Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Conservative Peer and Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government), was speaking in the 2nd reading in the House of Lords on Friday the 23rd of November.
He would seem to have used very inciting and populist language that while directed at criminal landlords certainly does not help stop or ease the landlord community being generally vilified by politicians, the media and the public.
To give accurate context I have included the entire transcript of lord Bourne’s speech below:
“My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I am not at all surprised that the noble Lord opposite will not table any amendments because I know how responsible he is. I am grateful to him, as I am sure other noble Lords are. This Second Reading has been a debate of great content. Some very interesting and important points have been made, to which I will do my best to respond. In so far as I cannot do so from the Dispatch Box, I undertake to write to noble Lords and place a copy in the Library.
“In particular, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Best. I agree very much with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, about the quality of the sponsorship of the Bills we have seen in the House today. We could not have a better pilot than the noble Lord, Lord Best; I thank him for his hard work on such a great cause. As other noble Lords have done, I also thank the honourable Member for Westminster North for introducing her Bill. I acknowledge her hard work in the other place; she has shown considerable determination in taking it through successfully. I am delighted that the Bill has received such widespread support across this House and in the other place.
“The noble Lord, Lord Best, has given us an effective overview of the Bill and why it is needed, and I echo that. It is an important Bill and we heard from many noble Lords in this debate about the fact that 20% of the housing in this country is in need of urgent attention. That underlines the importance of having this Bill. We heard that from the noble Lord, Lord Best, and my noble friend Lord Horam. The noble Baroness, Lady Grender, also echoed that point.
“This fairly short Bill builds on work we have been doing to improve housing conditions and tackle rogue landlords. I must say that, although I am as guilty of using it as anyone else, I wish we could get away from the phrase “rogue landlords” because it tends to make them sound a little too cuddly for my liking. “Bastard landlords” or something stronger would probably be more appropriate because they are far from being cuddly. I shall try to deal with the situations raised by noble Lords, particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Grender, and the noble Lords, Lord Tope and Lord Shipley. All three asked about electrical checks, as did the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy.
“Since 2015, we have moved on the requirement to install a smoke detector on every floor in properties and carbon monoxide detectors where the heating system uses solid fuels. We have taken tough action in the private rented sector on civil penalties for recalcitrant landlords who need action to be taken against them, which can go up to £30,000. It is worth noting that those civil penalties can be retained by local authorities, which helps them with housing enforcement. We have seen Salford City Council use those powers recently against one landlord, issuing three civil penalties for the flouting of three separate legal responsibilities and fines coming up to £55,000. As I say, local authorities keep the proceeds of those civil penalties.
“Local authorities have the power to issue banning orders for landlords and add to them to the database. As noble Lords will know, we propose that the database should now become public, but I am afraid to say that that will happen when parliamentary time allows. I know that is a standard phrase which is trotted out. This issue does need legislative action, but we are dependent on the business managers finding time for that. As far as the department is concerned, this is certainly a high priority.
“Private tenants can now apply to get up to 12 months’ rent back if the landlord has not dealt with health and safety hazards and the local authority has taken enforcement action through rent repayment orders under the Housing and Planning Act 2016. We have extended property licensing so that more homes in multiple occupation now need a licence and we are going out to consultation, or perhaps review, on the issue of selective licensing. We will report on that in the spring. We have also announced that we will carry out a comprehensive review of the housing health and safety rating system. The noble Lord, Lord Best, rightly stated that if that is extended, it will automatically come within the compass of this legislation. We also plan to require all landlords to belong to a mandatory redress scheme, which I think is known and understood, and we are proceeding, as noble Lords have made clear, with the Tenant Fees Bill, which will reach its Report stage in your Lordships’ House the week after next. Subject to this Bill receiving Royal Assent, we will produce guidance for tenants, as has been suggested. I have covered that in a letter which has been sent round. In response to the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, I intend that to include points on electrical safety. That was a point well made.
“I will try to pick up the points made during the course of the debate, but if I do not address them all I will seek to cover them in a letter to noble Lords. On security of tenure, as is, I think, widely known, the department is considering the position on three-year tenancies and will respond to this issue in the new year, so an announcement will be forthcoming early in the new year on this point.
“I was asked some specific questions relating to electrical safety standards. We put a question on the private and social rented sectors having the same requirements in the social housing Green Paper. I think the intention is that they should be dealt with in the same way. I cannot see any reason why they should not be. If I am wrong on that and there is a reason I will cover that in the letter, but it is not apparent to me. We will issue a letter announcing our intentions on this area before Christmas, so I hope noble Lords will bear with us on that.
“I thank the right reverend Prelate for the points he made, together with perhaps an anticipatory mea culpa in case there was an issue for the Church, but I am sure it is following good practice in this area. He made a point about legal aid, as did other noble Lords. I am always grateful when noble Lords exaggerate my powers, but as I am sure can be anticipated, this is not an area where I can opine from the Dispatch Box. I will endeavour to cover the point and, as was rightly said, there is a review in this area. I hope noble Lords will understand when I say that I will cover that in the letter, but I cannot give a definitive statement of where we are on that issue.
“I move on to points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I agree with him on the importance of design. The design of buildings generally, not just for residences, has been a particular interest of mine. I also agree that modernist future design is important. In the National Planning Policy Framework we have, I think for the first time, a requirement to consider good design. It does not specifically mention modern design, but it certainly does not exclude it. Modern methods of construction and self-build will lend themselves particularly to more modern design. I know that the Secretary of State is committed to good design, but that does not exclude modern design. I will make sure that the points made in the debate are brought forward to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I agree with the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Tope, that sometimes in an area where you might good housing—university towns would certainly be part of that—something that looks like good housing from the outside looks very different once behind the door. That is something we need to bear in mind.
“We talked generally and correctly about the impact that poor quality and non-decent housing has on individuals but, as was said in the debate, it also has economic effects in terms of pressures on the health service, and I am sure it has an effect on kids’ education if they are off school and so on. It certainly has dreadful social effects as well. The points are well made, hence the importance of doing what we are doing.
“I thank my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes for bringing forward points about the ombudsman and a housing court, which she touched on, which are still very much on the agenda. As my noble friend mentioned, the noble Lord, Lord Best, is central to the issue of the ombudsman. We are looking at that ombudsman service and the housing court issue and will be responding on that, I think, in the new year as well. I will cover that in the letter.
“On holiday lets, which my noble friend mentioned, there is a special power for London in that there is a restriction of 90 days for the Airbnb-type let in London, as in other capital cities and tourist destinations around the world, such as Venice. There is a 90 days’ accommodation limit. My noble friend will know that the UK Short Term Accommodation Association is doing effective work to try to make sure that that is enforced in London. There is a separate issue with landlords enforcing the provision in their leases. I know from speaking with my noble friend yesterday that that can be a particular problem and is particular problem for her. I have great sympathy with that issue. I will write to her on that point to see if there is anything specific we can do, but I thank her for bringing those points up.
“I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for his contribution and support. He mentioned again the electrical issues and their importance in the context of Grenfell. We do not know with certainty about the cause of the fire—at least in a legal sense—because we have not had the criminal proceedings or the result of the inquiry, but he is right about the importance of this in general terms, so I appreciate the points he is making.
“I will write on the retaliatory eviction point. Certainly, there is protection where there has been an inspection of the premises by the local authority and it has confirmed that there is a legitimate complaint on the part of the tenant, but I will write more widely to cover how that is dealt with elsewhere.
“I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, once again for his support. I am very happy to discuss with him the point on compensation for loss. I can see why he thinks that is inconsistent, but I do not think it is. Our point here on compensation in relation to tenant fees is that it is legitimate for there to be a fine, where appropriate, of the landlord and for a return of the money, and compensation if there has been a loss, for example, if somebody has suffered illness and they can demonstrate that, which is what we are talking about here. Compensation for a loss is a bit different—I think the noble Lord is talking about exemplary damages. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will know the precise legal word.”
Click Here to read the transcript of the entire House of Lords debate
Click Here to follow the progress of the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill 2017-19 through Parliament.
This Bill has bee supported by the RLA, NLA and ARLA and in summary:
“To amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation; to amend the Building Act 1984 to make provision about the liability for works on residential accommodation that do not comply with Building Regulations; and for connected purposes.”