§ Mr. Tugendhat
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he has given to local authorities about enforcing the provisions of the Rent Act 1965 relating to harassment and illegal eviction; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Eyre
Circular 15/73 has drawn the attention of all local authorities to the increased maximum penalties for harassment and unlawful eviction provided for in Section 30 of the Criminal Justice Act 1972. The circular stresses the importance of acting swiftly and effectively to investigate complaints from tenants and to bring th ose who break the law in this way to justice.
The Government wish local authorities to make the maximum use of their powers and to advise tenants to seek injunctions in the courts where appropriate, and intend themselves to take further steps to publicise tenants' rights in this respect.55W
In the light of the analysis made by the Francis Committee, and its recommendations relating to the protection of tenants' interests, I do not consider that, with these higher penalties, there is any weakness in the statutes which should inhibit determined enforcement of the law.
Problems in landlord-and-tenant relations which can lead to harassment are most common in areas of general housing stress. In many such areas tenancy relations officers are available to help landlords and tenants. These difficulties are, however, one sign of the general problems of housing stress and the further proposals foreshadowed in the recent housing White Paper "Widening the Choice: the next steps in Housing" for helping such areas will help to resolve them.