Assorted bits on the theme of acting hastily and not thinking things through…
Exhibit 1. The Housing and Planning Bill. This evening, it completed third reading in the House of Lords and heads back to the Commons. While there will no doubt be some ping pong on various Lords amendments, one significant amend was a Govt amend and passed the Lords, so is staying.
In place of the original proposal for compulsory fixed term secure tenancies of 2-5 years, the Govt reacted to a prospect defeat by promising an amendment to fixed terms of ‘up to’ 10 years. The amendments here provide for fixed term secure tenancies of ‘between two and 10 years’, with a further exception if there is a child under 9 in the household at the start of the tenancy, in which case the tenancy is for a fixed term until the child turns 19. So, fixed possible terms of 10 years to almost 19 years. And of course there will be statutory guidance on appropriate terms.
But fixed terms of over 7 years come with certain issues.
One is that section 11 Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 on implied repair obligations does not apply for tenancies of longer than 7 years term. The Govt appears to have acknowledged this, because there are amends to s.13 L&T Act 1985 so that it applies for ‘Introductory Tenancies’ as per Part 5 Chapter 1 Housing Act 1996, which, by other parts of the H&P Bill will apparently be the name for all new fixed term tenancies at least so long as the council has elected to have introductory tenancies. Quite what the position on section 11 is if the fixed term secure tenancy is not an ‘introductory tenancy’ is, to put it mildly, unclear (now see update below).
Another is that tenancies of over 7 years term are required to be registered on the title at the Land Registry. There is an exception for ‘a relevant social housing tenancy’ under s.27 Land Registration Act 2002 (as amended), but only a ‘flexible tenancy’ is defined as a relevant social housing tenancy (for our purposes here). The H&P Bill amends that section to replace the definition of flexible tenancy with the H&P Bill amended definition, but that is for flexible tenancies created before the H&P Act will come into force. I can’t see any amend that would insert new fixed term secure tenancies in as a ‘relevant social tenancy’ for the purposes of Land Registration Act 2002.
Now I could be wrong. I hope so. I have been swapping between the most recent version of the H&P Bill (pre third reading), and the third reading amendments, and then cross referring to L&TA 1985 and Land Registration Act 2002, as well as Housing Act 1985 as amended, and this was just this evening. But it does rather look like, as it now stands, section 11 Landlord & Tenant Act won’t apply to a swathe of ‘new’ fixed term secure tenancies, and also that all such tenancies over 7 years will have to be registered. Neither are good outcomes and I can’t believe they are intended. Corrections (to me, or to the Bill) welcome.
(update 28 April – as has been pointed out in the comments, the Localism Act amend to section 13 LTA 1985 would seem to cover secure tenancies of over 7 years for section 11 applicability. Quite why the further amend in the H&P Bill to cover ‘introductory tenancies’ was required is another question. It appears that Introductory Tenancies of longer than 7 years are to be a possibility, which is quite something. The registration point remains unclear. The joys of last minute amendments to complicated law!)
Exhibit 2. In literally evicting tenant in the middle of court proceedings news, a Scots landlord was found guilty of illegal eviction. The landlord had arranged for the property to be boarded up and the locks changed while the tenant was out. The landlord knew that the tenant would be out because she (and indeed the landlord) were attending court for a hearing of her disrepair case against the landlord.
Unsurprisingly, this course of action did not go well. The tenant got a locksmith and the police to get re-entry and the landlord faced prosecution. Getting off with a £540 fine might be considered to be remarkably fortunate.