Clause 47 - Financial penalties

Renters (Reform) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 28 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 10:30, 28 Tachwedd 2023

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.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research, Chair, Environmental Audit Sub-Committee on Polar Research

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.