clause 56, page 56, line 29, after “section” insert

“(Power of the Secretary of State to amend Chapter 2A to protect persons of other descriptions),”.

This amendment provides for regulations under the new clause inserted by NC15 to be subject to affirmative procedure in Parliament.

Amendment 105, in clause 56, page 56, line 33, leave out “Part” and insert

“Act made by the Secretary of State”.

This amendment provides for a default rule that all regulations made by the Secretary of State under the Bill are to be subject to negative procedure in Parliament. The reference to the Secretary of State is included because under other amendments there are regulation-making powers for the Welsh Ministers which are to be subject to procedure in Senedd Cymru rather than Parliament.

Amendment 106, in clause 56, page 56, line 35, at end insert—

“(6) This section does not apply to regulations under section (Power of Welsh Ministers to make consequential provision) or this Part.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on the motion to transfer clause 56. It ensures that, once clause 56 is moved into Part 5 of the Bill by that amendment, the clause will apply only to the substantive regulation-making powers under the Bill and not to any regulations made under the general powers in Part 5 (Part 5 already contains specific provision about procedure etc in relation to the general powers).

Clause 56, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered,

That clause 56 be transferred to the end of line 30 on page 61. —(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendments 102, 103, 104 and 105. It moves clause 56 into Part 5 of the Bill (general provisions). This is necessary because once clause 56 deals with regulations under provisions outside of Part 2 of the Bill, it will no longer relate only to that Part.

Clause 64

Meaning of “the 1988 Act”

Amendment made: 107, in clause 64, page 61, line 30, after first “Act” insert—

“‘local housing authority’ means a district council, a county council in England for an area for which there is no district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly;”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment inserts a definition of “local housing authority” for the purposes of the Bill as a whole.

Clause 64, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 65

Power to make consequential provision

Amendments made: 108, in clause 65, page 62, line 1, at end insert—

“(2A) The power to make regulations under this section includes power to make—

(a) supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving provision;

(b) different provision for different purposes.”

This amendment allows regulations made by the Secretary of State containing provision that is consequential on the Bill to include supplementary or incidental provision and to make different provision for different purposes.

Amendment 109, in clause 65, page 62, line 2, leave out from “power”, in the first place, to “for” in line 3 and insert—

“under subsection (2A)(a) to make transitional provision includes power to provide”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 108.

Clause 65, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 66 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 67

Commencement and application

I beg to move amendment 169, in clause 67, page 62, line 21, at end insert—

“, save that section 2(b) comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed only to the extent that it repeals section 21 of the Housing Act 1988; such repeal will not affect the validity of any notices served under that provision on or before the day on which this Act is passed and the provisions of that section will continue to apply to any claims issued in respect of such a notice”.

This amendment would ensure that the abolition of section 21 evictions would come into force on Royal Assent, with saving provisions for any notices served before that date.

In opening the Committee’s fifth sitting for the Opposition, I set out in exhaustive detail our concerns about the huge uncertainty that surrounds the implementation of chapter 1 of part 1 of the Bill as a result of the Government’s recent decision to tie the implementation of the new tenancy system directly to ill-defined court improvements. As I argued, because of the Government’s last-minute change of approach, private tenants have no idea when the new tenancy system will come into force. They do not even know what constitutes the requisite progress on court reform that Ministers deem necessary before the new system comes into force.

At that point in our proceedings, I put three questions to the Minister. First, do the Government believe that the county court system for resolving most disputes between landlords and tenants is performing so badly that reform is a necessary precondition of bringing chapter 1 of part 1 into force? Secondly, if the Government’s view is that reform of the court system is absolutely necessary prior to chapter 1 coming into force, what is the precise nature of the improvements that are deemed to be required? Thirdly, what is the Government’s implementation timeline for those court improvements? The Minister’s terse response to the clause 1 stand part debate provided no convincing answers whatsoever to those questions; indeed, he failed to respond to almost all the detailed and cogent points of concern raised by Opposition Members in that debate. I hope that he will take the opportunity to respond to them in debate on this amendment, and thus provide the Committee with the assurances that were sought, but not secured, earlier in our proceedings.

Toward the end of the debate on clause 1 stand part, I put a question to the Minister about clause 67. I asked why the two-stage transition process that the clause provides for, with precise starting dates for new and existing tenancies to be determined by the Secretary of State, does not afford the Government enough time to make the necessary improvements to the courts. The Minister’s reply was:

“We will come on to that point when we discuss clause 67.”––[Official Report, Renters (Reform) Public Bill Committee, 21 November 2023; c. 159.]

Well, here we are, Minister, and we would still like to know not only why the Government believe that court reform is a necessary precondition of enacting chapter 1 of part 1, what improvements they believe are necessary, and the timeline for their implementation, but why the two-stage transition process that this clause facilitates is not sufficient to get the job done. We really do deserve some answers from the Government today.

I remind the Committee that clause 67 would give the Government an incredible amount of leeway on when the new system comes into force. It allows Ministers to determine an initial implementation date at any point after Royal Assent, after which all new tenancies will be periodic and governed by the new rules, and also to determine a second implementation date, which must be at least 12 months after the first, after which all existing tenancies will transition to the new rules. Although we want firm assurances that the two-stage process will not be postponed indefinitely pending unspecified court improvements, we take the view that the proposed two-stage process is the right approach. It would clearly not be sensible to enact the whole of chapter 1 of part 1 immediately on Royal Assent. Additional time will be required for, for example, new prescribed forms for the new grounds for possession.

However, landlords and tenants need certainty about precisely when the Government’s manifesto commitment to abolish section 21 no-fault evictions will be enacted. Amendment 169 seeks to provide that certainty. It would ensure that section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 was repealed on the day that the Bill received Royal Assent, with saving provisions for any notices served before that date, so that they remain valid and of lawful effect. By ensuring that section 21 is repealed on the day the Act is formally approved, we would prevent a significant amount of hardship, and the risk of private tenants being made homeless. We urge the Government to accept the amendment.

I want to press the Minister on a final point that I raised about clause 67 during our clause 2 stand part debate. As is clearly specified in guidance published by the Government, they propose a minimum period of 12 months between the first and second implementation dates, but there is no maximum period, so the Bill would allow for all new tenancies to become periodic, but then there could be an extensive period—perhaps even an indefinite one—before existing tenancies transitioned to the new rules.

We believe that the Bill should specify a maximum, as well as a minimum, amount of time between the first and second implementation dates. The Minister agreed to write to me on that issue, but unless I have missed some correspondence, that has not been directly addressed in any of the letters I have received thus far. I would be grateful if he could give me a commitment today that the Government will revisit this issue before Report. Otherwise, we will be minded to return to it then.

On the hon. Gentleman’s final point, I fully accept his desire for a maximum period. The reason we have not set a maximum is to give us as much flexibility as possible. There is no real incentive for a landlord today to try to get around the system. Were a landlord to introduce a new three-year fixed-term tenancy agreement to try to game the system and avoid the six or 12-month time limit, that would simply block the landlord, and they would not be able to use the powers that section 21 affords them currently. That would be restrictive to that landlord as well as to the tenant, so we do not see a situation where a landlord would try to subvert the rule.

That is an interesting point. Let me probe the Minister on it. There is no maximum period for the implementation of the second date—in other words, there is no period by which the Government have to have brought forward the date when all existing tenancies are converted. Is he saying that between the first implementation date and the second, when all existing tenancies remain as is, other measures in the Bill will apply to them? That is the logic of his argument about landlords not gaming the system. I do not think we are talking about landlords gaming the system; we are talking about the Government having too much leeway to postpone the conversion of existing tenancies to the new system.

The vast majority of fixed-term tenancies will be a 12-month agreement, so they would naturally roll on to being a periodic tenancy at the end of that fixed-term agreement. It is unrealistic to expect there to be tenancy agreements that are longer than three years, so they would all naturally convert to this new system anyway. We want to create a gradual process for all tenancies to join the new system; otherwise, it would cause confusion and perhaps overload the portal. If that does not satisfy the hon. Gentleman, I am happy to write to him setting that out further.

On amendment 169, I understand that the hon. Gentleman’s intention is to gain more clarity on the timeline for implementation of our reforms. However, the amendment would mean that on the day of Royal Assent, section 21 would be removed immediately. There would be no transition period; no time, once the final detail of the legislation was known, to make sure the courts were ready for the changes; and no time for the sector to prepare.

As we have said a number of times in Committee, these are the most significant reforms of the private rented sector in 30 years, and it is critical that we get them right. I am as wedded to ensuring that section 21 is abolished at the earliest opportunity as the hon. Member is, in order to provide vital security for tenants, but we have to ensure that the system is ready.

It might be helpful for me to explain how we are improving the courts, and what needs to happen to prepare the courts for the new tenancy system. Court rules and systems need updating to reflect the new law; there is no way that this can be avoided. Furthermore, we have already fully committed to a digital system that will make the court process more efficient and fit for the modern age. Let me reassure the Committee that we are doing as much as possible before the legislative process concludes. The design phase of our possession process digitisation project is under way, and has more than £1 million of funding. That will pave the way for the development and build of a new digital service.

We are also working to tackle concerns about bailiff delays, including by providing for automated payments for debtors. That will reduce the need for doorstep visits, so that bailiffs can prioritise possession enforcement. We are going further with the Ministry of Justice and His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in exploring improvements to bailiff recruitment and retention policies; we touched on that. It would simply be a waste of taxpayers’ money to spend millions of pounds building a new system when we do not have certainty on the legislation underpinning it. That is why we will set out more details and implementation dates in due course.

Let me be clear that this is not a delaying tactic. There are 2.4 million landlords. Urban and rural landlords, their representatives and business tell us that they have concerns about delays in the courts. We cannot simply ignore that. We have always been clear that implementation would be phased, so that the sector has time to adjust, and we committed to giving notice of the implementation dates in the White Paper last year.

How many people and families does the Minister think will be evicted while they wait for reform of the courts, or wait for them to go digital by default? What is the timescale for digital by default? There are literally hundreds of families a day being evicted through section 21 no-fault evictions; the numbers are starting to go through the roof. That is a massive cost to the state and taxpayers.

Of course it is, and I entirely accept the hon. Gentleman’s point. However, every one of the 11 million renters in this country has a landlord. We have had representations from all the organisations representing the 2.4 million landlords in this country saying that they are concerned about the courts. Trying to introduce a new system and overriding the concerns of landlords would be unwise.

The Minister says that this is not a delaying tactic. I take him at his word. Will he therefore explain why the two-stage transition process provided for by the clause does not provide the Government with enough time to make the necessary improvements? He said that the improvements are already under way, and that huge progress is being made in a number of areas. Why is that not enough time for him to say, “By the second implementation date, we will have got the courts to where they need to be, and we can give tenants the assurance that the new system will be in place at that point”?

As I have outlined, we need to give time for the courts to improve. We need to give them the space to do that. I do not think that the measures in the Bill mentioned by the hon. Gentleman are adequate to do that. However, if there is another mechanism for us to ensure that the courts are prepared before the implementation of the Bill, I am happy to discuss that with him further. I remind all hon. Members that this is the biggest change to the sector in a generation; it is important that we take the time to get it right. The Government are ensuring that we have a smooth transition to the new system, and I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.

I thank the Minister for that response. That is probably the most detail we have had on what the Government see as the necessary court improvements, but, to be frank, it is not enough detail. There are no metrics in there by which we can measure the reform that he talked about.

The Minister mentioned that the Government want the reforms introduced at the earliest possible opportunity. We have heard that they are targeting bailiff delays, processes and the new digital system. I take it from his response that the implementation of an entirely new digital system relating to possession grounds is a prerequisite to enacting part 1 of chapter 1. However, there is still too much uncertainty about what constitutes a necessary reform, and we are not convinced that the two-stage transition process provided for by the Bill does not afford the Government enough time to get the courts to a point at which we can introduce the new system. Indeed, in the evidence sessions, we heard different points of view on whether we had not better introduce the measures in the Bill and then see how the courts respond to the new system before phasing it in, so we remain unconvinced.

There is a fundamental point of difference between us on the abolition of section 21. We are deeply concerned about the number of people put at risk of homelessness while the Government have delayed bringing the legislation forward. We are deeply concerned about the additional people who will be at risk of homelessness, and who will be made homeless, while the Government get on with court improvements that, frankly, should already have been delivered, so that the Bill could be ready to go. We very much feel that tenants and landlords need certainty about precisely when section 21 will be abolished, so I will press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Amendments made: 110, in clause 67, page 63, line 19, leave out

“Chapter 2 of Part 1 comes”

and insert “The following come”.

This amendment, together with Amendment 111, provides for the commencement two months after the Bill is passed of the new clauses relating to abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies and to investigatory powers for local housing authorities.

Amendment 111, in clause 67, page 63, line 20, at end insert—

“(a) Chapter 2 of Part 1;

(b) section (Abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies);

(c) sections (Power of local housing authority to require information from relevant person) to (Client money protection schemes: investigatory powers of local authorities).”

This amendment, together with Amendment 110, provides for the commencement two months after the Bill is passed of the new clauses relating to abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies and the new clauses relating to investigatory powers.

Amendment 112, in clause 67, page 63, line 23, at end insert—

“(ba) section (Decent homes standard) and Schedule (Decent homes standard), for the purposes of making regulations;”.

This amendment provides for the powers to make regulations under NC20 and NS1 to come into force on Royal Assent.

Amendment 113, in clause 67, page 63, line 27, leave out

“Chapter 3 of Part 1”

and insert

“Chapter 2A of Part 1 and section 22”.

This amendment provides for the new Chapter expected to be formed of new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies to be commenced by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It also makes a change in consequence of the new clause relating to abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies, which is expected to be inserted into Chapter 3 of Part 1. Unlike clause 22, of which that Chapter currently consists, the new clause will not come into force by regulations (see Amendments 110 and 111).

Amendment 114, in clause 67, page 63, line 29, leave out “sections” and insert

“section 52 and Schedule 3 and sections (Rent repayment orders),”.

This amendment provides for NC21 to be brought into force by regulations made by the Secretary of State. It also ensures that the Bill will continue to provide for clause 52 to be brought into force in that way once it is transposed from Part 2 to Part 3 of the Bill by the motion to transfer clause 52.

Amendment 115, in clause 67, page 63, line 30, leave out paragraph (d).

This amendment is consequential on the removal of clause 63 from the Bill.

Amendment 116, in clause 67, page 63, line 30, at end insert—

“(da) section (Decent homes standard) and Schedule (Decent homes standard), for purposes other than making regulations.”

This amendment provides for regulations to bring NC20 and NS1 into force to the extent that they did not come into force on Royal Assent.

Amendment 125, in clause 67, page 63, line 30, at end insert—

“(10A) Chapter 2B comes into force on such day as the Welsh Ministers by order made by statutory instrument appoint.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment provides for the new Chapter 2B expected to be formed of the clauses relating to discriminatory treatment of people with children and benefits claimants in Wales to be commenced by order of the Welsh Ministers.

Clause 67, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4

Application of Chapter 1 of Part 1 to existing tenancies: transitional provision

Amendments made: 117, in schedule 4, page 82, line 29, leave out “sections 9 and 11” and insert

“sections (Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information) and (Other duties)”.

This amendment is consequential on NC3 and NC4. It updates section references to refer to the new clauses inserted by those amendments instead of existing clauses.

Amendment 118, in schedule 4, page 82, line 31, leave out “16F(1)” and insert “16H(1)”.

This amendment is consequential on NC4 and NC5. It updates the new section numbering to reflect the fact that those new clauses insert new sections earlier in the 1988 Act.

Amendment 119, in schedule 4, page 82, line 37, at end insert—

“(2A) Where a landlord referred to in sub-paragraph (2) has entered into a contract with a person which requires that person to ensure compliance with that sub-paragraph (whether or not it is referred to individually), sub-paragraph (2) also applies to that person, as it applies to the landlord.”

This amendment is consequential on NC3. It makes provision for transitional cases corresponding to new section 16D(6) inserted by that clause.

Amendment 120, in schedule 4, page 83, line 3, leave out

“16D(3) of the 1988 Act (inserted by section 9)”

and insert

“16D(4) of the 1988 Act (inserted by section (Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information))”.

This amendment is consequential on NC3. It updates section references to refer to the new clauses inserted by those amendments instead of existing clauses.

Amendment 121, in schedule 4, page 83, line 4, leave out “an assured tenancy” and insert

“the tenancy or on the day on which the tenancy begins”.

This amendment is consequential on NC3. It ensures that the transitional modifications in Schedule 4 track the wording of the new clause inserted by that amendment.

Amendment 122, in schedule 4, page 83, line 16, leave out “16F or 16H” and insert “16H or 16J”.

This amendment is consequential on NC4 and NC5. It updates the new section numbering to reflect the fact that those new clauses insert new sections earlier in the 1988 Act.

Amendment 123, in schedule 4, page 83, line 17, leave out “16G” and insert “16I”.

This amendment is consequential on NC4 and NC5. It updates the new section numbering to reflect the fact that those new clauses insert new sections earlier in the 1988 Act.

Amendment 124, in schedule 4, page 83, line 25, at end insert—

Schedule 1: redevelopment ground

9A In relation to an existing tenancy, paragraph (ab) in Ground 6 in Schedule 2 to the 1988 Act is to be read as if for ‘before the beginning of the tenancy or on the day on which it began’ there were substituted ‘before the extended application date (within the meaning given by section 67(4) of the Renters (Reform) Act 2024)’.”—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 13. It makes corresponding provision for transitional cases.

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 68

Transitional provision

Amendments made: 126, in clause 68, page 63, line 33, at end insert—

“(A1) The Welsh Ministers may by order made by statutory instrument make transitional or saving provision in connection with the coming into force of any provision of Chapter 2B of Part 1.”

This amendment enables the Welsh Ministers by order to make transitional or saving provision in connection with the commencement of Chapter 2B expected to be formed of the new clauses relating to discriminatory treatment of people with children and benefits claimants in Wales.

Amendment 127, in clause 68, page 63, line 36, after “any” insert “other”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 126. It removes the provision that the Welsh Ministers can make under that section from the ambit of the Secretary of State’s power to make transitional or saving provision in connection with the rest of the Bill, so that there is no overlap between the powers of the Welsh Ministers and those of the Secretary of State.

Amendment 128, in clause 68, page 63, line 37, at end insert—

“(1A) The power to make an order under subsection (A1) includes power to provide for a provision of Chapter 2B to apply (with or without modifications) in relation to occupation contracts granted, renewed or continued, or advertising begun, before the date on which the provision comes into force.”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 126. It makes provision equivalent to subsection (2) of clause 68 in relation to the Welsh Ministers’ power to make transitional or saving provision in connection with the new Chapter 2B as a result of that amendment.

Amendment 129, in clause 68, page 64, line 3, leave out

“power to make regulations under subsection (1) includes”

and insert

“powers under subsections (A1) and (1) include”.—(Jacob Young.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 126. It ensures that subsection (3) of clause 68 applies in relation to the Welsh Ministers’ power to make transitional or saving provision as a result of that amendment.

Clause 68, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 69 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause 1

Factors for court considering granting possession order for anti-social behaviour

“In the 1988 Act, in section 9A—

(a) in subsection (2), after paragraph (c) insert—

‘(d) whether the person against whom the order is sought has co-operated with any attempt by the landlord to encourage the conduct to cease.’;

(b) after subsection (2) insert—

‘(3) Where the person against whom the order is sought is a tenant occupying an HMO, in considering effects mentioned in subsection (2)(a) the court must have particular regard to the effect on other occupiers who share with that person accommodation or facilities within the HMO.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) occupiers of an HMO share accommodation or facilities if they are each entitled to use that accommodation or those facilities under the terms of a tenancy or licence to occupy.

(5) In subsection (3) “HMO” has the same meaning as in Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 (see section 77 of that Act).’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause amends the factors for the court to take into account when considering whether to grant a possession order on the discretionary anti-social behaviour ground of possession. It adds co-operation with any engagement from the landlord as a factor and adds a requirement for the court to consider in particular effects on other tenants of the same HMO. It is expected to be inserted after clause 3.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 2

Repayment of rent paid in advance

“In the 1988 Act, after section 14ZB (inserted by section 6 of this Act) insert—

14ZC Repayment of rent paid in advance

(1) A person who paid rent in advance as a tenant under an assured tenancy is entitled to be repaid any part of that rent that relates to days falling after the end of the tenancy.

(2) Subsection (1) does not affect any other entitlement to payment arising at the end of an assured tenancy.’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for rent paid in advance to be returned to the tenant at the end of an assured tenancy, to the extent that it relates to times at which the tenancy will not exist because it has ended. This overrides a common law rule that rent in advance cannot be apportioned on a time basis. The clause is expected to be inserted after clause 6.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 3

Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information

“In the 1988 Act, after section 16C (inserted by section 7 of this Act) insert—

‘Duties of landlords and persons acting on their behalf

16D Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information

(1) This section applies to an assured tenancy other than—

(a) a tenancy of social housing (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008) under which the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing, or

(b) a tenancy granted by implication, after an implied surrender of a previous tenancy between the same parties, where the implied surrender and grant result from an agreement to vary the terms of the previous tenancy.

(2) The landlord under a tenancy to which this section applies must give the tenant a written statement of—

(a) such terms of the tenancy as are specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State, whether in the form of an agreement in writing between the landlord and tenant or a record of terms otherwise agreed, and

(b) any other information in writing about any of the following which is required to be given by regulations made by the Secretary of State—

(i) the tenancy;

(ii) the dwelling-house let on the tenancy;

(iii) the tenant;

(iv) the landlord;

(v) the rights of the landlord or the tenant in relation to the tenancy or the dwelling-house let on it.

(3) The landlord may include in a statement under subsection (2) a statement of the landlord’s wish to be able to recover possession on one or more of Grounds 1B, 2ZA, 2ZB, 4, 4A, 5 to 5G or 18 in Schedule 2 (for the consequences of specifying a ground mentioned in this subsection in a notice under section 8 where no statement under this subsection is so included, see section 16E(2)(e) and section 16H(1)(a)).

(4) Subject to subsection (5), the statement under subsection (2) must be given before the beginning of the tenancy or on the day on which the tenancy begins.

(5) Where a tenancy to which this section applies—

(a) arises by succession as mentioned in section 39(5), or

(b) is an assured agricultural occupancy in respect of which the agricultural worker condition is fulfilled by virtue of paragraph 3 of Schedule 3,the statement under subsection (2) must be given within the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which the landlord acknowledges the tenant’s right to a tenancy.

(6) Where a landlord has entered into a contract with a person which requires that person to ensure compliance with this section (whether or not this section is referred to individually), subsection (2) also applies to that person, as it applies to the landlord.

(7) Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

(8) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause is intended to replace clause 9. It is different from clause 9 in that it applies to landlords’ contractors as well as landlords, carves out certain tenancies by implication and contains modifications for certain tenancies.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 4

Other duties

“In the 1988 Act, after section 16D (inserted by section (Duty of landlord and contractor to give statement of terms and other information) of this Act) insert—

16E Other duties

(1) This section applies to an assured tenancy other than a tenancy of social housing (within the meaning of Part 2 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008) under which the landlord is a private registered provider of social housing.

(2) A relevant person must not, in relation to a tenancy to which this section applies—

(a) purport to let a dwelling-house on the tenancy for a fixed term (see section 4A),

(b) purport to bring the tenancy to an end orally or by service of a notice to quit (see section 5(1)),

(c) serve on the tenant a document which purports to be a notice under section 8 but is not in the form prescribed under section 45(1) for the purposes of that provision,

(d) rely on a ground in Schedule 2 which the landlord is not entitled to rely on,

(e) where the tenancy is one to which section 16D applies, rely on one or more of Grounds 1B, 2ZA, 2ZB, 4, 4A, 5 to 5G or 18 in Schedule 2 if no statement was given to the tenant under section 16D(3) in respect of them, or

(f) if relying on one or more of Grounds 1, 1A and 6 in Schedule 2, specify in the notice under section 8, or purported notice under section 8, a date earlier than 6 months after the beginning of the tenancy as the earliest date on which proceedings for possession of the dwelling-house would begin.

(3) Where a relevant person relies on Ground 1 or 1A in Schedule 2 in relation to a tenancy to which this section applies, the landlord must not, within the restricted period, let the dwelling-house on a tenancy for a term of 21 years or less.

(4) Where a relevant person relies on Ground 1 or 1A in Schedule 2 in relation to a tenancy to which this section applies, a relevant person in relation to that tenancy must not—

(a) within the restricted period, market the dwelling-house to let on a tenancy for a term of 21 years or less, or

(b) authorise another person to market the dwelling-house to let on a tenancy for a term of 21 years or less, so far as the authorisation would allow that other person to market it within the restricted period.

(5) Where a prohibition in subsection (3) or (4) applies to a person, it continues to apply to that person until the end of the restricted period, whether or not the tenancy continues during that period.

(6) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a person relies on a ground in Schedule 2 in relation to a tenancy where the person serves on the tenant a notice under section 8, or a purported notice under section 8, which specifies that ground;

(b) a landlord is entitled to rely on a ground in Schedule 2 where the landlord can establish the ground.

(7) A breach of subsection (2)(e) does not prevent a court from making an order for possession of the dwelling-house on the ground in question (but see section 16H(1)(a)).

(8) In this section—

“purported notice under section 8” means any document which is not a notice under section 8 but purports to bring an assured tenancy to an end;

“relevant person” , in relation to a tenancy to which this section applies, means—

(a) the landlord, or

(b) a person acting or purporting to act on behalf of the landlord;

“the restricted period”, in relation to a tenancy in relation to which Ground 1 or 1A in Schedule 2 is relied on, means the period beginning with the date on which a notice under section 8, or a purported notice under section 8, is served which specifies that ground and ending—

(a) at the end of the period of three months beginning with the date specified in the notice, or

(b) if earlier, with the date on which any order for possession of the dwelling-house is made.

16F Interpretation of terms related to marketing in section 16E(1)

(1) For the purposes of section 16E a person markets a dwelling-house to let on a tenancy when—

(a) the person advertises that the dwelling-house is or may be available to let on a tenancy, or

(b) in the course of lettings agency work, the person informs any other person that the dwelling is or may be so available.

(2) But subsection (1)(a) does not apply in relation to a person who publishes an advertisement in the course of a business that does not involve lettings agency work if the advertisement has been provided by another person.

(3) For the purposes of this section, “lettings agency work” means things done by a person in the course of a business in response to instructions received from—

(a) a person (“a prospective landlord”) seeking to find another person to whom to let a dwelling-house, or

(b) a person (“a prospective tenant”) seeking to find a dwelling-house to let.

(4) However, “lettings agency work” does not include any of the following things when done by a person who does nothing else within subsection (3)—

(a) publishing advertisements or disseminating information;

(b) providing a means by which a prospective landlord or a prospective tenant can, in response to an advertisement or dissemination of information, make direct contact with a prospective tenant or prospective landlord;

(c) providing a means by which a prospective landlord and a prospective tenant can communicate directly with each other.

(5) “Lettings agency work” also does not include things of a description, or things done by a person of a description, specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the Secretary of State by statutory instrument.

(6) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause is intended to replace clause 10. The key differences are that it applies to persons acting or purporting to act on behalf of landlords, as well as landlords themselves, makes clearer what the period is within which re-letting is prohibited following reliance on Ground 1 or 1A and contains provision consequential on NC3.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 5

Landlords acting through others

“In the 1988 Act, after section 16F (inserted by section (Other duties) of this Act) insert—

16G Landlords acting through others

Nothing in section 16D or 16E prevents a landlord from fulfilling or contravening an obligation through another person acting on their behalf.’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause is consequential on NC3 and NC4 and is expected to be inserted after NC4. It makes clear that the separate duties they impose on landlords’ contractors and on people acting or purporting to act on behalf of landlords are not intended to displace the application of common law principles about agency.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 6

Liability of tenants under assured tenancies for council tax

“In section 6(6) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, in the definition of ‘material interest’—

(a) for ‘or a’ substitute ‘, a’;

(b) after ‘more’ insert ‘or a tenancy that is or was previously an assured tenancy within the meaning of the Housing Act 1988’.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause makes tenants under an assured tenancy continue to be liable for council tax until the end of the tenancy even if they vacate the property and leave it unoccupied before the end of their tenancy. The new clause is expected to be inserted before clause 20.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 7

Accommodation for homeless people under section 199A of the Housing Act 1996

“In section 209 of the Housing Act 1996 (interim accommodation in relation to which an assured tenancy will not normally arise), in subsection (1), after ‘190,’ insert ‘199A,’.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause is consequential on the insertion of section 199A of the Housing Act 1996 by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and restricts the circumstances in which accommodation arranged in pursuance of that section can be an assured tenancy. The new clause is expected to be inserted into Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Bill, after clause 21.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 8

Prohibition of discrimination relating to children

“(1) A relevant person must not, in relation to a dwelling that is to be let on a relevant tenancy—

(a) on the basis that a child would live with or visit a person at the dwelling if the dwelling were the person’s home, prevent the person from—

(i) enquiring whether the dwelling is available for let,

(ii) accessing information about the dwelling,

(iii) viewing the dwelling in order to consider whether to seek to rent it, or

(iv) entering into a tenancy of the dwelling, or

(b) apply a provision, criterion or practice in order to make people who would have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling, if it were their home, less likely to enter into a tenancy of the dwelling than people who would not.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if—

(a) the relevant person can show that the conduct is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or

(b) the relevant person can show that the prospective landlord of the dwelling, or a person who would be a superior landlord in relation to the dwelling, is insured under a contract of insurance—

(i) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(ii) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling or to restrict the circumstances in which such a tenant may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling,

and the conduct is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.

(3) Conduct does not breach the prohibition in subsection (1) if it consists only of—

(a) one or more of the following things done by a person who does nothing in relation to the dwelling that is not mentioned in this paragraph—

(i) publishing advertisements or disseminating information;

(ii) providing a means by which a prospective landlord can communicate directly with a prospective tenant;

(iii) providing a means by which a prospective tenant can communicate directly with a prospective landlord, or

(b) things of a description, or things done by a person of a description, specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause bans landlords and those who act on their behalf or purport to do so from adopting certain discriminatory practices which make it harder for people who have children (or have children visit them) to obtain a relevant tenancy, as defined in NC17. This and other new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies are expected to form a new Chapter 2A of Part 1 of the Bill. Other new clauses make similar provision for Wales.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 9

Prohibition of discrimination relating to benefits status

“(1) A relevant person must not, in relation to a dwelling that is to be let on a relevant tenancy—

(a) on the basis that a person is a benefits claimant, prevent the person from—

(i) enquiring whether the dwelling is available for let,

(ii) accessing information about the dwelling,

(iii) viewing the dwelling in order to consider whether to seek to rent it, or

(iv) entering into a tenancy of the dwelling, or

(b) apply a provision, criterion or practice in order to make benefits claimants less likely to enter into a tenancy of the dwelling than people who are not benefits claimants.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if the relevant person can show that the prospective landlord of the dwelling, or a person who would be a superior landlord in relation to the dwelling, is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy from being a benefits claimant,

and the conduct is a means of preventing the prospective landlord from breaching that term.

(3) Conduct does not breach the prohibition in subsection (1) if it consists only of—

(a) one or more of the following things done by a person who does nothing in relation to the dwelling that is not mentioned in this paragraph—

(i) publishing advertisements or disseminating information;

(ii) providing a means by which a prospective landlord can communicate directly with a prospective tenant;

(iii) providing a means by which a prospective tenant can communicate directly with a prospective landlord, or

(b) things of a description, or things done by a person of a description, specified for the purposes of this section in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause bans landlords and those who act on their behalf or purport to do so from adopting certain discriminatory practices which make it harder for people who are on benefits to obtain a relevant tenancy. This and other new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies are expected to form a new Chapter 2A of Part 1 of the Bill. Other new clauses make similar provision for Wales.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Financial penalties

“(1) A local housing authority may impose a financial penalty under this subsection on a person if satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person has breached a requirement imposed by section (Prohibition of discrimination relating to children) or section (Prohibition of discrimination relating to benefits status).

(2) More than one financial penalty may be imposed under subsection (1) on the same person in respect of the same conduct only if—

(a) the conduct continues after the end of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the previous penalty in respect of the conduct was imposed on the person, unless the person appeals against the decision to impose the penalty within that period, or

(b) if the person appeals against the decision to impose the penalty within that period, the conduct continues after the end of 28 days beginning with the day after that on which the appeal is finally determined, withdrawn or abandoned.

(3) Where a person applies a single provision, criterion or practice on more than one occasion in relation to the same dwelling, each application of that provision, criterion or practice is to be treated as the same conduct for the purposes of subsection (2).

(4) If—

(a) the local housing authority imposes a financial penalty under subsection (1) on a person, and

(b) within the period of five years ending with the date on which that penalty was imposed, a previous financial penalty under subsection (1) was imposed on that person in relation to a breach of the same section,

then the local housing authority may impose an additional financial penalty under this subsection on that person.

(5) The amount of a financial penalty imposed under this section is to be determined by the authority imposing it, but must not be more than £5,000.

(6) Neither subsection (2) nor subsection (4) enables a penalty to be imposed after the final notice in respect of the previous penalty has been withdrawn or quashed on appeal.

(7) Where—

(a) a local housing authority is satisfied as mentioned in subsection (1) in relation to two or more persons, and

(b) the breaches in relation to which the local housing authority is so satisfied arise from the same conduct by one or more of the persons acting on behalf of the others,

the local housing authority may impose a financial penalty under that subsection on the persons (or some of them) jointly, and if the local housing authority does so, the persons on whom the penalty is imposed are jointly and severally liable to pay it.

(8) The Secretary of State may give guidance to local housing authorities about the exercise of their functions under this section.

(9) Local housing authorities must have regard to any guidance issued under subsection (8).

(10) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend the amount specified in subsection (5) to reflect changes in the value of money.

(11) For the purposes of this section—

(a) a financial penalty is imposed under this section on the date specified in the final notice as the date on which the notice is given, and

(b) ‘final notice’ has the meaning given by paragraph 6 of Schedule 3.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause makes provision for the enforcement of NC8 and NC9 by the imposition of financial penalties. See the explanatory statement relating to those amendments for more information.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 11

Discriminatory terms in a tenancy relating to children or benefits status

“(1) A term of a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) prohibiting the tenant from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling or restricting the circumstances in which the tenant may have a child do so.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if—

(a) the provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or

(b) the landlord or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(i) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(ii) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit the tenant from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling or to restrict the circumstances in which the tenant may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling,

and the provision in the tenancy is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.

(3) A term of a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) prohibiting the tenant from being a benefits claimant.

(4) Subsection (3) does not apply if the landlord or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit the tenant from being a benefits claimant,

and the provision in the tenancy is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for terms of a relevant or regulated tenancy to be ineffective so far as they would prohibit a tenant from having a child live with or visit them or from being a benefits claimant.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 12

Terms in superior leases relating to children or benefits status

“(1) A term of a lease of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring a tenant under that or any inferior lease to—

(a) prohibit a sub-tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling, or

(b) restrict the circumstances in which a sub-tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if—

(a) the provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, or

(b) the landlord under the lease or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(i) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(ii) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a sub-tenant from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling or to restrict the circumstances in which a sub-tenant may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling,

and the provision in the lease is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.

(3) A term of a lease of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring a tenant under that or any inferior lease to prohibit a sub-tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from being a benefits claimant.

(4) Subsection (3) does not apply if the landlord under the lease or a superior landlord is insured under a contract of insurance—

(a) to which section (Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status) does not apply, and

(b) which contains a term which makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a sub-tenant from being a benefits claimant,

and the provision in the lease is a means of preventing the insured from breaching that term.

(5) For the purposes of this section, the terms of a lease include—

(a) the terms of any agreement relating to the lease, and

(b) any document or communication from the landlord that gives or refuses consent for sub-letting under the lease to a category or description of person.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for terms of a superior lease to be ineffective so far as they would prohibit a tenant from having a child live with or visit them or from being a benefits claimant.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 13

Terms in mortgages relating to children or benefits status

“(1) A term of a mortgage of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring the mortgagor to—

(a) prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling, or

(b) restrict the circumstances in which a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling.

(2) A term of a mortgage of premises that consist of or include a dwelling is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring a mortgagor to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from being a benefits claimant.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for terms of a mortgage to be ineffective so far as they would prohibit a tenant from having a child live with or visit them or from being a benefits claimant.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 14

Terms in insurance contracts relating to children or benefits status

“(1) A term of a contract of insurance to which this section applies is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to—

(a) prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from having a child live with or visit them at the dwelling, or

(b) restrict the circumstances in which a tenant under a relevant tenancy or a regulated tenancy may have a child live with or visit them at the dwelling.

(2) A term of a contract of insurance to which this section applies is of no effect so far as the term makes provision (however expressed) requiring the insured to prohibit a tenant under a relevant tenancy or regulated tenancy from being a benefits claimant.

(3) This section applies to contracts of insurance which were entered into or whose duration was extended on or after the day on which this section comes into force.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for terms of an insurance contract to be ineffective so far as they would prohibit a tenant from having a child live with or visit them or from being a benefits claimant.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 15

Power of the Secretary of State to amend Chapter 2A to protect persons of other descriptions

“The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this Chapter so as to make provision about tenancies of dwellings, in relation to persons of another description, corresponding, with or without modifications, to the provision made by this Chapter in relation to persons who would have a child live with or visit them or persons who are benefits claimants.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause allows the Secretary of State by regulations to expand the new Chapter expected to be formed of new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies to protect persons of other descriptions.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 16

No prohibition on taking income into account

“Nothing in this Chapter prohibits taking a person’s income into account when considering whether that person would be able to afford to pay rent under a relevant tenancy.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confirms that it is not prohibited by anything in the new Chapter 2A to take a prospective tenant’s income into account.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 17

Interpretation of Chapter 2A

“In this Chapter—

‘benefits claimant’ means a person who is entitled to payments under or by virtue of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 or the Welfare Reform Act 2012, or would be so entitled were a relevant tenancy to be granted to the person;

‘child’ means a person under the age of 18;

‘dwelling’ means a ‘dwelling-house’ within the meaning of Part 1 of the 1988 Act (see section 45 of that Act) in England;

‘prospective landlord’ means a person who proposes to let a dwelling on a relevant tenancy;

‘prospective tenant’ means a person seeking to find a dwelling to rent;

‘regulated tenancy’ has the same meaning as in the Rent Act 1977 (see section 18 of that Act);

‘relevant person’, in relation to a relevant tenancy, means—

(a) the prospective landlord;

(b) a person acting or purporting to act directly or indirectly on behalf of the prospective landlord;

‘relevant tenancy’ means an assured tenancy within the meaning of the 1988 Act, other than a tenancy that is—

(a) a tenancy of social housing, within the meaning of Part 2 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, or

(b) a tenancy of supported accommodation, within the meaning given by paragraph 12 of Schedule 2 to the 1988 Act.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains definitions relevant to the new Chapter expected to be formed of new clauses relating to discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of tenancies.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 18

Abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies

“In the Housing and Planning Act 2016, omit Part 3 (recovering abandoned premises under assured shorthold tenancies).”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause repeals Part 3 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016. That Part provides for the recovery without a court order of premises let under an assured shorthold tenancy, where the premises have been abandoned. It has never been brought into force. The new clause is expected to be inserted into Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Bill, after clause 22, and the title of Chapter 3 is expected to become “Miscellaneous”.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 19

Rent repayment orders for offences under sections

“(1) The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 40 (introduction and key definitions), at the end of the table in subsection (3) insert—

‘8

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

section 27(1), (2) or (3)

Landlord redress schemes: continuing or repeat breaches

9

section 48(1)

Private rented sector database: provision of false or misleading information

10

section 48(2), (3) or (4)

Private rented sector database: continuing or repeat breaches’

section 27(1), (2) or (3)

section 48(1)

section 48(2), (3) or (4)

(3) In section 44 (amount of order: tenants), in the first column of the table in subsection (2)—

(a) in the first row, for ‘or 2’ substitute ‘, 2 or 9’, and

(b) in the second row, for ‘or 7’ substitute ‘, 7, 8 or 10’.

(4) In section 45 (amount of order: local housing authorities), in the first column of the table in subsection (2)—

(a) in the first row, for ‘or 2’ substitute “, 2 or 9’, and

(b) in the second row, for ‘or 7’ substitute ‘, 7, 8 or 10’.” —(Jacob Young.)

This new clause combines the amendments of section 40 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 previously contained in clauses 27(9) and 48(10) in a single amendment and adds consequential amendments of sections 44 and 45 of that Act. It is expected to be included in Chapter 4 of Part 2 of the Bill.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 20

Decent homes standard

“(1) The Housing Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1 (new system for assessing housing conditions and enforcing housing standards), after subsection (3) insert—

‘(3A) This Part also provides—

(a) for regulations to specify requirements that must be met in England by qualifying residential premises, and

(b) for the enforcement of those requirements by local housing authorities in England.’

(3) In subsection (4) of that section, after paragraph (d) insert—

‘(e) accommodation in England—

(i) the availability for occupation of which is secured under Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (homelessness), and

(ii) that is of a description specified by regulations made by the Secretary of State.’

(4) After section 2 insert—

Additional standards for certain housing in England

2A Power to set standards for qualifying residential premises

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations specify requirements to be met by qualifying residential premises.

(2) The matters which may be covered by the requirements include (but are not limited to) the following matters—

(a) the state of repair of the premises,

(b) things to be provided for use by, or for the safety, security or comfort of, persons occupying the premises, and

(c) the means of keeping the premises at a suitable temperature.

(3) The requirements are to consist of one or both of the following—

(a) requirements which the Secretary of State considers appropriate to be subject to enforcement under section 5 (duty of local housing authorities to take enforcement action), referred to in this Part as “type 1 requirements”, and

(b) requirements which the Secretary of State considers appropriate to be subject to enforcement under section 7 (power of local housing authorities to take enforcement action), referred to in this Part as “type 2 requirements”.

(4) The regulations may contain exceptions from the requirements.

2B Qualifying residential premises

(1) The following are “qualifying residential premises” for the purposes of this Part—

(a) a dwelling or HMO in England—

(i) which is let under a relevant tenancy, or

(ii) which is supported exempt accommodation,

except where the dwelling or HMO is social housing and the landlord under the tenancy, or the provider of the accommodation, is a registered provider of social housing,

(b) an HMO in England where at least one unit of accommodation which forms part of the HMO is let on a relevant tenancy, except where the unit is social housing and the landlord under the tenancy is a registered provider of social housing,

(c) any accommodation falling within paragraph (e) of the definition of “residential premises” in section 1(4) (homelessness), except where the accommodation is social housing and the provider of the accommodation is a registered provider of social housing, and

(d) any common parts of a building in England containing one or more flats falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (c) of this subsection.

(2) In this Part—

“relevant tenancy” means—

(a) an assured tenancy within the meaning of the Housing Act 1988,

(b) an assured agricultural occupancy within the meaning of Part 1 of that Act, or

(c) a regulated tenancy within the meaning of the Rent Act 1977;

“social housing” has the same meaning as in Part 2 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008;

“supported exempt accommodation” has the same meaning as in the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 (see section 12 of that Act).

(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations amend this section so as to change the meaning of “relevant tenancy” so as to add or remove a particular kind of—

(a) tenancy that is periodic or granted for a term of less than 21 years, or

(b) licence to occupy.’

(5) In Schedule (Decent homes standard), Part 1 contains amendments of the Housing Act 2004 and Part 2 contains amendments of other Acts.”—(Jacob Young.)

This clause extends Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 to cover temporary accommodation provided under homelessness duties of local housing authorities in England. It also provides for regulations to specify new requirements which will form part of the Decent Homes Standard and will apply to temporary accommodation, rented property and supported exempt accommodation. This clause and NS1 are expected to form a new Part of the Bill after the existing Part 2, and are intended to replace clause 63 of the Bill.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 21

Rent repayment orders

“(1) The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 40, for subsections (1) and (2) substitute—

‘(1) This Chapter confers power on the First-tier Tribunal to make a rent repayment order where an offence to which this Chapter applies has been committed by—

(a) a landlord under a tenancy of housing in England, or

(b) any superior landlord in relation to such a tenancy.

(2) A rent repayment order is an order requiring the landlord to—

(a) pay a tenant an amount in respect of rent paid by or on behalf of the tenant, or

(b) pay a local housing authority an amount in respect of a relevant award of universal credit paid (to any person) in respect of rent under the tenancy.’

(3) In section 43 (making of rent repayment order), at the end of subsection (3) insert—

‘(d) section 46A (where an order is made against more than one landlord or there has been a previous order).’

(4) In section 44 (amount of order: tenants)—

(a) in subsection (2)—

(i) for ‘during’ substitute ‘in respect of’, and

(ii) for ‘12 months’ (in both places) substitute ‘2 years’, and

(b) in subsection (3), for ‘repay’ substitute ‘pay’.

(5) In section 45 (amount of order: local housing authorities)—

(a) in subsection (2)—

(i) for ‘during’ substitute ‘in respect of’, and

(ii) for ‘12 months’ (in both places) substitute ‘2 years’, and

(b) in subsection (3)—

(i) for ‘repay’ substitute ‘pay’, and

(ii) omit ‘that the landlord’ (in the second place).

(6) After section 46 insert—

46A Amount of order: supplementary

(1) A rent repayment order made against more than one landlord may—

(a) apportion liability for the amount due under the order between the landlords in such manner as the First-tier Tribunal considers appropriate, or

(b) provide for the landlords to be jointly and severally liable for the amount due under the order.

(2) If a rent repayment order (“the original order”) has been made in respect of rent under a tenancy and another rent repayment order (“the new order”) is made in respect of rent under the same tenancy, the new order may not require payment to be made in respect of any period in respect of which the original order required payment to be made.’”—(Jacob Young.)

In Jepsen and others v Rakusen [2023] UKSC 9 the Supreme Court decided that a rent repayment order could not be made under Chapter 4 of Part 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 against a superior landlord. This new Clause, which is intended to be added to Part 3 of the Bill, will allow such orders to be made against superior landlords, will extend the period that can be taken into account when calculating payments due under such orders and will make provision about how payments are to be calculated and made in cases where there are multiple landlords or multiple orders.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 22

Enforcement by county councils which are not local housing authorities: duty to notify

“(1) A county council in England—

(a) which is not a local housing authority, and

(b) which proposes to take enforcement action in respect of a breach of, or an offence under, the landlord legislation,

must notify any local housing authority in whose area the breach or offence occurred.

(2) If the county council notifies a local housing authority under subsection (1) but does not take the action referred to in that subsection, it must notify the local housing authority of that fact.

(3) Where a local housing authority receives a notification under subsection (1), the authority is relieved of the duty under section 58(1) in relation to the breach or offence unless the authority receives notification under subsection (2).

(4) Subsection (5) applies where—

(a) a county council in England which is not a local housing authority has imposed a financial penalty in respect of a breach of, or an offence under, the landlord legislation, and

(b) the final notice imposing the penalty has not been withdrawn.

(5) The county council must as soon as reasonably practicable notify any local housing authority in whose area the breach or offence occurred if—

(a) the period for bringing an appeal against the penalty expires without an appeal being brought,

(b) an appeal against the penalty is withdrawn or abandoned, or

(c) the final notice imposing the penalty is confirmed or varied on appeal.

(6) A county council in England—

(a) which is not a local housing authority, and

(b) which institutes proceedings against a person for an offence under the landlord legislation,

must as soon as reasonably practicable notify any local housing authority in whose area the offence occurred if the person is convicted of the offence.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause requires county councils in England which are not local housing authorities to notify a local housing authority in relation to enforcement action taken in respect of a breach of, or an offence under, the landlord legislation which occurs in the area of the authority. It is expected to go into the Bill after clause 59.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 23

Duty to report

“(1) A local housing authority, or a county council which is not a local housing authority, must report to the Secretary of State on the exercise of its functions under the landlord legislation.

(2) A report under subsection (1) must—

(a) be provided at such time and in such form as the Secretary of State requires, and

(b) contain such information as the Secretary of State requires.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause requires a local housing authority, or a county council which is not a local housing authority, to report at the request of the Secretary of State on the exercise of its functions under the landlord legislation. It is expected to be inserted after NC22.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 24

Power of local housing authority to require information from relevant person

“(1) An officer of a local housing authority may, for purposes connected with any function of the authority under or by virtue of legislation set out in the list in subsection (3), give a notice to a relevant person requiring the person to provide the local housing authority or an officer with the information specified in the notice.

(2) In this Chapter ‘relevant person’, in relation to a power under this Chapter, means a person who has, in the twelve months ending with the day on which the power is exercised—

(a) had an estate or interest in premises which consist of or include any relevant accommodation, otherwise than as a mortgagee not in possession,

(b) been a licensor of premises which consist of or include any relevant accommodation,

(c) acted or purported to act on behalf of a person within paragraph (a) or (b), or

(d) marketed any relevant accommodation for the purposes of creating a residential tenancy, within the meaning of Part 2 (see section 57).

(3) Here is the list—

sections 1 and 1A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977;

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988;

section 83(1) or 84(1) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013;

sections 21 to 23 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016;

Chapter 2A of Part 1 and Part 2 of this Act.

(4) A notice under this section must be in writing and must specify that it is given under this section.

(5) The notice may specify—

(a) the time within which and the manner in which the relevant person to whom it is given must comply with it;

(b) the form in which information must be provided.

(6) The notice may require—

(a) the creation of documents, or documents of a description, specified in the notice, and

(b) the provision of those documents to an enforcement authority or officer.

(7) The notice must include information about the possible consequences of not complying with a notice under this section.

(8) A requirement to provide information or create a document is a requirement to do so in a legible form.

(9) A notice under this section does not require a person to provide any information or create any documents which the person would be entitled to refuse to provide or produce in proceedings in the High Court on the grounds of legal professional privilege.

(10) In subsection (2) ‘relevant accommodation’ means any residential accommodation in England that is connected with the exercise or proposed exercise of the function in relation to which the power under this Chapter is exercised.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confers a power on local housing authorities to require information from property owners, their agents and others with a connection to the property for the purposes of certain functions that relate to the renting of “relevant accommodation” as defined. Together with other new clauses relating to investigatory powers, it is expected to form a new Chapter in Part 3 of the Bill, the title of which is expected to become “Enforcement”.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 25

Power of local housing authority to require information from any person

“(1) Where an officer of a local housing authority reasonably suspects that there has been a breach of, or an offence under, the rented accommodation legislation, the officer may for a purpose mentioned in subsection (2) give notice to any person requiring the person to provide the local housing authority or an officer with information specified in the notice.

(2) The purposes are—

(a) investigating whether there has been a breach of, or an offence under, the rented accommodation legislation, or

(b) determining the amount of a penalty under that legislation.

(3) In this Chapter ‘the rented accommodation legislation’ means—

sections 1 and 1A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977;

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988;

Parts 1 to 4 and 7 of the Housing Act 2004 so far as relating to qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B of that Act;

section 83(1) or 84(1) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013;

sections 21 to 23 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016;

Chapter 2A of Part 1 and Part 2 of this Act.

(4) A notice under this section must be in writing and must specify that it is given under this section.

(5) The notice may specify—

(a) the time within which and the manner in which the person to whom it is given must comply with it;

(b) the form in which information must be provided.

(6) The notice may require—

(a) the creation of documents, or documents of a description, specified in the notice, and

(b) the provision of those documents to an enforcement authority or officer.

(7) The notice must include information about the possible consequences of not complying with a notice under this section.

(8) A requirement to provide information or create a document is a requirement to do so in a legible form.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confers a power on local housing authorities to require information from any person for the purposes of investigating whether there has been a breach of, or an offence under, “the rented accommodation legislation”, as defined in the clause, or determining the amount of a penalty under that legislation.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 26

Enforcement of power to require information from any person

“(1) If a person fails to comply with a notice under section (Power to require information from any person), the local housing authority or an officer of the authority may make an application under this section to the court.

(2) If it appears to the court that the person has failed to comply with the notice, it may make an order under this section.

(3) An order under this section is an order requiring the person to do anything that the court thinks it is reasonable for the person to do, for any of the purposes for which the notice was given, to ensure that the notice is complied with.

(4) An order under this section may require the person to meet the costs of the application.

(5) If the person is a company, partnership or unincorporated association, the court in acting under subsection (4) may require an official who is responsible for the failure to meet the costs or expenses.

(6) In this section—

“the court” means—

(a) the High Court, or

(b) the county court;

“official” means—

(a) in the case of a company, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer,

(b) in the case of a limited liability partnership, a member,

(c) in the case of a partnership other than a limited liability partnership, a partner, and

(d) in the case of an unincorporated association, a person who is concerned in the management or control of its affairs.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for a civil enforcement mechanism in relation to the power conferred by NC25.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 27

Limitation on use of information provided under section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person)

“(1) In any criminal proceedings against a person who provides information in response to a notice under section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person) (including information contained in a document created in response to such a notice)—

(a) no evidence relating to the information may be adduced by or on behalf of the prosecution, and

(b) no question relating to the information may be asked by or on behalf of the prosecution.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply if, in the proceedings—

(a) evidence relating to the information is adduced by or on behalf of the person providing it, or

(b) a question relating to the information is asked by or on behalf of that person.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply if the proceedings are for an offence under section 5 of the Perjury Act 1911 (false statutory declarations and other false statements without oath).”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for limitations on the use of information obtained under the power conferred by NC26.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 28

Business premises: entry without warrant

“(1) An officer of a local housing authority may, at any reasonable time, enter any premises in England if—

(a) the officer reasonably believes the premises to be occupied by a relevant person for the purposes of a rental sector business, and

(b) the officer considers it necessary to enter the premises in order to exercise the powers under section (Power to require production of documents following entry) or (Power to seize documents following entry) for purposes connected with any function of the authority under or by virtue of the rented accommodation legislation.

(2) Subsection (1) does not authorise entry into premises used wholly or mainly as residential accommodation.

(3) In the case of a routine inspection, the power in subsection (1) may only be exercised if a notice has been given to an occupier of the premises in accordance with the requirements in subsection (4), unless subsection (5) applies.

(4) Those requirements are that—

(a) the notice is in writing and is given by an officer of the local housing authority,

(b) the notice sets out why the entry is necessary and indicates the nature of the offences under section (Offences)(1) and (2), and

(c) there are at least 24 hours between the giving of the notice and the entry.

(5) A notice need not be given if the occupier (or one of the occupiers if there is more than one) has waived the requirement to give notice.

(6) In this section ‘routine inspection’ means an exercise of the power in subsection (1) other than where—

(a) the power is exercised by an officer who reasonably suspects a breach of, or an offence under, the rented accommodation legislation,

(b) the officer reasonably considers that to give notice in accordance with subsection (3) would defeat the purpose of the entry, or

(c) it is not reasonably practicable in all the circumstances to give notice in accordance with that subsection.

(7) An officer entering premises under subsection (1) may be accompanied by such persons, and may take onto the premises such equipment, as the officer thinks necessary.

(8) An officer entering premises under subsection (1) may take photographs or make recordings.

(9) In this section ‘rental sector business’ means a business connected with—

(a) the letting of residential accommodation in England,

(b) the creation of licences to occupy such accommodation,

(c) the marketing of such accommodation for the purpose of creating a tenancy or licence to occupy, or

(d) the management of such accommodation when occupied under a tenancy or licence to occupy.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confers a power on local housing authorities to enter (without force) premises that are occupied for the purposes of a rental sector business in order to obtain documents for purposes connected with their functions under the “rented accommodation legislation” as defined in NC25.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 29

Requirements where occupiers are on business premises entered without warrant

“(1) If an officer of a local housing authority enters premises under section (Business premises: entry without warrant)(1) and finds one or more occupiers on the premises, the officer must—

(a) produce evidence of the officer's identity and authority to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them, and

(b) if the entry takes place otherwise than in the course of a routine inspection, provide to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them a document that—

(i) sets out why the entry is necessary, and

(ii) indicates the nature of the offences under section (Offences)(1) and (2).

(2) An officer need not comply with subsection (1) if it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

(3) Proceedings resulting from the exercise of the power under section (Business premises: entry without warrant)(1) are not invalid merely because of a failure to comply with subsection (1).” —(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains requirements that must be complied with where occupiers are on premises entered under NC28.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 30

Business premises: warrant authorising entry

“(1) A justice of the peace may issue a warrant authorising an officer of a local housing authority who is named in the warrant to enter premises in England that are specified in the warrant if the justice of the peace is satisfied, on written information on oath given by that officer—

(a) that the officer would, in entering the premises, be acting in the course of employment by, or on the instructions of, the local housing authority, and

(b) that there are reasonable grounds for believing that—

(i) the premises are occupied by a relevant person for the purposes of a rental sector business,

(ii) the premises are not used wholly or mainly as residential accommodation,

(iii) on the premises there are documents which an officer of the local housing authority could require a person to produce under section (Power to require production of documents following entry), or could seize under section (Power to seize documents following entry), and

(iv) condition A, B or C is met.

(2) Condition A is that—

(a) access to the premises has been or is likely to be refused, and

(b) notice of the local housing authority’s intention to apply for a warrant under this section has been given to an occupier of the premises.

(3) Condition B is that it is likely that documents on the premises would be concealed or interfered with if notice of entry of the premises were given to an occupier of the premises.

(4) Condition C is that no occupier is present, and it might defeat the purpose of the entry to wait for their return.

(5) In this section “rental sector business” has the meaning given by section (Business premises: entry without warrant)(9).”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause allows local housing authorities to obtain a warrant to enter by force premises that are occupied for the purposes of a rental sector business in order to obtain documents for purposes connected with their functions under the “rented accommodation legislation” as defined in NC25.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 31

Business premises: entry under warrant

“(1) A warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry) authorises the officer named in the warrant to enter the premises at any reasonable time, using reasonable force if necessary.

(2) A warrant under that section does not authorise entry into premises used wholly or mainly as residential accommodation.

(3) A warrant under that section ceases to have effect at the end of the period of one month beginning with the day it is issued.

(4) An officer entering premises under a warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry) may be accompanied by such persons, and may take onto the premises such equipment, as the officer thinks necessary.

(5) An officer entering premises under a warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry) may take photographs or make recordings.

(6) If, when the officer enters the premises, the officer finds one or more occupiers on the premises, the officer must produce the warrant for inspection to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them.

(7) Subsection (8) applies if no occupier is present when the premises are entered.

(8) On leaving the premises the officer must—

(a) leave a notice on the premises stating that the premises have been entered under a warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry), and

(b) leave the premises as effectively secured against trespassers as the officer found them.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause sets out the effect of a warrant issued under NC30.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 32

Power to require production of documents following entry

“(1) An officer of a local housing authority who has entered premises under section (Business premises: entry without warrant)(1) or under a warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry) may, for the purposes mentioned in subsection (2), at any reasonable time—

(a) require a relevant person occupying the premises, or anyone on the premises acting on behalf of such a person, to produce any documents relating to the relevant business to which the person on the premises has access, and

(b) take copies of, or of any entry in, any such document.

(2) The purposes are—

(a) to ascertain whether there has been compliance with the rented accommodation legislation where an officer of the local housing authority reasonably suspects a breach of, or an offence under, that legislation;

(b) to ascertain whether the documents may be required as evidence in proceedings for such a breach or offence.

(3) The power in subsection (1) is available regardless of whether—

(a) the purpose for which the documents are required relates to the relevant person or some other person, or

(b) the proceedings referred to in subsection (2)(b) could be taken against the relevant person or some other person.

(4) That power includes power to require the person to give an explanation of the documents.

(5) Where a document required to be produced under subsection (1) contains information recorded electronically, the power in that subsection includes power to require the production of a copy of the document in a form in which it can easily be taken away and in which it is visible and legible.

(6) This section does not permit an officer to require a person to create a document other than as described in subsection (5).

(7) This section does not permit an officer to require a person to produce any document which the person would be entitled to refuse to produce in proceedings in the High Court on the grounds of legal professional privilege.

(8) In this section ‘relevant business’ means the business for the purposes of which the premises are occupied.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains a power for an officer of a local housing authority who has entered premises under NC28, or under a warrant under NC30, to require the production of documents for certain purposes connected with the “rented accommodation legislation” as defined in NC25.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 33

Power to seize documents following entry

“(1) An officer of a local housing authority who has entered premises under section (Business premises: entry without warrant)(1) or under a warrant under section (Business premises: warrant authorising entry) may seize and detain documents which the officer reasonably suspects may be required as evidence in proceedings relating to a breach of, or an offence under, the rented accommodation legislation.

(2) If one or more occupiers are on the premises, an officer seizing documents under this section must provide to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them evidence of the officer's identity and authority, before seizing the documents.

(3) The officer need not comply with subsection (2) if it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

(4) An officer seizing documents under this section must take reasonable steps to—

(a) inform the person from whom they are seized that they have been seized, and

(b) provide that person with a written record of what has been seized.

(5) In determining the steps to be taken under subsection (4), an officer exercising a power under this section must have regard to any relevant provision about the seizure of property made by a code of practice under section 66 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

(6) This section does not confer any power on an officer to seize from a person any document which the person would be entitled to refuse to produce in proceedings in the High Court on the grounds of legal professional privilege.

(7) For the purpose of exercising the power under this section, the officer may, to the extent that is reasonably necessary for that purpose—

(a) require a person with authority to do so to access any electronic device in which information may be stored or from which it may be accessed, and

(b) if such a requirement has not been complied with, access the electronic device.

(8) Documents seized under this section may not be detained—

(a) for a period of more than 3 months beginning with the day on which they were seized, or

(b) where the documents are reasonably required to be detained for a longer period by the local housing authority for the purposes of the proceedings for which they were seized, for longer than they are required for those purposes.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains a power for an officer of a local housing authority who has entered premises under NC28, or under a warrant under NC30, to seize documents reasonably suspected to be required as evidence of a breach of, or an offence under, the “rented accommodation legislation” as defined in NC25.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 34

Access to seized documents

“(1) This section applies where any document seized by an officer of a local housing authority under this Chapter is detained by the officer or authority.

(2) If a request for permission to be granted access to that document is made to the local housing authority by a person who had custody or control of it immediately before it was seized, the local housing authority must allow that person access to it under the supervision of an officer.

(3) If a request for a photograph or copy of that document is made to the local housing authority by a person who had custody or control of it immediately before it was seized, the local housing authority must—

(a) allow that person access to it under the supervision of an officer for the purpose of photographing or copying it, or

(b) photograph or copy it, or cause it to be photographed or copied.

(4) Where any document is photographed or copied under subsection (3), the photograph or copy must be supplied to the person who made the request within a reasonable time from the making of the request.

(5) This section does not require access to be granted to, or a photograph or copy to be supplied of, any document if the local housing authority has reasonable grounds for believing that to do so would prejudice the doing of anything for the purposes of which it was seized.

(6) A local housing authority may recover the reasonable costs of complying with a request under this section from the person by whom or on whose behalf it was made.

(7) References in this section to a person who had custody or control of a document immediately before it was seized include a representative of such a person.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause makes provision about access to documents seized under NC33.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 35

Appeal against detention of documents

“(1) Where documents are being detained as the result of the exercise of a power in this Chapter, a person with an interest in the documents may apply for an order requiring them to be released to that or another person.

(2) An application under this section may be made—

(a) to any magistrates’ court in which proceedings have been brought for an offence as the result of the investigation in the course of which the documents were seized, or

(b) if no proceedings within paragraph (a) have been brought, by way of complaint to a magistrates’ court.

(3) On an application under this section, the court may make an order requiring documents to be released only if satisfied that condition A or B is met.

(4) Condition A is that—

(a) no proceedings have been brought for an offence as the result of the investigation in the course of which the documents were seized, or

(b) the period of 6 months beginning with the date the documents were seized has expired.

(5) Condition B is that—

(a) proceedings of a kind mentioned in subsection (4)(a) have been brought, and

(b) those proceedings have been concluded.

(6) A person aggrieved by an order made under this section by a magistrates’ court, or by the decision of a magistrates' court not to make such an order, may appeal against the order or decision to the Crown Court.

(7) An order made under this section by a magistrates’ court may contain such provision as the court thinks appropriate for delaying its coming into force pending the making and determination of any appeal.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause makes provision about appeals against detention of documents seized under NC33.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 36

Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant

“(1) A specially authorised officer of a local housing authority may enter premises in England at any reasonable time, if—

(a) the officer reasonably suspects that the premises, or part of the premises, are subject to a residential tenancy within the meaning of Part 2 (see section 23), and

(b) the officer considers it necessary to inspect the premises for the purpose of investigating whether there has been, in relation to the premises—

(i) a breach of section 39(3),

(ii) an offence under subsection (1) of section 48,

(iii) an offence under subsection (2) of section 48 where the continuing conduct referred to in paragraph (b) of that subsection is a breach of section 39(3),

(iv) an offence under subsection (3) of section 48 where the different breach referred to in paragraph (b) of that subsection is a breach of section 39(3),

(v) an offence under subsection (4) of section 48 where the breach referred to in paragraph (b) of that subsection is a breach of section 39(3), or

(vi) an offence under section 1 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, and

(c) notice has been given in accordance with the requirements of subsection (2) to—

(i) an occupier of the premises, and

(ii) any person who has an estate or interest in the premises, other than a mortgagee not in possession and has supplied the local housing authority with an address for the purposes of this paragraph,

unless notice is not required as a result of subsection (3).

(2) The requirements referred to in subsection (1)(c) are that—

(a) the notice is in writing and is given by an officer of the local housing authority,

(b) the notice sets out why the entry is necessary and indicates the nature of the offences under section (Offences)(1) and (2) (obstruction), and

(c) there are at least 24 hours between the giving of the notice and the entry.

(3) A notice need not be given to a person who has waived the requirement to give notice.

(4) A specially authorised officer entering premises under subsection (1) may be accompanied by such persons, and may take onto the premises such equipment, as the officer thinks necessary.

(5) A specially authorised officer entering premises under subsection (1) may take photographs or make recordings.

(6) A specially authorised officer must, if requested to do so, produce the officer’s special authorisation for inspection by a person to whom notice is required to be given under this section or anyone acting on behalf of such a person.

(7) For the purposes of this section an officer of a local housing authority is “specially authorised” where the officer’s authorisation by the local housing authority for the purposes of the power under subsection (1) (see section (Investigatory powers: interpretation)(2))—

(a) states the particular purpose for which the officer is authorised to exercise the power, and

(b) is given by the local housing authority acting through—

(i) a deputy chief officer of the authority whose duties include duties relating to a purpose within subsection (1)(b), or

(ii) an officer of the authority to whom such a deputy chief officer reports directly, or is directly accountable, as respects duties so relating.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confers a power on local housing authorities to enter (without force) premises that are reasonably suspected to be subject to a residential tenancy, in order to inspect the premises to investigate whether there has been certain kinds of unlawful conduct in relation to them.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 37

Requirements where occupiers are on residential premises entered without warrant

“(1) If an officer of a local housing authority enters premises under section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(1) and finds one or more occupiers on the premises, the officer must produce evidence of the officer's identity and special authorisation to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them.

(2) An officer need not comply with subsection (1) if it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

(3) Proceedings resulting from the exercise of the power under section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(1) are not invalid merely because of a failure to comply with subsection (1).

(4) In this section ‘special authorisation’ has the same meaning as in section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant) (see subsection (7) of that section).”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains requirements that must be complied with where occupiers are on premises entered under NC36.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 38

Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry

“A justice of the peace may issue a warrant authorising an officer of a local housing authority who is named in the warrant to enter premises in England that are specified in the warrant if the justice of the peace is satisfied, on written information on oath given by that officer—

(a) that the officer would, in entering the premises, be acting in the course of employment by, or on the instructions of, the local housing authority,

(b) that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the premises, or part of the premises, are subject to a residential tenancy within the meaning of Part 2 (see section 23),

(c) that it is necessary for the officer to inspect the premises for the purpose of investigating whether there has been, in relation to the premises, a breach or an offence mentioned in section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(1)(b),

(d) that—

(i) admission to the premises has been sought for the purposes of entry under section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(1) but has been refused,

(ii) that no occupier is present and it might defeat the purpose of the entry to await their return, or

(iii) that application for admission would defeat the purpose of the entry.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause allows local housing authorities to obtain a warrant to enter by force premises reasonably suspected to be subject to a residential tenancy, in order to inspect the premises to investigate whether there has been certain kinds of unlawful conduct in relation to them.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 39

Suspected residential tenancy: entry under warrant

“(1) A warrant under section (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry) authorises the officer named in the warrant to enter the premises at any reasonable time, using reasonable force if necessary.

(2) A warrant under that section ceases to have effect when the inspection of the premises has been completed.

(3) An officer entering premises under a warrant under section (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry) may be accompanied by such persons, and may take onto the premises such equipment, as the officer thinks necessary.

(4) An officer entering premises under section (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry) may take photographs or make recordings.

(5) If, when the officer enters the premises, the officer finds one or more occupiers on the premises, the officer must produce the warrant for inspection to that occupier or (if there is more than one) to at least one of them.

(6) Subsection (7) applies if no occupier is present when the premises are entered.

(7) On leaving the premises the officer must—

(a) leave a notice on the premises stating that the premises have been entered under a warrant under section (Suspected residential tenancy: warrant authorising entry), and

(b) leave the premises as effectively secured against trespassers as the officer found them.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause sets out the effect of a warrant issued under new clause 171.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 40

Powers of accompanying persons

“A person who accompanies an officer of a local housing authority entering premises under, or under a warrant under, this Chapter—

(a) has the same powers under this Chapter as the officer in relation to the premises, but

(b) must exercise those powers only in the company, and under the supervision, of the officer.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for the powers of persons who accompany officers of local housing authorities onto premises under other new clauses which authorise the entry of such persons onto premises.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 41

Offences

“(1) A person commits an offence if the person—

(a) without reasonable excuse obstructs an officer of a local housing authority who is exercising or seeking to exercise in accordance with this Chapter a power under any provision of this Chapter other than section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person),

(b) without reasonable excuse fails to comply with a requirement properly imposed by an officer of a local housing authority under any provision of this Chapter other than section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person), or

(c) without reasonable cause fails to give an officer of a local housing authority any other assistance or information which the officer reasonably requires of the person for the purpose of exercising a power under this Chapter other than section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person).

(2) A person commits an offence if, in giving information to an officer who is exercising or seeking to exercise a power under this Chapter, the person—

(a) makes a statement which the person knows is false or misleading in a material respect, or

(b) recklessly makes a statement which is false or misleading in a material respect.

(3) A person who is not an officer of a local housing authority commits an offence if the person purports to act as such under this Chapter.

(4) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

(6) Nothing in this section requires a person to answer any question or give any information if to do so might incriminate that person.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause provides for offences relating to the other new clauses that create investigatory powers for local housing authorities.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 42

Investigatory powers: interpretation

“(1) In this Chapter—

‘document’ includes information recorded in any form;

‘give’—

(a) in relation to a notice to an occupier of premises, includes delivering or leaving it at the premises or sending it there by post, and ‘given’, in relation to such a notice, is to be read accordingly;

(b) in relation to a notice to a person referred to in section (Suspected residential tenancy: entry without warrant)(1)(c)(ii), includes delivering or leaving it at the address supplied by the person or sending it to that address by post, and ‘given’, in relation to such a notice, is to be read accordingly;

‘occupier’, in relation to premises, means any person an officer of a local housing authority reasonably suspects to be an occupier of the premises;

‘premises’ includes any stall, vehicle, vessel or aircraft;

‘relevant person’: see section (Power of local housing authority to require information from relevant person)(2);

‘the rented accommodation legislation’: see section (Power of local housing authority to require information from any person)(3).

(2) References in this Chapter to an officer—

(a) are to a person authorised in writing by a local housing authority to exercise powers under this Chapter, and

(b) in relation to a particular power only cover a particular officer if and to the extent that the officer has been authorised to exercise that power.

(3) References in this Chapter to the functions of a local housing authority by virtue of particular legislation include references to any function of the authority of investigating whether an offence has been committed under that legislation.

(4) A duty or power to process information that is imposed or conferred by, or by virtue of, this Chapter does not operate to authorise the processing of information which would contravene—

(a) the data protection legislation (but the duty or power is to be taken into account in determining whether the processing would contravene that legislation), or

(b) Parts 1 to 7 or Chapter 9 of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

(5) In subsection (4) ‘the data protection legislation’ has the same meaning as in the Data Protection Act 2018 (see section 3 of that Act).”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause contains definitions and other interpretive provision in relation to the other new clauses that create investigatory powers for local housing authorities, which are expected to form a new Chapter in Part 3 of the Bill.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 43

Additional powers of seizure under Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001

“In Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, at the end insert—

Renters (Reform) Act 2024

73V Each of the powers of seizure conferred by section (Power to require production of documents following entry)(1)(b) and section (Power to seize documents following entry) of the Renters (Reform) Act 2024.’”

This new clause adds the powers conferred by NC32 and NC33 to Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, which confers additional powers where these powers apply.(Jacob Young.)

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 44

Use by local housing authority of information obtained for other statutory purposes

“(1) Section 212A of the Housing Act 2004 (tenancy deposit schemes: provision of information to local authorities) is amended in accordance with subsections (2) and (3).

(2) In subsection (5), after paragraph (a) (but before the ‘or’ at the end) insert—

‘(aa) for a purpose connected with the exercise of the authority’s functions under or by virtue of Part 7 in relation to any qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B,

(ab) for a purpose connected with the authority’s functions under or by virtue of the following in relation to any premises—

sections 1 and 1A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977,

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988,

section 83(1) or 84(1) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013,

sections 21 to 23, 41 and 133 to 135 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016,

Chapter 2A of Part 1 and Part 2 of the Renters (Reform) Act 2024.’.

(3) In subsection (5), in paragraph (b), for ‘of those Parts in relation to any premises’ substitute ‘provision mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (ab) in relation to premises or qualifying residential premises (as the case may be)’.

(4) Section 237 of the Housing Act 2004 (use of housing benefit and council tax information for certain other statutory purposes) is amended in accordance with subsections (5) and (6).

(5) In subsection (1), after paragraph (a) (but before the ‘or’ at the end) insert—

“(aa) for any purpose connected with the exercise of any of the authority’s functions under or by virtue of Part 7 in relation to any qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B,

(ab) for any purpose connected with any of the authority’s functions under or by virtue of the following in relation to any premises—

sections 1 and 1A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977,

Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Housing Act 1988,

section 83(1) or 84(1) of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013,

sections 21 to 23, 41 and 133 to 135 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016,

Chapter 2A of Part 1 and Part 2 of the Renters (Reform) Act 2024.”.

(6) In subsection (1), in paragraph (b), for ‘of those Parts in relation to any premises’ substitute ‘provision mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (ab) in relation to premises or qualifying residential premises (as the case may be).’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause expands the purposes for which tenancy deposit scheme, housing benefit and council tax information can be used to cover purposes connected with certain legislation relating to renting.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 45

Investigatory powers under the Housing Act 2004

“(1) In section 235 of the Housing Act 2004 (power to require documents to be produced), in subsection (1)—

(a) after paragraph (a) (but before the ‘or’ at the end) insert—

‘(aa) for any purpose connected with the exercise of any of the authority’s functions under this Part in relation to any qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B,’;

(b) in paragraph (b) for ‘those Parts in relation to any premises’ substitute ‘Parts 1 to 4 in relation to any premises or under this Part in relation to any qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B’.

(2) In section 239 of that Act (powers of entry), after subsection (5) insert—

‘(5A) In relation to any qualifying residential premises within the meaning given by section 2B, notice need not be given to a person who has waived the requirement to give notice.’”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause expands the power to require documents under section 235 of the Housing Act 2004 so that it can be used for the purposes of functions under Part 7 of that Act in relation to qualifying residential premises as defined in the new clauses relating to the decent homes standard. It also provides that notice under section 239 of that Act can be waived in relation to such premises.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 46

Client money protection schemes: investigatory powers of local authorities

“In paragraph 10 of Schedule 5 to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (duties and powers to which Schedule 5 applies), at the appropriate place insert—

‘regulations 5 and 8 of the Client Money Protection Schemes for Property Agents (Requirement to Belong to a Scheme etc.) Regulations 2019’.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause gives investigatory powers to local authorities in connection with their existing duties to enforce requirements on property agents to be members of a client money protection scheme for protecting money they hold in connection with letting or managing rented homes. The new clause is expected to be inserted into Part 3 of the Bill in a new Chapter about investigatory powers.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 47

Power of Welsh Ministers to make consequential provision

“(1) The Welsh Ministers may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision that is consequential on Part 1.

(2) Regulations under this section may amend, repeal or revoke provision made by or under—

(a) an Act or Measure of Senedd Cymru passed before this Act, or

(b) an Act passed—

(i) before this Act, or

(ii) later in the same session of Parliament as this Act.

(3) The power to make regulations under this section includes power to make—

(a) supplementary, incidental, transitional or saving provision;

(b) different provision for different purposes.

(4) The power under subsection (3)(a) to make transitional provision includes power to provide for the regulations to apply (with or without modifications) in relation to occupation contracts granted, renewed or continued, or advertising begun, before the date on which the regulations come into force.

(5) Regulations under this section may only make provision which would be within the legislative competence of Senedd Cymru if contained in an Act of the Senedd.

(6) A statutory instrument containing (whether alone or with other provision) regulations under this section that amend or repeal provision made by an Act or Measure of Senedd Cymru, or by an Act, may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, Senedd Cymru.

(7) Any other statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of Senedd Cymru.”—(Jacob Young.)

This new clause confers on the Welsh Ministers a power to make consequential amendments relating to Part 1 of the Bill (which will include the new clause about discriminatory practices in relation to the grant of occupation contracts in Wales). It is expected to be inserted into Part 5 of the Bill.

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 48

Prohibition of discrimination relating to children or benefits status: Welsh language text

“(1) The Welsh language text of the Renting Homes (Fees etc.) (Wales) Act 2019 (anaw 2) is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1, after subsection (2), insert—

‘(2A) Mae Rhan 2A yn ei gwneud yn drosedd i landlord neu berson sy’n gweithredu ar ran landlord neu’n honni ei fod yn gweithredu ar ran landlord wahaniaethu mewn perthynas â chontractau meddiannaeth yn erbyn personau a fyddai â phlant yn byw gyda hwy neu’n ymweld â hwy neu sy’n hawlyddion budd-daliadau, ac yn gwneud darpariaeth arall ynghylch gwahaniaethu o’r math hwnnw.’

(3) After section 8 insert—

Rhan 2A

Gwahardd gwahaniaethu

8A Gwahardd gwahaniaethu yn ymwneud â phlant

(1) Mae’n drosedd i berson perthnasol, mewn perthynas ag annedd sydd i fod yn destun contract meddiannaeth—

(a) ar y sail y byddai plentyn yn byw gyda pherson neu’n ymweld â pherson yn yr annedd pe bai’r annedd yn gartref i’r person, atal y person rhag—

(i) ymholi a yw’r annedd ar gael i’w rhentu,

(ii) cael mynediad at wybodaeth am yr annedd,

(iii) gweld yr annedd er mwyn ystyried a ddylai geisio ei rhentu, neu

(iv) sicrhau contract meddiannaeth mewn cysylltiad â’r annedd neu sicrhau bod contract o’r fath yn cael ei adnewyddu neu ei barhau, neu

(b) cymhwyso darpariaeth, maen prawf neu arfer er mwyn peri bod pobl a fyddai â phlentyn yn byw gyda hwy neu’n ymweld â hwy yn yr annedd yn llai tebygol o sicrhau contract meddiannaeth mewn cysylltiad â’r annedd neu’n llai tebygol o sicrhau bod contract o’r fath yn cael ei adnewyddu neu ei barhau na phobl a fyddai heb blentyn yn byw gyda hwy neu’n ymweld â hwy.

(2) Mae’n amddiffyniad i’r person perthnasol brofi bod yr ymddygiad yn fodd cymesur o gyflawni nod dilys.

(3) Mae’n amddiffyniad i’r person perthnasol brofi bod darpar landlord yr annedd, neu berson a fyddai’n uwchlandlord mewn perthynas â’r annedd, wedi ei yswirio o dan gontract yswiriant—

(a) nad yw adran 8H yn gymwys iddo, a

(b) sy’n cynnwys teler sy’n ei gwneud yn ofynnol i’r sawl sydd wedi ei yswirio wahardd deiliad contract rhag bod â phlentyn yn byw gydag ef neu’n ymweld ag ef yn yr annedd neu sy’n ei gwneud yn ofynnol i’r landlord gyfyngu’r amgylchiadau lle caniateir i ddeiliad contract wneud hynny,

a bod yr ymddygiad yn fodd i atal y darpar landlord rhag torri’r teler hwnnw.

(4) Mae person sy’n euog o drosedd o dan is-adran (1) yn agored ar euogfarn ddiannod i ddirwy.

8B Gwahardd gwahaniaethu yn ymwneud â statws o ran budd-daliadau

(1) Mae’n drosedd i berson perthnasol, mewn perthynas ag annedd sydd i fod yn destun contract meddiannaeth—

(a) ar y sail bod person yn hawlydd budd-daliadau, ata