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Landlord register debate delayed in move described as an 'act of absolute self-interest'

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A CONTROVERSIAL proposition to introduce a landlords’ register has been postponed after Members asked for more information on the potentially ‘inflationary’ effect of the move – with those voting in favour of the delay accused of indulging in ‘absolute self-interest’.

Rowland Huelin Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (27285876)

Deputy Rowland Huelin – a landlord and committee member of the Jersey Landlords’ Association – successfully persuaded Members to defer the debate and instead ask Environment Minister John Young to revise his plans.

Under the proposed scheme, owners of rental properties would need to pay up to £200 each year to be put on the list and their homes would be subject to an annual health-and-safety inspection.

Members voted 24 votes to 18 in favour of delaying the debate. This came after 16 States Members declared an interest – a declaration that is required if they or their spouses or partners are landlords. Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said he had an interest in a company that acted as a landlord.

After the vote, Deputy Geoff Southern accused some of those voting to delay the proposition of being from the ‘landlords party’, while Deputy Rob Ward said delay voters had indulged in ‘absolute self-interest’.

Deputy Young, meanwhile, said: ‘Sorry, sir, I was just gathering my thoughts after that, but unfortunately they are not printable.’

During Tuesday's States debate, several Members, including Deputy Huelin, Senator Farnham, Constables Chris Taylor and Mike Jackson, spoke to delay the vote, arguing that the proposed measures were ‘inflationary’.

Deputy Huelin said more research needed to be done on the effects of the proposals.

‘If this government is determined to keep rents down, how can we possibly decide today, without fully understanding these potentially inflationary effects? Quite clearly rents will go up, as acknowledged. The burning question is by how much?’ he said.

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‘This could have a major financial impact on every tenant in Jersey. We are talking about the livelihoods of over 10,000 people.’

Meanwhile, Mr Jackson said that there was a lack of clarity about how often some inspections needed to be carried out and how it would affect landlords that offered short-term rental. He also raised concerns about how the legislation would not be applicable to single rooms.

‘There is no question that the effects of this will be an increased cost of renting and especially whether or not the inspection regime will work in practice,’ he said.

‘I do believe that tenants need protection from unscrupulous landlords and I do not disagree with the principle of this legislation – it is the methodology and the business case proposed that is far from satisfactory.

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‘This needs further work to make it acceptable to the industry so we, as an Assembly, can make fair, well-balanced law to accommodate all landlords in our society.’

However, Housing Minister Sam Mézec accused States Members of trying to ‘kick things into the long grass’ and told them to get on with governing the Island.

Addressing Mr Taylor, Senator Mézec said: ‘If these proposals are so terrible, I urge him to vote against them, although I do not need to urge him to do that because I would be astounded if he did anything other than that.’

Who declared an interest?

Senators: Kristina Moore and Ian Gorst. Constables John Le Maistre, Chris Taylor, Richard Buchanan and John Le Bailly. Deputies Rowland Huelin, Gregory Guida, Richard Renouf, David Johnson, John Young, Kirsten Morel, Steve Luce, Susie Pinel, Inna Gardiner and Montfort Tadier. Senator Lyndon Farnham declared a shared interest in a company which acts as a landlord.

THE VOTE FOR A DELAY

FOR:

Senators: Gorst, Farnham and Moore. Constables: Crowcroft, Mezbourian, Le Sueur-Rennard, Jackson, Le Maistre, Taylor, Le Sueur, Vibert and Buchanan. Deputies: Maçon, Pinel, Luce, R Labey, Johnson, Truscott, Ash, Morel, Huelin, Raymond, Perchard and Gardiner. (24)

AGAINST:

Senators: Vallois and Mézec. Constables: Le Bailly and Shenton-Stone. Deputies: Southern, Lewis, Tadier, Higgins, Renouf, Doublet, Young, Guida, Pointon, Le Hegarat, Ahier, Ward, Alves and Pamplin. (18)

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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