HC Deb 30 July 1974 vol 878 cc647-8

'The acceptance by the landlord of rent payable in respect of premises, which are or were subject to a protected tenancy or a tenancy to which Part VI of the Rent Act 1968 applies or a tenancy to which Part VII of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 applies, after the operative date of a notice to quit those premises shall not invalidate nor be deemed to be a withdrawal of that notice'.—[Mrs. Thatcher.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause be read a Second time.—[Mrs. Thatcher.]

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Lawrence

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have somewhat fallen out of humour with the clause since it was tabled, and it is right frankly to say so and not to waste the time of the House. I shall therefore treat it as a probing clause. It frequently happens that lawyers feel it wiser to advise that if some rent has been accepted the whole process of service of notice, and so on, must start again. The law is not as clear as it might be, or, if the law is clear, it is not generally understood to be clear, and we feel that it should be. Will the Minister say clearly, therefore, that he does not intend that acceptance of rent should invalidate or be deemed to be a withdrawal of the notice.

If we get that assurance we shall be prepared not to press the clause.

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Peter Archer)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) for being straightforward about the purpose of the clause. I can answer him briefly. The law as I understand it is that the acceptance of rent after the operation of a notice to quit does not of itself create a new tenancy. It never did. It could in certain circumstances be taken as evidence from which a court would infer the intention to create a new tenancy, but there are a number of ways in which one could preclude that from happening. The language under which rent was accepted might be sufficient to displace that assumption, although language itself could not displace it if the facts clearly led to the inference of the intention to create a new tenancy.

Where the tenant is under a statutory protection, that will be an explanation which the court will take to explain the acceptance of rent, and that will displace the presumption of an intention to create a new tenancy.

I do not think that I can improve on what was said by the present Master of the Rolls in Marcroft Wagons v. Smith dealing with a case in which there was statutory protection. He said: In these circumstances, it is no longer proper for the courts to infer a tenancy at will, or a weekly tenancy, as they would previously have done from the mere acceptance of rent. They should only infer a new tenancy when the facts truly warrant it. and, a little later: If the acceptance of rent can be explained on some other footing than that a contractual tenancy existed, as, for instance, by reason of an existing or possible statutory right to remain, then a new tenancy should not be inferred. So the landlord is not obliged to allow a tenant to remain rent-free under pain of having created a new tenancy.

Mrs. Thatcher

I am most grateful to the Solicitor-General. We now have the legal position clearly on the record, and it will be valuable.

Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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