§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ Clause 16:
§ 16.—(1) Notwithstanding anything in paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section fifteen of the Housing Act, 1949, or in paragraph (a) of subsection (3) of section twenty of that Act (which preclude the approval by the Minister of improvement proposals, or the approval by a local authority of an application for an improvement grant, unless the period for which the dwellings concerned are likely to provide satisfactory housing accommodation is not less than thirty years) the Minister or a local authority, as the case may be, may approve any such proposals or application if satisfied that the said period is likely to be more than ten years and that it is expedient in all the circumstances that the proposals or application should be approved.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SIMONDS) moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "ten" and insert "fifteen." The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is moved to give effect, if only partially, to a suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in the Committee stage of the Bill. Your Lordships will remember that under the Housing Act, 1949, for the purposes of the improvement of a house, a grant may be made by a local authority, with the assent of the Minister. Under that Act it was made a condition of grant that the house should have an expected life of thirty years. The present Bill, as printed, provides that that period of thirty years should be reduced to ten years. The provision of the 1949 Act had been widely criticised, and it had been generally thought that it was not sufficiently elastic. Accordingly, Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable that the period should be reduced from thirty years to ten years, not because it was anticipated that there would be many cases where a grant would be made in respect of a house with an expected life of only ten years, but because there might be such cases and it was desirable that the system should be as elastic as possible.
§ In Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, moved an Amendment to delete that provision, with the effect that the period of expected life would remain at thirty years. The noble Lord made an 1076 eloquent plea, as he always does. We have considered it, and accordingly we have now proposed to extend the period which we had inserted from ten years to fifteen years. Therefore, if I may put it in this way, I give the noble Lord five years. I do not know whether he will be as ungrateful as sometimes those are to whom a high judicial authority gives five years. At least, I hope that he will not ask for more; but I am not very hopeful. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 14, leave out ("ten") and insert ("fifteen").—(The Lord ChanceHor.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, this is one of those occasions where the longer the sentence, the better, I am proportionately grateful. The noble and learned Lord has met me to the extent of one-quarter of the way. I had hoped that, if he could not go all the way, we might have met half-way, but even a quarter of the way is better than nothing at all. To that extent, I welcome this Amendment. I certainly think that it was quite wrong that it should have been possible, as it was under the original provision, for large sums of public money to be spent on improvement grants in respect of a dwelling-house which might have only a ten-year life. It will still be possible to spend £800—£400 of public money—on a house with a life of fifteen years. I should not have thought that that was good business, but fifteen years is better than ten, and to that extent I welcome the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23:
§ Repairs increase for dwelling-house in good repair
23.—(1) Where a dwelling-house is let under a controlled tenancy or occupied by a statutory tenant, and the landlord is responsible, wholly or in part, for the repair of the dwelling-house, then, subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act,—
(a) if and so long as the following conditions (hereinafter referred to as "the conditions justifying an increase of rent") are fulfilled, that is to say—
the rent recoverable from the tenant shall be increased by virtue of this subsection so as to exceed by the amount hereinafter mentioned the rent which apart from this subsection would be recoverable from the tenant under the terms of the tenancy or statutory tenancy and having regard to the provisions of any enactment.
LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (i), to add to paragraph (a):
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name. The House will remember that on the Committee stage we had a prolonged discussion on the question as to where the onus should lie of obtaining a certificate from the local authority where a landlord has purported to put his house into the good repair required by this Bill to justify an increase of rent. As the Bill stands, it is for the tenant to go to the local authority and get a certificate that the property is not in such good repair as to justify the increase. We thought that the onus should be on the landlord to go to the local authority and produce a certificate of repair; and we gave our reasons, which I thought were cogent but which I do not propose to repeat.
§ The argument that was put forward against it was largely on administrative grounds. It was suggested not necessarily that it was unfair to put the onus on the landlord but that it would impose such a large administrative burden on the local authority that it would involve them in considerable expense in having to employ more staff, and presumably delay and so on. Indeed, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Gage, gave an example of a case where one authority in his area would be involved in an increase in rates of 4½d. in the £ through having to employ an additional sanitary inspector, and so on. The noble and learned Viscount was good enough to give me further particulars of the authority he had in mind.
§ LORD SILKIN
The noble Viscount is learned in these matters. I hope that he 1078 will not mind if I refer to some of the information he gave me. The authority to which he referred had 2,500 dwellings subject to rent control, or which might be affected, but, taking that case as presumably one of the hardest that could be found—because that was a small authority, where the product of a penny rate was only a small amount—it seemed to me that their administrative inconvenience was not so great. It was a case where, once the properties which were thought to justify an increase had been surveyed they would not have to be surveyed again; and it was not a matter of appointing a permanent additional officer. I should have thought the difficulty could have been met by dealing with the thing ad hoc, by transferring somebody from another department temporarily to deal with the rush. It was not at all likely that there would be 2,500 applications for an increase. My own guess is that there would not have been more than 200 or 300, at the outside, and I should have thought that even in that case it could have been covered. However, it was the administrative difficulty which seemed to determine the Committee in rejecting my Amendment, and accordingly some of my friends and myself have thought of a way of meeting, that particular argument.
Throughout this Bill, and generally, landlords and tenants have been encouraged to get together, and in the Amendment which I am now moving we suggest that the landlords and tenants might very easily agree that the conditions as regards repair, justifying an increase of rent, had been satisfied. And if they did agree in writing, then there would be no need, under this agreement, for the landlord to go to the local authority and get a certificate. It would be only in cases where there was a dispute, where the tenant was unwilling to agree that the dwelling-house was in good repair, that the landlord would have to obtain a certificate. That would considerably reduce the number of cases, and in my view would greatly ease the administrative difficulties and, consequently, the main argument on which our original proposal was rejected.
On the merits of the matter, I feel that it is much more logical and reasonable for the landlord to make out his case for 1079 an increase in rent. He makes it out by producing evidence of his expenditure and a certificate of repair from the local authority. Once he has got that certificate there can be no possible dispute, and it does avoid this very bad provision in the Bill which enables a landlord to go to a county court and sue for rent as a means of objecting to the certificate of disrepair which has been obtained by the tenant. By this means we avoid all that. I should be quite content, if the landlord has obtained a certificate of good repair, to leave it at that and not to give the tenant any right of appeal against it. I think that would be perfectly fair and reasonable. At any rate, it would avoid one of the major difficulties which arises on this part of the Bill. So I move the Amendment with some hope that, even at this late stage, this being a new proposal, it may receive favourable consideration. I believe that this Amendment is right, and that if it were accepted it would go a long way towards removing some of the bitter objections which exist to this Bill. I therefore hope that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack will see his way to give us some encouragement. I beg to move.
Page 19, line 36, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ 2 50 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, as I told your Lordships both during the Second Reading debate and in the Committee stage of this Bill, there is no provision in the Bill which has caused us, and has caused me personally, more anxiety than this, because—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and other noble Lords sitting with him will believe me when I say this—I am animated by the strongest desire to do what is just in this case between a landlord and a tenant. So this matter has called for most anxious consideration; and, having given it that consideration, I am afraid I must still say that the wish to do justice as between landlord and tenant, the desire to hold the balance even, leads me to ask your Lordships to reject this Amendment. It is quite true that one of the objections—and the objection which seemed to be most cogent and, indeed, unanswerable—to the proposal made by the noble Lord in the 1080 Committee stage was the impossible administrative burden that would be put upon a local authority. It is true that, to some extent, that would be met. But that was not the only objection, nor will that objection be wholly met, nor will it be met to any extent that one can predict.
Your Lordships will see what is the position here. The landlord has a heavy burden put upon him. In the first place, he has to make a declaration in accordance with the terms of Clause 23 of the Bill. He has to make a declaration that certain conditions are satisfied, that the dwelling-house is in good repair, and that it is reasonably suitable for occupation, having regard to the matters specified in the Bill. In addition, and as proof of his good faith, he has to establish that he has expended a certain amount of money, an amount which is referred to in the Schedule to the Bill. He has to do that, and he does so at his peril, because if he makes a false statement he is liable to the penalties which the Bill prescribes. Not only that, but the Bill protects a tenant in the most ample way, in that he will be fully informed both by information furnished by the Minister and by information which the landlord is, himself, required to give, what are his rights. Further, if the tenant is able to establish that the premises are not in repair, then any order or certificate to that effect will be retrospective.
What would be the position under the Amendment which the noble Lord proposes? It would be this. When the landlord has gone with all this proof to the tenant, the tenant says: "I will not agree"—and he can maintain his disagreement, and argue, and be dilatory for any period you like. Then the landlord, tired of that argument, goes to the local authority to ask for his certificate, for which he may have to wait, again, for any time you like—the whole of the objection being, I will not say bogus but at any rate somewhat capricious—and his increase in rent is delayed until he has got the certificate. That is putting too much temptation in the way of the tenant. I agree that it may be desirable that the parties should get together, but I would remind your Lordships that it has been the consistent policy of the Rent Restrictions Acts that people should not contract out, because it was always feared that the landlord would exercise pressure upon the 1081 tenant. What an opportunity there might be here if what people fear of landlords is true, that by pressure they will get an agreement in writing, or, at any rate, that the tenant may well say at a later date: "I did not understand; this agreement was got from me by intimidation, pressure and misrepresentation." It is much better to let matters stand as the Bill prescribes, and leave it to the tenant to go to the local authority to obtain the certificate of disrepair.
As I say, we have given the most anxious consideration to this question, and that is the conclusion to which we have come, so I do not think that I can possibly concede the point to which the noble Lord refers. It seems to us that to make this concession would put a premium on disagreement by the tenant, encouraging him, for no other purpose than to delay, to refuse his agreement, then to require the landlord to go to the local authority to get a certificate that the house in in good condition. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, by way of reinforcing his argument, stated that if it was put upon the landlord to get a certificate of repair he would not mind that that should be final. But I mind a great deal, because I object in the strongest way that the certificate of an executive authority in a matter of this kind, involving sometimes small sums but at other times substantial sums, should be left to the ipse dixit of a local authority, with no appeal and no opportunity for discussion. I say that this is a matter which ought to rest in the final event upon the adjudication of a court of law, whether it be the landlord or the tenant who is complaining. In so far as the noble Lord reinforces his argument by saying that it would be right that we should make the certificate final, I say that that is an objection to his proposal rather than something in favour of it. Therefore, I regret I cannot accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD PETHICK-LAWRENCE
My Lords, I am bound to say that I, for one, have listened to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack with considerable regret. I had hoped when we left this matter last week in the Committee stage that the Government would consider an intermediate suggestion which was put forward as a reasonable one, and would have agreed to our proposal. We have learnt to-day that that is not the case and that the Government have decided to stand pat on the Bill as it stands. Noble Lords who sit on these Benches feel that that is weighing the scales too heavily on the side of the landlord. I would just remind your Lordships of the facts which were brought out in the Committee stage. The tenant who objects to the increase of rent on the ground—it may be right or it may be wrong—that the repairs have not been adequately carried out, is forced to go to the trouble of getting a certificate from the local authority; and so far as we were able to understand when the Bill was in Committee, he has really got nothing at all by that. The landlord can still sue him in the county court, and though a certificate from the local authority may be of some weight in evidence, it is not conclusive in any way; the tenant, having gone to all that trouble, may still be defeated in the county court, after being put to additional expense, and may have to pay the additional rent. It is with great regret that we heard what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said, and I am afraid there is no prospect of moving him now. In view of the circumstances, it is my unfortunate duty to take the matter to a Division.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 13; Not-Contents, 26.1083
|Jowitt, E.||Burden, L. [Teller.]||Mathers, L.|
|Greenhill, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Haden-Guest, L. [Teller.]||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Shepherd, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Kershaw, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Buckmaster, V.||Dovercourt, L.|
|Furness, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Goschen, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Monsell, V.||Hemingford, L.|
|Birkenhead, E. [Teller.]||Lloyd, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Aberdare, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Barnby, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Broughshane, L.||Salter, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Savile, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Wolverton, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 24 [Rent not to be increased above twice gross value]:
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this Amendment is purely technical. It is designed to bring the provisions as to the rates for the purpose of ascertaining what we call the "stopper" under Clause 24 (3) into line with the provisions of the Rent Acts which are applied by this subsection. The effect of the Amendment is simply that, in ascertaining the amount to be deducted for rates, any allowance made to the landlord by the rating authority shall be treated as part of the amount payable by the landlord for rates. I do not think that can be regarded as controversial. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 21, line 35, at end insert—
("(4) Subsection (2) of section seven of the Act of 1938 (which relates to the ascertainment of the amount payable by the landlord for rates) shall apply for the purposes of this section as it applies for the purpose of computing the increase of rent permissible under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section two of the Act of 1920.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ Clause 26:
§ Determination whether conditions fulfilled to justify increase of rent
§ (2) Where the local authority have granted a certificate under the last foregoing subsection and the tenant has served a copy of the certificate on the landlord, then during or in respect of any period during which the certificate is in force no sum shall be recoverable by way of repairs increase in respect of the dwelling-house; but if the landlord, in proceedings for the recovery of such a sum, satisfies the court that at the time when the certificate was given the conditions justifying an increase of rent were fulfilled, the court shall annul the certificate and thereupon it shall be deemed never to have been in force.1084
§ 3.9 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "annul the certificate and thereupon" and to insert:
order that the certificate shall cease to be in force.
(3) Where an order is made under the last foregoing subsection as respects a certificate.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment, which I now move, is again put forward in order to give effect to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in Committee. Its purpose is simply this, and no more. The noble Lord suggested—and there was a great deal of force in his suggestion—that the landlord might put the tenant into this position. He might, when a certificate of disrepair had been obtained by the tenant, delay taking proceedings in the county court for some period of time. I think that is an unlikely event, but it is a matter for which some provision should perhaps be made. Accordingly, this Amendment proposes that on page 22, line 44, the words, "annul the certificate and thereupon" should be left out, and that the words, "order that the certificate shall cease to be in force" should be inserted; and then:
(3) Where an order is made under the last foregoing subsection as respects a certificate.
The result is that the certificate will be deemed never to have been in force.
If it is convenient to your Lordships, I would remind you that this Amendment is followed by a further Amendment in my name, which is really the purpose of the earlier Amendment. That Amendment is in these terms:
Provided that the court may, if it appears just so to do by reason of undue delay by the landlord in bringing the proceedings, order that it shall be deemed to have been in force until such date as may be specified in the order.
The result of that will be that where the tenant has obtained the certificate of disrepair, which makes it impossible for the
landlord to recover the increased rent, and the landlord then takes proceedings in the county court to have that certificate of disrepair annulled, it will nevertheless be "deemed to have been in force" for such time as the county court judge thinks fit, notwithstanding that he comes to the conclusion that it was wrongly obtained. That, I believe, precisely meets the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. In my view, it will seldom, if ever, be necessary to apply this proviso, but it is a wise safeguard, and I am obliged to the noble Lord for bringing it to our notice. I beg to move.
Page 22, line 44, leave out ("annul the certificate and thereupon") and insert the said new words.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for endeavouring to meet this point. As to whether or not the provision will be frequently used, neither of us can say, but under the Bill it was open to the landlord to delay taking proceedings to annul the certificate, and that might have involved a tenant in hardship. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord would look at the Amendment itself, and see whether it does, in fact, do what we all desire. I find it a little difficult to follow, and I gather that my noble and learned friend who sits beside me has the same difficulty. If we insert the words, "order that the certificate shall cease to be in force," instead of the words, "annul the certificate and thereupon," the subsection will read thatthe court shall order that the certificate shall cease to be in force.Then comes subsection (3); but there are some odd words left in the provision thatit shall be deemed never to have been in force.I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord follows my point.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Surely, it runs on. Instead of saying "annul the certificate and thereupon," it will say,the court shall order that the certificate shall cease to be in force"; 1086 and then,(3) Where an order is made under the last foregoing subsection as respects a certificate it shall be deemed never to have been in force.Then you have the proviso on the next page of the Marshalled List of Amendments:Provided that the court may, if it appears just so to do by reason of undue delay … order that it shall be deemed to have been in force until such date as may be specified in the order.I think it reads all right.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 22, line45, at end, insert—
("Provided that the court may, if it appears just so to do by reason of undue delay by the landlord in bringing the proceedings, order that it shall be deemed to have been in force until such date as may be specified in the order.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ Clause 28 [Passing on of repairs increase to sub-tenant]:
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment on the Amendment made in Committee on what is now Clause 25, to enable the form of declaration by a landlord of compliance with the expenditure test to be prescribed separately from the form of notice of repairs increase. That Amendment which was made in Committee commended itself to noble Lords opposite. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 25, line 19, leave out from ("rent') to ("(4)") in line 20 and insert—
("Any form prescribed for the purposes of this subsection shall contain such information as appears to the Minister expedient for informing the tenant of the effect of the notice; and subsection.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ Clause 38:
§ Exemption from s. 2 (2) of Act of 1949 for long leases
§ 38.—(l) Subsection (2) of section two of the Act of 1949 shall not prevent the requiring of a premium as a condition of the assignment of a tenancy granted for a term of years certain exceeding twenty-one years.1087
§ 3.18 p.m.
LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1), after "prevent" to insert: ", and shall be deemed never to have prevented,". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. This raises a point which was not raised in Committee and which has been drawn to my attention by a number of members of the legal profession. Under the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949,
A person shall not, as a condition of the grant, renewal or continuance of a tenancy … require the payment of any premium in addition to the rent.
Clause 38 of this Bill provides that, in spite of this provision, a premium may be payable in the case of the
assignment of a tenancy granted for a term of years certain exceeding twenty-one years.
That provision has been generally approved. The point that has been brought to my attention is that between 1949, when it became illegal to require the payment of a premium, and the time when this Bill will become law, a number of premiums will have been received, I am told in the belief that it was lawful. The purpose of this Amendment is to legalise such payments; to ensure that, where a payment has been made, in the belief on both sides that it was a valid payment, tenants shall not be able to recover the payment.
§ We may have the extraordinary position that, although Clause 38 will be passed and become law, people who have paid a premium can take proceedings at any time in the next year or two to recover this premium, even though, under Clause 38, it will now be lawful to accept it. My Amendment, I believe, will cover the point. The intention is that such payments of premium, which will be legal if they are paid hereafter, shall be deemed to have been legal if paid between 1949 and now. That is the purpose of the Amendment. It is one which is strongly pressed by members of the legal profession, who feel that they may have given advice in the past which may put them in difficulties if claims are made for the return of the premium. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will see his way to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 34, line 25, after ("prevent") insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, there is a real difficulty about this. The noble Lord has said—and it may well be so, because no doubt he speaks with authority—that there are people who have unwittingly broken the law laid down in the earlier Act. I think those people must be few, because the Department concerned in this matter, from a very early date in 1950 onwards, received representations that the law ought to be amended in this respect. Unfortunately, for various reasons, neither the Government then in power nor Her Majesty's Government to-day have been able to deal with the matter until this moment. But it has been well known, and the result of this Amendment will be retrospectively to make legal acts which the perpetrators knew very well to be illegal. It will put a premium upon illegality, and it will put those who, observing the law, did not get a premium upon the assignment, in a worse condition than those who thought they would run a risk and not observe the law. I do not think that your Lordships could be recommended to take a course which, in principle, I think is thoroughly bad. One may feel sympathy for those people, if there are any, who unwittingly did not observe the law, although we are all supposed—and it is entirely supposition—to know the law. But this Amendment would cover those who wittingly broke the law and took the risk. I do not think that is a course which this House ought to condone. Accordingly, I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment, and I hope the noble Lord will not press it.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I shall at least get a good mark for having put the Amendment down and moved it. Having heard the noble and learned Lord's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.24 p.m.
VISCOUNT BUCKMASTER moved, after Clause 41 to insert the following new clause:
42. Subsection (2) of section three of the Act of 1920 (which relates to the service of notice of permitted increases of rent) shall be read and have effect as if the words '(other than an increase on account of an increase in rates in respect of which no notice shall be required to be given by the landlord)' were inserted after the word 'increase' where first
occurring in the said subsection and as if the words 'or, where such increase is on account of an increase in rates, one clear week' were omitted therefrom.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to relieve the landlord from the obligation of serving on the tenant a notice of increase in rates in statutory form. I do not think it necessary to detain your Lordships with the argument. My noble friend Lord Mancroft was good enough to say that he would consider the point again, and on that basis I beg to move the Amendment.
After Clause 41 insert The said new clause.—(Viscount Buckmaster.)
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Buckmaster is quite right. He developed this point in some detail on the Committee stage, and he made some points which appeared, on first hearing, to be of considerable importance. I promised him that I would look at the matter again to see whether I could help him in any way. In short, the point he made on Committee was that the notice of increase of rent on account of increased rates payable by the landlord was so complicated that the only thing to do was to dispense with the notice altogether. I had some sympathy with this point of view, but I had to point out to my noble friend that this was a matter which fell to be dealt with more under the Rent Acts than under the Bill before your Lordships' House. I have considered the point again, and I am fairly certain that I am correct on that.
The point is this. My right honourable friend the Minister prescribes forms of notices under these Acts, including the form of notice on account of increase in rates. I have looked at some of these forms and kindred forms, and I must confess that I find myself in some agreement with my noble friend Lord Buckmaster that they can be very complicated indeed. Let me, therefore, give him this assurance. My right honourable friend the Minister will consider the possibility of prescribing a much simpler form of notice for this particular item. Some form of notice, I think the noble Lord would agree, there must be, or the tenant will never know when the increased rent is due from him. I think that it may well be practicable to pre- 1090 scribe a simple form dealing only with rates, and not containing all the other material which is required to be contained in the form at present prescribed by the Minister, and which may well give rise to certain confusion and misunderstanding. Though I am not able to go the whole way with my noble friend and accept his Amendment, I will, I repeat, give him an assurance that my right honourable friend will bend his mind to this matter to see whether he cannot obviate the difficulty which the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, has laid before us by producing a much simpler form of notice.
Arising out of that, there is another matter which, although not strictly consequential, actually marches with it to a certain degree. I appreciate that landlords may have a grievance inasmuch as when local authorities are late in serving demands for increased rents, which are payable as from the beginning of the rating period, the landlords have no means of recouping themselves for the loss they suffer on this account, since the, increased rent recoverable on account of increased rates becomes due only at the end of the week's notice required by the Rent Acts. That was a point which the noble Viscount also developed in Committee. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has therefore tabled the next Amendment on the Order Paper to enable a notice of increase of rent on account of increased rates to include a demand for arrears which arise from it with a limit of six weeks before the date of the notice. That is the next Amendment, but I have mentioned it now because it marches with the point which the noble Viscount raised on Committee. Therefore, I must ask the noble Viscount whether he will be good enough to withdraw his Amendment, in consideration of a promise to simplify the form of notice, and in due course to consider with me Amendment No. 9, which meets the other point he raised in that particular discussion.
§ VISCOUNT BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. In view of his remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment. I should also like to thank the noble and learned Lord for Amendment No. 9, covering part of the point that I raised.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1091
§ LORD MANCROFT moved, after Clause 43 to insert the following new clause:
§ Date for permitted increases for increases in rates
§ "44.—(1) Subsection (2) of section three of the Act of 1920 (which relates to the time as from which permitted increases of rent are recoverable from a tenant) shall have effect, in relation to increases permitted by paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section two of the Act of 1920 (which provides for increases of rent in respect of increases in the amounts payable by the landlord for rates), subject to the following provisions:—
- (a) any such permitted increase shall be recoverable from, and in respect of the period beginning with, the day specified in the next following subsection;
- (b) where at the time when the notice of increase is served the tenant is a statutory tenant, the amount of any such permitted increase may include an amount in respect of a period immediately preceding that mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph and beginning not earlier than six weeks before the date of service of the notice of increase nor earlier than the beginning of the statutory tenancy, and any amount so included shall be deemed to be rent due on the day specified in the next following subsection.
§ (2) The day referred to in the last foregoing subsection—
- (a) where at the time of service of the notice of increase the tenant is a statutory tenant, is the next day after the service of the notice on which an instalment of rent is payable under the terms of the statutory tenancy,
- (b) in any other case, is the day after the date on which by virtue of subsection (1) of section one of the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act, 1923, the notice of increase operates to terminate the tenancy.
§ (3) In this section the expression 'notice of increase' means the notice of intention to increase rent served in conformity with subsection (2) of section three of the Act of 1920.
§ (4) In accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section the said subsection (2) shall be amended as follows:—
- (a) after the words 'no such increase shall' there shall be inserted the words 'save as provided by section forty-four of the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954';
- (b) the words 'or, where such increase is on account of an increase in rates, one clear week' shall cease to have effect."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, I beg to move this Amendment. As I just remarked, the purpose of this new clause which we have put down is to enable a landlord who becomes entitled to increase the rent of his statutory tenant, on account of 1092 increased rates payable by him, to recover from the tenant certain arrears in respect of those rates—arrears which have been incurred because the local authority were late in serving their demand note. I must confess that, from my personal experience, my own local authority are almost aggressively punctual in serving, their demand note; but there may well be—indeed, I believe there are—perfectly legitimate reasons, such as changes in policy, technical reasons and so on, why demand notes may often be considerably late in their service. If the tenant is a contractual tenant and not a statutory tenant, the provision made in regard to arrears will, of course, have no application. The reason for that is that contractual tenancies may be of any length—yearly, quarterly, monthly and so on. If the landlord of a contractual tenant serves him with a notice of increase of rent on any account, this takes effect under the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act, 1923, as a notice to determine the contractual tenancy at the earliest date on which, under the terms of the tenancy, it can be determined, as from which date the contractual tenancy becomes a statutory tenancy at the increased rent demanded. In the case of a yearly tenancy, for example, the date when this would occur might be as far distant as eleven months. It would be impossible, therefore, to allow a landlord in these circumstances to recover rent in arrear on the basis of increased rates payable for a period back to six weeks before the date of the notice.
§ I accept that there is a case for the recovery by landlords of some part of arrears of rates payable in the circumstances which I have just mentioned. I think it is also recognised, and your Lordships will agree, that it would be unjust not to place a limit on the retrospective recovery of rent because of increased rates, and six weeks back has been the limit which we think it possible to allow in this connection. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that this limit of six weeks was originally suggested by the Ridley Committee in 1945. The Amendment which stands on the Order Paper as a new clause is. I think, fairly clear, and I will not weary your Lord-ships with detailed discussion of it. It is an important Amendment which deals with an important point. I hope that it will meet the difficulties envisaged by the 1093 noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, on the Committee stage and that it will, in quite an important feature, improve the working of the Bill. I beg to move.
After Clause 43, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I think that, on the whole, this is a reasonable Amendment. I understand that there may be cases where, for good reasons, including the one mentioned by the noble Lord, a landlord is not able to give a notice of increase in respect of rates as the increased rates become payable. I think, however, that six weeks is too long. This six weeks' period is granted to a landlord even where there has been no delay by the local authority in sending in their rate demand. It may be a hardship on poor tenants, where the increase in rates is substantial, to have to find six weeks' extra rates in one sum. I should have thought, either that this would be payable, in the event of notice being given by the landlord as soon as possible—so that if the local authority were six weeks behind that would be a good cause for payment by the tenant in that six weeks—or that the landlord should be under an obligation to give the notice of increase straightaway.
It seems to me that this might very well give landlords six weeks in which to notify the tenant of an increase in rates. While there is no Amendment on the Paper—there was hardly time to consider this new clause; I do not think it was available to noble Lords until yesterday—if I had had time I should have endeavoured to reduce the period to three weeks. I wonder whether the noble Lord would consider such an Amendment sympathetically. I have in mind only cases where there is no justification on the ground of the delay of the local authority but where the delay in giving the notice is entirely the fault of the landlord. It really comes to the same point that I made in Committee about increases of rent. It can be a hardship to the tenant for a landlord to allow arrears to accumulate and then suddenly to come down on the tenant for the accumulated arrears. Although I recognise that it is a much smaller point in the case of increases of rates, nevertheless I do not think we ought to en- 1094 courage a landlord to be negligent, slothful or dilatory in a matter of this kind. Therefore I wonder if the noble Lord would consider before the Third Reading whether some provision of the kind I have indicated could be made.
My Lords, as this is the Report stage I speak again only with the permission of the House. I will say only this. The difficulty with all points of this type is that of striking a happy balance between the rights of the landlord and the rights of the tenant. We have thought, acting upon the recommendation of the Ridley Committee, that six weeks is the happy medium. I agree that with ingenious special pleading an argument could be made out for many other different periods—not that I am accusing the noble Viscount of ingenious special pleading; but any other argument could be made out. We are getting to a late stage in the Bill and I must be careful what promises I make. I will look carefully again at what the noble Lord has said and, of course, if I have been wrong in my opinions and he has a more powerful point than I think he has, I will do the best 1 can; but, frankly, I do not think he has. This is a case where we have to strike a happy medium, and this, I think, is it.
§ 3.36 p.m.
VISCOUNT BUCKMASTER moved, after Clause 45 to insert the following new clause:
46.—(1) Where for any period any land let on a short tenancy is not occupied either in whole or in part by the tenant section 196 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, shall apply to any notice to quit served by the landlord on the tenant.
§ (2) For the purposes of this section, a tenant shall not be deemed to be in occupation of any land which is unfit by reason of war damage by reason only—
- (a) that furniture or other goods belonging to or used by him remain on the land;
- (b) that he visits the land from time to time for the purpose of removing, or taking steps to preserve, any such furniture or goods; or
- (c) that he retains possession of the keys of any buildings or works situated on the land;
§ (3) In this section the expression 'short tenancy ' shall have the same meaning as that assigned to it by subsection (10) of section 1 of the Landlord and Tenant (War Damage) (Amendment) Act, 1941."
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with what I hope is a simple point, although the Amendment itself is a long one. The point, though simple, is not one of common occurrence. The purpose of the Amendment should be plain. It is intended to enable the landlord, in a case where a building has been demolished, to serve notice when he cannot trace the tenant. As matters now stand, the landlord's position is almost impossible. Should he rebuild, he runs the risk that the tenant, whose address he did not know and which he could not ascertain, may later claim the tenancy. I am anxious at all times to avoid any question of hardship to a tenant and I cannot see that the question of hardship can be involved, for, if the tenant's address were known, notice could be served. Nor does the tenant have to pay rent when the building does not exist. I think it is quite clear that there are cases in which the landlord is deterred from rebuilding simply because he cannot achieve any certainty with regard to the termination of the existing tenancy. Should that be so and should building be prevented for this reason, it would seem to be contrary to the public interest. Therefore, in the hope that the Amendment is innocuous and does meet a point of some substance, I beg to move.
After Clause 45, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Buckmaster.)
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, is perfectly right. This is a matter of some importance. Unfortunately, it is a difficult and complicated one in its legal implications, but its factual implications are simple. They have come to light frequently in the cases of blitzed cities—notably, I believe, in Plymouth. In the case of a blitzed city there is some difficulty in finding who the tenant was, if indeed the poor man is still alive. The difficulty, however, is that this point raises the application of the general law and not really of this particular Bill. However, I think I can give the noble Viscount some considerable comfort. My 1096 right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government accepts the principle that the law is in need of amendment on this particular point, to meet the very real difficulty which the noble Viscount has voiced. He has realised this for some time and has been waiting for a suitable opportunity to see to it. This Bill is, in my submission, not the suitable opportunity, but an opportunity has now presented itself with the appearance on the Order Paper elsewhere of the Landlord and Tenant Bill. I am able to tell the noble Viscount that, if he looks carefully at Clause 53 of the Landlord and Tenant Bill, which is now, I think, going through its Report stage in another place, he will find that this particular point has been dealt with to what I hope will be his satisfaction. If it has not been dealt with to his satisfaction, then he will be able to tell me so in his usual clear and cogent way when we reach the Committee stage of that Bill in your Lordships' House. Of course, I am not able to say when that will be.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 46 [Service by post]:
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment which is really little more than drafting. It rectifies an omission in the Bill which, as drafted, contains no provision which would enable a tenant to serve a copy of a certificate of disrepair on the landlord's agent. The tenant might, therefore, be in a real difficulty, not able to know upon whom to serve it. He knows the agent who collects the rent, but he may very well not know his landlord. The object of this Amendment is to enable him to serve a notice of disrepair upon the agent or person who receives the rent. It is a provision which is inserted in favour of the tenant and will, I think, commend itself to your Lordships.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 38, line 16, at end insert:
("(2) So much of subsection (5) of section seven of the Act of 1938 as enables documents to be served on agents or persons receiving rent shall apply for the purposes of this Part
of this Act as if references therein to the principal Acts included references to this Part of ales Act.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ Clause 48 [Interpretation of Part II]:
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, this Amendment, which I move, merely defines the expression "Act of 1938" which is used in the two Amendments which your Lordships passed on the Committee stage. "Act of 1938" means the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1938. I hope that this may be regarded as a thoroughly uncontroversial Amendment.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 38, line 34, at end insert:
("'Act of 1938' means the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1938.")—(The Lord Chancellor.)
Second Schedule [Proof of Past Repairs by Landlord]:
8. For the purposes of this Schedule work shall be disregarded—
EARL JOWTTT moved to add to paragraph 8:
(c) if or in so far as such work was rendered necessary in consequence of an accident to the dwelling-house and the dwelling house was restored to the condition in which it was immediately before such accident.
§ The noble and learned Earl said: My Lords, this is a very simple Amendment. We had some discussion about it on the Committee stage, when it was proposed to insert the words "by him," making it necessary that the expenses should have been incurred by the landlord himself. I then suggested that the sort of case may arise where an accident happens—for instance, a tree may fall down on a house, a bus may skid into a house, or as in the case which the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, instanced, a fire may take place in the house. As the result of that accident repairs have to be done to the house which is restored exactly to the condition that it was in before the tree 1098 fell, or the bus skidded, or the fire broke out. No doubt the repairs are done, and they are done by the landlord. In the one case, if he is a sensible man and is insured, the expense will be recovered from the insurance company; in the other case, it will be recovered by way of damages from the bus company, if he can make out a case that the company were negligent, as presumably they were. I cannot see why in those circumstances the tenant should be called upon to pay an increased rent.
The hypothesis I am putting to your Lordships is this. There are the premises before the accident; the accident takes place, and the premises are then restored to exactly the same condition that they were in before the accident took place. In those circumstances, why should the tenant pay any increased rent? I raised this point on the last occasion, and the Lord Chancellor gave an answer which I did not follow at the time and which I do not follow now—it was apropos of my illustration that the bus had run into the wall. The noble and learned Lord said this—I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 187 (No. 74), col. 853:
It would be hard if, because of the fact that the wall had been knocked down, the landlord could not get the increase of rent he would have got when his wall was in good repair.
I venture to say that those words "he would have got" express the fallacy behind it. I am putting the case where the wall is there and is all right, and there is no question of an increase of rent at all—it is what the tenant has got. Then the accident takes place, and the landlord has to incur expense in putting the wall back to exactly the condition it was in before. Why, in those circumstances, should the tenant have to pay an increased rent? He would not have had to pay an increased rent had the accident not occurred. All he gets as a result of the accident is the premises put back into exactly the condition they were in immediately before the accident. In those circumstances, I submit that that ought to be one of the conditions which are excepted. Indeed, I look at the Schedule and I see that one of the excepted conditions is where the work was carried out and the landlord is going to be reimbursed under Part I of the War Damage Act. This seems to be a case of the same sort, except that the expense
here is paid for by the insurance company or by the negligent wrongdoer, as the case may be, instead of under the War Damage Act. I submit that this Amendment ought to be carried. I beg to move.
Page 45, line 47, at end insert the said sub-paragraph.—(Earl Jowitt.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry that I did not make myself plain to the noble and learned Earl on the last occasion. This is an Amendment which I cannot advise your Lordships to accept. It loses sight of the fundamental point that it is the condition of good repair which is the prerequisite of the claim for increased rent. That is the thing that really matters: that the house shall be in good repair. That is the fact that must be linked up with the increase of rent which is demanded; and the increased rent is then given in order that the landlord may be able to maintain the property in the good repair in which it then is. The test that the landlord has expended the amount which is referred to in the Second Schedule is merely provided as an evidence of good faith that the premises are in good repair, as some measure of proof of the fact that they are in good repair. It is wholly irrelevant to that main aspect of the Bill whether the landlord or somebody else has paid for the repairs. However, it was thought right, perhaps more from a psychological necessity than for any other reason, that where the tenant himself had paid for repairs in the past the landlord should not be able to recover the increased rent to enable him to keep it in repair in the future; and, perhaps illogically, in addition to that case where the tenant had paid for the repairs, the case was included where the repairs had been carried out under the War Damage Act, and where in fact, therefore, although the landlord might have paid some premium, the cost was substantially paid by the Exchequer.
As to this Amendment, I cannot conceive anything which would give rise to greater difficulty. What is "an accident" for this purpose? I do not know. How do you distinguish between a state of disrepair which is due to an accident and that which is 1100 due to the course of nature? I can conceive that there would be endless refinements and difficulties in the administration of an Act which we want to make as simple as possible. Pray consider this, too. The noble and learned Earl instanced the case of damage by fire. In that case it may or may not be that the landlord is insured against fire. The premises are put into good repair after the fire. Can it matter who pays for that—whether it is paid for by the insurance company, who pay only because the landlord himself has paid a premium, or by the landlord because he is not insured and has to pay for it all out of his own pocket? In this type of case the difficulty will arise of determining how this provision is to be applied. This Amendment ignores the fundamental question: Is the property in good repair? If it is, an increase of rent may be properly demanded. Is it in good repair? Well, that is a fact which can be established; but as a matter of proof of that fact the landlord is required to show that certain expense has been incurred. As I say, perhaps it is psychological, but certainly the tenant would feel it a grave injustice if, in consequence of his own repair, he had to pay an increased rent; and so that is excluded from the expenditure which the landlord can adduce in proof of the property being in repair. And so, thinking as I do and as I should like your Lordships to think, that this Amendment is proposed on a fundamental fallacy, I cannot accept it or advise your Lordships to approve it.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I cannot agree, with respect, that there is any fallacy. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord was driven to apologise for the inconsistency in the Bill because, if this is a fallacy, then so is the provision about war damage repairs; yet that is in the Bill. But I submit that neither is a fallacy. The noble and learned Lord has said on a number of occasions that the test is: Is the house in good repair or not? With great respect, that is not the test. The test is: Is it in good repair and has it been brought into good repair by expenditure on the part of the landlord? We have now stretched that to cover expenditure by the predecessors of the landlord. We accept that. But the fundamental principle of this Bill is a 1101 twofold one: that the premises are in good repair, and that they have been brought into good repair as a result of expenditure by the landlord. In the case we are dealing with under the Amendment, the house has not been brought into good repair as a result of expenditure by the landlord. It was not in good repair before; the landlord had presumably spent no money. If he had brought himself within the terms of the Bill then, of course, the question of whether there was an accident before or after is irrelevant. What we object to is his being able to use the insurance money or compensation money as a justification for increasing the rent. We think that is unfair to the tenant whose place has not been brought into good repair by, or as a result of, any expenditure by the landlord, except possibly an insurance premium; but since that has been taken into consideration in fixing the rent originally it cannot be counted here.
I think this is a reasonable Amendment, and I think that if it is not accepted it will mean that the Government are departing from the principle of the Bill. Exception has been taken to the language of the Amendment. Well, one can always argue about language. The Amendment was introduced to see whether we could agree upon the principle. The term "accident" is, of course, a term which is perfectly well known in English law, although I concede that at times it lays itself open to some argument; but we know the well-known phrase which has put a great deal of money into the pockets of members of the legal profession, "accident arising out of and in the course of" one's employment. I should have thought that, by now, the term" accident "was pretty well established and that there could be very few difficulties about defining "an accident." The difficulty of determining what is the condition—what was the condition before, what is the condition after—is one which has to be settled in any event in dealing with compensation. If a bus runs into your premises and you claim compensation, you have to establish the condition of the premises before the accident. You have to establish that as a basis of compensation, so I see no difficulty there. But I submit that we are departing from the real basis of this Bill if we allow landlords to get an increase 1102 of rent even though they themselves have done nothing to put the house in good repair, if it is no better than it was before and if the work that has been done is irrelevant to the purpose of putting it into good repair. For these reasons I think it is a perfectly good Amendment.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I will reply briefly if I may. I feel that we ought to press this matter to a Division. A noble Lord is calling "Order." Am I in order?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I speak with deference to the noble and learned Earl, who has so much more experience, but I think one speaks only once on an Amendment.
§ EARL JOWITT
I thought that one was entitled on the Report stage to reply. I rather gather that I am right, but in case I am not, may I ask your Lordships to give me leave? Thank you. I think we must press this Amendment to a Division, because I believe that there is great misunderstanding here. Here is a landlord who has spent money on premises and has put them into good repair; so the landlord is perfectly entitled, under the principles of this Bill, to an increased rent, by reason of the fact that he has spent that money. He gets that increased rent, and. I am raising no objection to that at all. It is bad luck if the day after the house is put in good repair, the money has been spent and a higher rent is being paid, an accident happens, and, as a result, a wall in good repair is knocked down. But what has the landlord got to do? He has to repair that wall and put it back into the same condition that it was before; and now it is said that, by reason of that expenditure, he is entitled to a still further increased rent. That is the point I am trying to deal with. That is the position at the present time, and I say that that is absolutely wrong. It is unfair on the tenant. The landlord is not being just. The landlord is in no worse position, and it is unfair on the tenant, because he has only exactly what he had before. The landlord will be compensated for his damages by the bus company or, if he has been a prudent man, by the insurance company. The tenant will have to pay twice over. That is the case I am putting. That, I believe, is the effect of this Bill without this Amendment, and it is for that reason that I moved this Amendment. If it is not accepted, I shall regard it as 1103 being a plain injustice to the tenant, and in those circumstances we should take this to a Division.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, may I say one further word, as I did not have an opportunity to speak in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin? If the objection of the noble and learned Earl is that the result of the Bill as it stands is that the tenant will pay an increased rent twice over, I can only say that I can find nothing whatever in the Bill to justify that proposition. The first question is: Is the property in good repair? Let us assume that it is. The second question is: Has there been expenditure upon the property of a certain amount within a certain period? That is answered "Yes." Then the third question is this: Has that expenditure been made by the tenant or by his predecessor in title? If the expenditure has been so made then it is excluded from the expenditure which a landlord can adduce to
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the final Amendment which stands in my name is a purely consequential, drafting Amendment. It is non-controversial, and moving, it makes a happy ending to what to me, at least, has been a very agreeable debate. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 37, column 3, at end insert ("in section three, in subsection (2), the words from 'or where such' to 'one clear week' ").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ prove that the property is in good repair. There is and can be no question of a tenant paying double increase or paying it twice over—nothing of that kind. And if the noble and learned Earl is basing his objection on that hypothesis, and on that hypothesis proposes to take the matter to a Division, I clearly invite him to do so; but I say that he will be doing so on an utterly wrong hypothesis.
§ EARL JOWITT
I am sorry to disagree with the noble and learned Lord. I realise that generally when I disagree with him I am wrong; but on this occasion I think he is wrong. In my view, unless this Amendment is passed, there is great danger that the tenant will be called upon to pay twice over for exactly the same thing, and it is for that reason that I press it.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 15; Not-Contents, 33.1103
|Jowitt, E.||Haden-Guest, L. [Teller.]||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kenswood, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Burden. L. [Teller.]||Kershaw, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Greenhill, L.||Mathers, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Bridgeman, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Dovercourt, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Furness, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Goschen, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Hailsham, V.||Hemingford, L.|
|Birkenhead, E. [Teller.]||Margesson, V.||Jeffreys, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Monsell, V.||Lloyd, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Mansfield, E.||Brocket, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Broughshane, L.||Rathcavan. L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Carrington, L.||Savile, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Coleraine, L.||Wolverton, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.