Wednesday, 10 July 2019
Local Government Rates and Other Matters Bill 2018: Committee and Remaining Stages
With respect, there is something of a contradiction in the Minister of State's answer. He thinks few people will seek to leave a place empty for one year because of the loss, but he says that if it was two years, they would equally benefit. He says he does not believe many will seek to use this as a loophole in terms of leaving a place vacant for one year. While he thinks one year is a disincentive, somehow he does not think two years would be more of a disincentive. I believe it would be. He mentioned the measure in the Finance Bill last year whereby we gave tax reliefs for refurbishment and additional tax reliefs for loans taken out by landlords for refurbishment. The loophole of refurbishment has been coming up repeatedly in respect of the security of Part 4 tenancies. This is the idea of a core of citizenry who have a sustained relationship with their dwelling place and can make plans. Anything that could incentivise disrupting such tenancies is a concern. It is a fundamental issue. We are going to have to address it not just in respect of protected structures but more broadly. It was raised in the climate committee, when we were discussing how to deal with retrofitting. It cannot simply be the case that these loopholes exist. There must be a mechanism, even if it is a temporary suspension of a Part 4 tenancy and a resumption of it at an established rate with a mind to the 4%. A 4% increase every year is not nothing. It is way out of step with increases in people's wages or incomes. We should not act as if the current rent control limit of 4% in rent pressure zones is not significant.
I sympathise with my colleagues and support their proposal. I am thinking of the description in Ulysses of people who are so fortunate as to reside in a Martello tower. That is one sort of protected structure. There are a wide range of buildings that are protected structures and a wide range of established tenants, some of whom are living in the same place for 20 years under Part 4 tenancies. I would hate to see what could be in many cases vulnerable and older tenants potentially being made more vulnerable if not enough thought was put into this section.