§ (1) While a tenancy continues by virtue of section one or section two of this Act, or while before the date of expiry the tenant under a tenancy granted for such a term as is mentioned in the said section one, or a member of the tenant's family, is living in the property or part thereof in right of the tenancy, the following provisions shall have effect.
§ (2) The landlord or any superior landlord, or the agent or surveyor of either, shall he entitled (whether or not the terms and conditions of the tenancy so provide) at any reasonable time to enter on the property and examine the state of repair and condition thereof, and after giving reasonable notice to enter on the property and carry out any work reasonably required for preventing or arresting any serious depreciation in the condition of the property or of adjoining property.
§ (3) In so far as any expenditure in respect of the execution of work on the property—
- (a) incurred by the landlord (whether by virtue of the last foregoing subsection, or by virtue of any of the terms and conditions of the tenancy), or
- (b) incurred by some other person and recovered from the landlord,
§ (4) Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section four of this Act shall apply to any right of recovery from the tenant (whether conferred by the last foregoing subsection or by the terms and conditions of the tenancy) of expenditure incurred by another person in consequence of failure by the tenant to comply with those terms and conditions, as it applies to such a right to damages as is mentioned in the said paragraph (a).
§ (5) Nothing in subsection (2) or (3) of this section shall be construed as derogating from any of the terms and conditions of a tenancy.
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The Solicitor-General
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." The purpose of it will be quite apparent to the Committee. Let me say at once to hon. Gentlemen opposite who were very insistent, during the earlier stages of our discussions, upon the necessity for introducing a safeguard against serious depreciation, that this new Clause is not intended and does not purport to go the whole length of what they wanted, but it goes some part of the way. The argument was that it was wrong that during the two years extension, because of the effect of Clause 4 of the Bill, the landlord should be virtually powerless to take any steps by way of forfeiture in the event, say, of serious depreciation of the premises owing to lack by the tenant of care to take the necessary steps to maintain the premises. Hon. Members opposite particularly complained of Clause 4, because it seemed to them that it had that effect.
What this new Clause is designed to do, as I have said, is to go some way to meet that objection; but I do not for a moment pretend it goes the whole way they want. What it does is to say that during the two years period although landlords are not given the right of forfeiture at all for breach of covenant to maintain. nevertheless, if it can be said that work is necessary for preventing or arresting serious depreciation in the condition of the property or of adjoining property, and only in that case—in other words, where the danger is of serious depreciation—the landlord shall be entitled to go in to do the repairs and recover the cost of doing the repairs, so far as it was reasonably necessary to do them, from the tenant. The right of the landlord to recover that cost is suspended, 1512 just as the remedy for damages in case of other breaches of covenants is at present suspended under Clause 4 until the termination of the extended tenancy.
That is what this proposed new Clause does. It provides this degree of safeguard to a landlord who sees his premises being allowed to fall into a state of serious neglect. If he can show that there is a danger of serious depreciation he is given the right to go in to see the state of the premises, and the right to carry out necessary repairs to prevent serious depreciation. He cannot, however, claim to be repaid by the tenant during the two years extended currency of the lease; he must wait until the end of it, but when the end of it comes he can, under the terms of the tenancy, claim to be repaid the amount which was reasonably necessary to do the repairs.
As I said at the outset of my observations, this new Clause goes part of the way, but only part of the way, towards the goal hon. Members opposite had in mind when they previously criticised Clause 4. In my submission, it at any rate provides a reasonable safeguard to the landlord who can, in the event of his premises being allowed to fall into a state of serious decay and neglect, go in and put an end to that state of affairs.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
This is an effort to go some way to meet the problems to which we drew attention earlier in our discussions, but the distance it travels in that direction is very small indeed, and I must say that I do not regard this as a satisfactory Clause in its present form. What we are seeking to do is, by some means or another, to secure that during the next two years existing property which, owing to the Government's failure to permit repairs being done, is falling rapidly into disrepair in so many parts of the country shall not be allowed to deteriorate if that can be avoided.
We put forward our proposals for dealing with this at an earlier stage in our discussions and I shall not repeat what I said then or prolong the discussion now by re-opening that debate, but I ask the Committee just to consider what this proposed Clause really does, and to consider whether it is likely to be in the least degree effective in preventing the 1513 unnecessary deterioration of property. After all, to whomever they belong, the maintenance of houses is a matter of urgent importance in the national interest.
Under subsection (2) we find that the landlord, or his agent or surveyor, is given a right of entry, whether he had it before or not, to carry out work.for preventing or arresting any serious depreciation in the condition of the property or adjoining property.Of course, there is no objection which anyone could take to that, but when we look at subsection (3) we see that the expenditure is divided into two categories: first, expenditure incurred by the landlord; and, secondly, expenditure incurred by some other person and recovered from the landlord. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain what he has in mind when he says:expenditure … incurred by some other person and recovered from the landlord.He did not deal with that in explaining the meaning of this new Clause.
Subsection (2) goes on to say that if that expenditure, whether incurred by the landlord or by some other person and recovered from the landlord,was … in consequence of failure by the tenant to comply with any of the said terms and conditions"—that is of the tenancy—the expenditure shall be recoverable by the landlord from the tenant whether or not those terms and conditions so provide.As I understand it, if this work has been done, either by the landlord or by another person and the cost recovered from the landlord, and if it is work which arises in consequence of the failure of the tenant to comply with the obligations of the tenancy, it is provided that the expenditure shall be recoverable whether or not the terms and conditions of the tenancy so provide. It would appear from this that if the failure to comply with the covenant is established, and if cost is incurred in remedying the consequences of that failure, under this subsection the landlord is given a right of recovery which at the present time he may not possess. That is as I understand the new Clause so far.
Then we go on to read subsection (4), which says:Paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section four … shall apply to any right of 1514 recovery from the tenant … of expenditure incurred by another person.That is the second category referred to in subsection (3). As I see it, there is nothing there to say that subsection (4) shall apply to recovery by the tenant of expenditure incurred by him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that subsection (4) does apply. I may be wrong, but as I read the proposed new Clause I do not see that it does apply where the expenditure is incurred by the landlord. Subsection (4) is only brought in when the expenditure is apparently incurred by some other person than the landlord, reading subsection (4) with subsection (3).
I must say that on reading this Clause for the first time I arrived at the conclusion that it gave to the landlord a right of entering and doing repairs which were necessary, and where the repairs were rendered necessary by reason of the tenant's failure to comply with his covenants there was a right of recovery of the expense of those repairs from the tenant; but, in view of subsection (4), where another person incurred expense due to the failure of the tenant to comply with his obligations and that other person recovered the expense from the landlord, the landlord would not be able to recover. That, as I see it, is what this Clause means.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interpretation of this Clause is correct—and I am sure he will admit that it is not, in its wording, the easiest Clause one has seen—it will lead to the most astonishing results. According to him, for the purpose of keeping property in repair the landlord is given a right of entry and a right to put the property into repair, but no right of recovering anything from the tenant, who is under an obligation in respect of those repairs, until after the termination of the lease, when a tenant has perhaps quitted and may not be traceable. The suggestion we put forward is much better than that.
What is going to happen in practice? Take the case of a bad tenant. There are some, and there are some bad landlords. Take the case of a bad tenant who is not keeping the house in proper repair, and the landlord goes in under this Clause and puts it right. The tenant can commit waste and again allow the property to fall into disrepair by his own 1515 neglect or misuse of it. Is the landlord to come in again and again at his own expense, to put right the condition of the property and merely have, at the end of the tenancy, the right of suing the vanishing, bad tenant? That is a case which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not dealt with. It is a case that may arise, and it is one that should be dealt with if we are to do equity in a matter of this sort. We have heard much about this being a standstill Measure, and the result will be, if it is left in its present form, that, in spite of this Clause, it will be a Measure which will lead to the decay of a great deal of house property.
§ Mr. Janner
I think that if the hon. and learned Gentleman really understood what the Clause said, he would have seen that it goes very much further than many of us would want a Clause of this nature to go. He said that this was his first reading of the Clause. If he had read it a little more thoroughly he would not have made such foolish comments with regard to the remarks of other people who know a little about the Acts. We are anxious to make this Measure as comprehensive as we can in order to protect tenants who hitherto have not had that protection. Many hundreds and thousands of tenants have been turned out when their leases have expired since they have spent a lot of money on repairs. The sooner he realises that, perhaps the quicker he will be to see that some of his comments are foolish.
I would like to ask one question with regard to the tenant who has unfortunately been placed in a position of taking over premises which have been neglected for many years. The tenant, for example, whose landlord was under no obligation to do outside repairs and the tenant was under an obligation to do inside repairs, which sometimes happens, under long leases. What is his position? According to this Clause, we are calling upon the tenant to do certain repairs which through his landlord's inaction became necessary, and it may be that the tenant's neglect is due to this inaction from another direction.
The second point which I would like to ask him is this: Why has the tenant who, after all, is defined as the tenant actually occupying the premises, to pay 1516 for a considerable amount of repairs which many of his predecessors have failed to do in consequence of the fact that the landlord did not do the portion of the repairs which under the lease he was required to do?
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
It is, of course, difficult to find a Clause which adequately meets the conflicting points of view over this matter. We feel that we cannot go further than we have gone without running into the danger of providing a purely illusory protection, and we are not prepared to do that. The Bill is designed to provide real protection to the tenant, and if one puts into the hands of the landlord more drastic powers, we are making the protection which we are seeking to give to the tenant during the two year period of much less value than it is at present.
That is why I have been thinking how we can meet the arguments, both in the House and the Committee, advanced on Clause 4. We thought that this was a reasonable compromise to both demands. I think that there are sufficient safeguards in the Clause to overcome the dangers of which the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) is apprehensive.
The new Clause only provides for workreasonably required for preventing or arresting any serious depreciation in the condition of the property.In the event of a dispute—and we hope there will not be a dispute in this short interim Measure—and the case went to court, it would be for the judge to decide; but one hopes that it will not be necessary to resort to the courts and that the two parties will be able to put their heads together and agree on what is reasonable in a particular case.
There is a further effective safeguard in the Bill. In the first place, the only work that is contemplated as being within the purview of the Clause is work which is necessary or reasonably necessary for preventing or arresting serious depreciation. It could be said that that certainly is not more than is reasonable. It is not unreasonable to say that the Clause should be so worded that if it is obvious that the premises are going into serious decay or neglect, it should be possible for the landlord to do something to arrest that process. Secondly, I would say to my 1517 hon. Friend that the only amount which the landlord can recover is that which is reasonable. He cannot recover any fantastic amount in respect of work which is quite unnecessary. There are these two quite separate safeguards, which, we think, adequately safeguard the tenant's position.
§ Mr. Powell
I gather that the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the whole Clause relates only to repairs necessary to prevent or arrest serious depreciation. I suggest, unless I have misread the Clause, that subsection (3, a) goes wider than that, because it covers expenditure incurred not only in respect of subsection (2) but also by virtue of the conditions of tenancy, so that the first safeguard which the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentions applies to only part of it.
§ The Solicitor-General
Subsection (3, a) is subject to the further qualification that the landlord can only recover from the tenant expenditure under subsections (3, a) or (3, b) if it is reasonably required.
§ The Solicitor-General
That safeguard is applicable to the expenditure incurred under subsections (3, a) and (3, b) and subsection (3) as a whole only relates to the expenditure which is described in subsection (2), which is expenditure which is necessary.
§ The Solicitor-General
Subsection (2) relates to work necessary for preventing serious depreciation. Subsection (3), in so far as any expenditure is incurred in respect of the execution of the work on the property—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. and learned Gentleman really must attach some force to the words following "landlord" in line 14,whether by virtue of the last foregoing subsection, …which relates to preventing any serious depreciation, or work incurred by the landlordby virtue of any of the terms and conditions of the tenancy.1518 Those words must have some meaning and they may cover the same area of territory, but they may go beyond what is provided in subsection (2). I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, if he reads the Clause again, will probably agree that that must be so.
§ The Solicitor-General
Looking at it now, I agree that it is ambiguous, and I shall look at it again between now and the Report stage. I agree that the words to which I referred could either relate back or stand independently of subsection (2). I should like to consider that point again, and I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for calling my attention to it.
Perhaps I might now answer the two specific questions that were put. The reference in paragraph (b) of subsection (3) is to the case in which the landlord is himself a tenant and, being a tenant, his head lessor under the head lease does the work and recovers the amount from him. We get the case where the landlord is a tenant and he is under an obligation to his head lessor. He does some work under the terms of the lease and recovers it from the tenant. That is the kind of situation invisaged under this paragraph.
The second question was in regard to subsection (4). The hon. and learned Member directed his attention to the words "incurred by another person." It might also be said that they are not as clear as they might be, but, from a straightforward reading, that applies both to the landlord referred to in subsection (4) and to the other person referred to in paragraph (b) of subsection (3). It might have been more felicitous to expand the expression, but we shall look at that between now and the Report stage. Therefore, it applies to both categories of cases, although it is not quite as clearly drafted as might be. We shall certainly look at it again.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
If the Solicitor-General is going to re-draft the Clause, I hope he will pay attention to the wording of subsection (4) which would be sufficient to debar a third party from recovering the costs of repairs to his property, if it were adjoining property, until the two years had elapsed. May I put the case to him which he will find in the Law Reports, the case where adjoining property sustained extremely severe 1519 damage by tree roots. Repairs had to be effected and costs had to be incurred by the occupier of the adjoining property. Under the Clause that third party, although he is not a landlord and there is no such relationship between him and the occupier of the adjoining premises, would not be entitled to recover the sum he has expended in putting his property into repair due to failure by the adjoining occupier.
It seems to me to be at least arguable whether the Clause would not cover the owner of the damaged house as being "another person." That is, the owner or occupier of adjoining property in respect of which repairs were necessary owing to failure on the part of the tenant of the adjoining property. I want to be quite certain that the Clause does not go so far as to debar the adjoining occupier who suffers damage in that way from recovering the expense of putting it right. The wording is very bad, but I gather from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that the Clause is to be reconsidered between now and Report stage.
§ The Solicitor-General
We shall certainly look at that point. I do not think there is much danger, because the only expenditure which can be recovered is expenditurereasonably required in consequence of failure by the tenant to comply with any of the said terms.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It would bework reasonably required for preventing or arresting any serious depreciation in the condition of the property or of adjoining property.
§ The Solicitor-General
I dare say that it would, but it would not also comply with the requirement that it had to be in consequence of failure by the tenant to comply with "any of the terms." There would not be a "term" on the part of a tenant to avoid the particular damage to which the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring. If I might use the language of the hon. and learned Member earlier, I think that my most useful contribution, if we are to get the Committee stage finished at all, would be to say that I am very grateful to him for having studied this Clause so closely and that we shall consider his arguments between now and the Report stage.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I am very worried about this Clause. I do not like to see the Government Front Bench giving away so many concessions to the other side on a question of this sort. Two concessions have already been made by my right hon. and learned Friend. I am not concerned with the manipulations of leases and speculators in land, but with the little chap who owns his own cottage. I want to know whether the little chap is worse off as a result of this Clause, and whether the finance corporations can move in and do the repairs they want and then saddle the small man with the bill at the end. Does the Clause mean more money for the landlord than would otherwise have been the case?
§ Mr. Thomas
It appears that hon. Members opposite have been arguing that the Clause does not go far enough. They want a little more money for the landlord. My right hon. and learned Friend has made it perfectly clear—as clear as anything has been in the debate—that the landlord will be able to claim at the end of the tenancy money that he would not otherwise have been able to claim but for this Clause.
I do not like all this talk about the tenant. I am not a lawyer. Lawyers talk of a man who has bought his own house, or built his own house, or lived in a house for 60 years as a tenant of some miserable, squalid finance corporation in London, whose activities I know from their administration in my part of the world. They talk as if these corporations had greater rights than the man who morally owns the house. My right hon. and learned Friend had better not go any further with the Clause on Report stage, or he may find trouble from this side if he gives another inch to the Opposition on this question.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am not suggesting that I should go any further. Hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), who has obviously studied the Clause very carefully, take the view that there are certain possible ambiguities. It seems to me, on looking at the Clause rather more closely, that there is room for the possibility of two interpretations. I am saying no more than that I should like an opportunity 1521 to consider the Clause between now and Report stage with a view to improving the drafting. I am not prepared to go further along the path in meeting the arguments of hon. Members opposite—I hope I am not importing any prejudice—which is not consistent with safeguarding the object we have in mind, which is to provide a real and not an illusory protection for the tenant.
I should like to say to my hon. Friend that what we have in mind is—we may get a case of an extended tenancy during the two years, with the tenant under an obligation to carry out certain repair to prevent the property decaying. If it can be said that the property is seriously going to wrack and ruin and there is the danger of serious depreciation owing to this failure to repair, then the landlord is given the rights which this Clause confers upon him. He can go into the property and carry out the repairs, but he cannot during the two years recover from the tenant the cost of carrying out those repairs. Any rights he has in that respect are postponed until the termination of the two years.
Endeavouring as we do to hold the scales evenly between the conflicting interests involved and seeing to it that the tenant is adequately protected and that the landlord is given a reasonable measure of protection in the case where the property is seriously deteriorating, we think that, having listened to the arguments on this question, we have fairly drawn the line between the two. I understood that what was really the proposal that came from the hon. Gentleman opposite was to look at the matter again. I am not doing any more than looking again at the drafting with a view to removing ambiguities which do exist in the drafting, to which my attention has been called.
§ Mr. Hay
The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to have had a fair measure of success in mollifying some of his opponents on the Government benches. Whether he will continue to mollify them if he pursues this new Clause to its conclusion I do not know, but it will be of interest, when adjustments are made to the Clause and an opportunity is given to discuss it on Report stage, to see whether the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. 1522 Thomas) and his hon. Friends will carry these strong opinions to a Division. My belief is that they probably will not, and that all this sound and fury is a bit bogus.
I want to turn to the principle of the new Clause. The right hon. and learned Gentleman in approaching the Committee with the Clause, has told us on this side that this is a concession, an effort to try and meet the position we raised in the course of earlier debates. What exactly is the nature of this concession that he is going to give? He has talked a lot about landlords' rights, including the right of re-entry to do certain repairs. But that is about the only thing that the landlord is being given. The landlord is given the right to do the repairs to prevent the property falling down, but his right of recovery of the cost of doing them is going to be postponed until the end of two years.
The landlord can do these repairs at his own expense provided that at this stage he is prepared to advance the money to do so, and at the end of two years he can recover the money from the tenant. Who knows what the position is going to be at the end of two years? Frequently we have been told that this is a standstill Measure. Who knows what the form of the final Bill will be if this Government is still in office? What is the position of the landlord who has done these repairs and has been vested with the right of recovery from the tenant if the new Bill, which the Government are eventually going to introduce, does not safeguard his position?
Supposing the tenant, in fact, goes out at the end of the two years, how will the landlord recover his money if, in fact, he has the right of recovery of the expense of the repairs? The tenant will be vanishing and the landlord will try to find him to recover the money from him. This is the very dubious right that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given to the landlord. I think he has been drawn towards his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff. West, who hovers on his flank and is prepared to sting if necessary, but I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not here doing very much to help the landlord. It is very illusory and my personal opinion is that whatever the drafting we 1523 must on Report seriously consider the whole principle of this new Clause.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.