HL Deb 01 May 1973 vol 342 cc79-82

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move the Furnished Lettings (Rateable Value Limits) Order 1973. This is a technical Order which is needed to enable the tenants of furnished flats and houses first entered in the valuation list on or after April 1 this year to have access to rent tribunals where this was available to tenants of similar dwellings entered in the valuation list before the revaluation became effective on that day. It is Section 71(1) of the Rent Act 1968 which sets out the rateable value limits above which dwellings are excluded from the provisions of Part VI of that Act. Part VI is the part which relates to furnished lettings, and tenancies of dwellings outside its scope do not come within the jurisdiction of the rent tribunals. Below the limits tenants can apply to rent tribunals for consideration both of rent and of security of tenure. Rent tribunals can confirm, reduce or increase rents, and grant up to six months' security of tenure at a time, often by deferring a notice to quit. Such periods of security can be extended or renewed.

The rateable value limits at present set out in Section 71(1) of the Act are £400 for dwellings in Greater London and £200 elsewhere in England and Wales on the appropriate day. The appropriate day is defined by Section 6(3) of the Rent Act. It is either March 23, 1965, or whatever subsequent date the dwelling was first entered in the valuation list. As the tone of the valuation list had been maintained since the last revaluation in 1963, the figures of £400 and £200 maintained the same level of protection until April 1 this year. Anyone taking up a new tenancy after 1965 enjoyed the same protection as someone whose tenancy already existed on March 23, 1965. The rating revaluation which took effect on April 1 increased the rateable values of residential accommodation on average by a factor of 1 to 2.56. Thus, if a dwelling which was first entered in the valuation list on March 31 had a value of £400, it would typically have had a rateable value of £1,000 if first entered in the list on April 1. It follows therefore from this that, in order to bring properties first entered in the valuation list on or after April 1 within Part VI of the Rent Act on the same basis as if there had been no rating revaluation, the rateable value limits in Section 71 need to be amended with effect from April 1. To maintain comparability, the new limits effective from April 1 should be £1,000 in Greater London and £500 in the rest of England and Wales, in place of the old £400 and £200.

I should make clear at this point, to correct any misunderstanding which might arise, that making this Order to deal with new dwellings has no effect whatsoever on existing protected tenancies which retain the protection they have always had. To maintain the status quo for dwellings newly entered in the valuation list, it was necessary to amend Section 71(1) of the Rent Act 1968. Power was accordingly taken in Section 89 of the Housing Finance Act 1972 to alter by Order the rateable value limits for protection. This Order was to be made by September 1, 1973, after an Affirmative Resolution. The transitional provision included in the Order is simply to allow the continuance of Section 79 of the Rent Act 1968 under which, if owner-occupiers letting their property furnished on a temporary basis gave notice in writing before a certain date, they may be exempted from the security provisions in Sections 77 and 78 of the Rent Act 1968 dealing with Part VI contracts. That is not a very important point, my Lords. In these circumstances, a tenant cannot apply to the rent tribunal for consideration of security. While this Order maintains comparability rather than introducing any new protection, it has important effects. There is still a considerable market in furnished accommodation and it is common for newly converted flats with new rateable values to be let for the first time. This Order ensures that these tenancies will receive the same protection as similar existing tenancies, and to provide such protection. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Furnished Lettings (Rateable Value Limits) Order 1973, laid before the House on April 16, be approved.—(Lord Mowbray and Stourton.)

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, the House will appreciate the careful explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, about the significance of this Order. It was very right and proper that that explanation should be given and should be available in the records of the House, because the Order as it is printed and, indeed, the Explanatory Note will be of very little help to the ordinary layman. Indeed, it strikes me as being almost double-Dutch. But the noble Lord has given meaning to the words set out and we are grateful to him. One hopes that what he said will be noted outside the House, because although there are many features of the Housing Finance Act which we on this side dislike very much indeed, in so far as this Order gives relief where it is needed, we welcome it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.