Clause 4 - Form of notice of proceedings for possession

Renters (Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 23 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 12:30, 23 Tachwedd 2023

I beg to move amendment 177, in clause 4, page 3, line 34, at the beginning insert—

“(1) In section 8 of the 1988 Act, after subsection (2) insert—

‘(2A) A notice under this section must include reference to the unique identifiers allocated to each person and dwelling-house with an entry on the database in accordance with section 41 of the Renters (Reform) Act 2023 (Allocation of unique identifiers).’”

This amendment would require landlords to be registered on the database to serve grounds for possession notices.

We will debate at some length the provisions in the Bill that will establish a private rented sector database when we consider chapter 3 of part 2 in detail, so I do not intend to dwell on our view of the Bill’s database provisions more generally, or how they might be improved. We will have sufficient time to do so in due course. Suffice it to say that we take it as given that the Government wish to see, as we do, as many existing and prospective residential landlords registering themselves and their properties on the property portal that the database will support.

We acknowledge that the Bill already contains provisions designed to ensure that registration rates are high. These include the financial penalties that local authorities can impose, assuming that they have the capacity and capability to do so, on people who, for example, do not meet the requirements in relation to marketing, advertising and letting set out in clause 39. However, we believe that the Government should seek to make it virtually impossible for a residential landlord to operate without registering themselves and their property on the database by ensuring that every single process that the Bill covers bites on them in that regard.

Amendment 177 seeks to contribute to that objective by inserting into section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 a new subsection that would compel landlords to be registered on the database in order to serve grounds for possession notices by requiring them to add to any possession notice served the unique identifier that they will be allocated on registering. Requiring landlords to append a unique identifier to a possession notice, and thus denying landlords not registered with the database the opportunity for a court to make an award of possession, would be an important means of ensuring maximum compliance with the proposed portal and properly regulating the new system to the benefit of both landlords and tenants. For those reasons, I hope the Minister will look favourably on the amendment.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for moving amendment 177, which would require landlords to have registered on the property portal before serving a tenant with a valid notice for possession under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. The property portal will play a crucial role in helping landlords to understand their legal obligations and will give tenants the information they need to make informed choices before starting a tenancy. Our view is that the enforcement mechanisms in the Bill, including the mandatory duty on landlords to be on the portal and the ability of local authorities to find those, will prevent abuse. However, I note the hon. Member’s concerns, and if there are further measures we can take to ensure that all landlords are on the portal, we will explore them further.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I welcome the Minister’s response and his commitment to look further at this matter. Although the mandatory duty is welcome, we have real concerns about the ability of local authorities to properly investigate and enforce. We will come back to those concerns, because they relate to a number of areas in the Bill. I therefore hope that the Minister goes away and thinks about every—

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Ceidwadwyr, Walsall North

There is form in this area: a landlord cannot evict their tenants if the property does not have an energy performance certificate. It seems like an interesting proposal.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I very much welcome the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I have covered all bases in our set of amendments. We will come to the preconditions and requirements that have developed around section 21 that fall away under the Bill; they are a concern. The hon. Gentleman is right: to serve a section 21 notice, a number of regulatory obligations must be met.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

Another advantage of doing it through the property portal is that it helps to speed up the digitalisation process that the Government are so keen on with the courts. The portal would retain the information that the courts need.

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Absolutely, and it is one of several ways that we think that, with some reasonable, common-sense amendments, we can strengthen the Bill so that every part of it works together. I hope that the Government will go away and think about the other ways in which we can ensure maximum landlord compliance with the portal. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.