Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Bill, 1971: Second Stage.

Wednesday, 27 October 1971

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 71 No. 8

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Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Justice (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  This is the first instalment of legislation which arises from recommendations that have been made by the Landlord and Tenant Commission following their examination of a considerable part of the modern law of landlord and tenant. The commission were appointed in January, 1966, and their terms of reference cover the whole law of landlord and tenant with the exception of the rent restrictions code. All the recommendations that have been made by the commission in the two reports which they have furnished to date have been accepted by the Government subject only to relatively minor amendments. This acceptance involves the promotion of legislation to make considerable changes in the Landlord and Tenant Acts of 1931, 1958 and 1967. A comprehensive Bill dealing with these changes is in course of preparation. This Bill—the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 1970—was introduced in Dáil Éireann last December by way of long and short titles. It will be a complicated piece of legislation involving the consolidation, with amendments, of the Acts of 1931, 1958 and 1967. The text of this Bill has yet to be finally settled. Meanwhile, because [981] a certain urgency attaches to some of the changes in the law recommended by the commission, the Government decided to introduce this present Bill.

As is indicated in the explanatory memorandum which was circulated to Senators when the Bill was introduced, the Bill deals with three matters. These are—first, the grant of sporting leases, secondly, the grant of renewal rights and of the right to purchase the fee simple to tenants holding under a certain type of pre-1931 lease and thirdly, a necessary amendment of section 10 of the Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1967. The proposed amendment of section 10 of the 1967 Act does not stem from the recommendations of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. The section is, however, defective as it stands and it is desirable to amend it as soon as possible.

The most important of the proposals contained in the Bill is to give to outdoor sports clubs in certain circumstances the right to a 99-year lease. This proposal, which is based on a recommendation of the Landlord and Tenant Commission, is designed to deal with a serious and pressing problem. Lands used for sporting purposes, such as golf courses and football grounds, are usually situated close to cities or towns. In recent years, because of development possibilities of one kind or another, these lands have acquired a greatly enhanced value in many cases. As a consequence, it is only natural that landlords should, in cases where the tenancy of a club has expired or is about to expire, be increasingly tempted to refuse to grant a new tenancy to the club and to hand over the land for purposes of development. The position under existing law is that a sports club normally has no right to obtain a new tenancy from its landlord. Many clubs, therefore, are likely, as time goes by, to be forced out of existence unless the law is changed to protect them. The Government recognises, just as the commission do in their report, that facilities for outdoor sports confer great benefits on the community. We believe that action must be taken now if these facilities are, as far as possible, to be [982] preserved. The Government have therefore decided to promote this legislation.

The solution which the commission have proposed and which the Government, with certain amendments, have adopted is that a right approximating to the right to a reversionary lease under the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958, should be given where a club uses land for outdoor sport or recreation and satisfies certain conditions. These conditions are designed to ensure that only clubs that have a genuine claim will stand to benefit. Two criteria are proposed for testing the validity of a club's claim. The first is the term of its lease, or, if it does not hold under a lease, the length of time it has been in possession of the land. The second criterion is that the club must have made a substantial investment in developing or adapting the land so as to render it more suitable for the purposes of the sport—for instance, on the erection of club buildings, the levelling of the land and so on.

The Bill modifies the recommendation of the commission in a number of ways. In the first place, the qualifying period recommended by the commission has been reduced from 25 to 21 years. The Bill proposes that a club should qualify in this respect if it has been in continuous occupation or possession for the purpose of the sport for 21 years prior to its application for the lease or if it holds the land for that purpose under a lease the term of which is not less than 21 years. In the second place, a club is not necessarily being required to show a formal tenancy or series of tenancies during the qualifying period. The Bill proposes that continuous possession for the purpose of sport for the necessary period will suffice. In this connection, provision is being made to clarify the position where the land is not used solely by the sports club—for instance, where the landlord has retained grazing rights. In such a case, it is being provided that the club's user of the land must be the primary user, if the club is to benefit. The third point on which the Bill modifies the commission's recommendation relates to the minimum sum that has to be spent on [983] development of the land or on buildings. The commission recommended that this expenditure should be not less than 15 times the amount of the yearly rent. The Bill follows this recommendation as far as it goes but it proposes also that the amount must be at least £1,000.

On the other hand, the Bill does not include a condition which was recommended by the commission, namely, that there should be permanent buildings on the land which are used in connection with the land for the purpose of the sport but the Bill allows the expenditure requirement to be met in whole or in part by expenditure by the club on permanent buildings. Another modification—or, rather, extension— of the commission's report is that special provision is being made in section 2 (3) to provide for a situation where a subsidiary portion of the land used for sport does not fulfil all the conditions required to attract the right to a new tenancy but the major portion does or is freehold. In such a case, the Bill proposes to ease the conditions to enable the club to obtain a lease of the subsidiary land and thus preserve the club as a going concern. The proposed conditions require that the club has either a lease of the subsidiary land for a term of not less than 12 years or can show that it has been in continuous occupation or possession of that land for at least 12 years. A further condition is that the subsidiary land does not amount to more than one-fourth of the total area of land which the club uses for sport.

The other main modification of the recommendations of the commission concerns the terms on which the new lease—which is called a “sporting lease” in the Bill—is to be granted. The commission recommended that the new lease should be similar to a reversionary lease granted under the Landlord and Tenant (Reversionary Leases) Act, 1958, that is, a lease for a 99-year term at a ground rent. They recommended certain modifications of the 1958 Act provisions, mainly that the rent should be subject to review at 33-year intervals at the option of the lessor, and the Bill gives effect to the [984] variations of the 1958 Act provisions that the commission recommended. It does not, however, follow the recommendations of the commission in regard to the method of fixing the rent in a sporting lease. If the Act of 1958, as amended by the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1967, were to be applied to sporting leases, as the commission recommend, the rent would be fixed at one-eighth of the “gross rent”, that is, one-eighth of the notional open-market rent. This is the formula which has evolved over the years for determining the ground rent of built-on land, but I think it is clear that it is a formula that reflects the fact that much the greater part of the value derives from the buildings rather than from the land itself.

It would, in my view, be inappropriate to apply this formula in the case of a sports club where the land itself rather than the clubhouse or other buildings normally constitutes by far the more valuable element. Accordingly, the Bill proposes that the club should be required to pay a fair rent, just as they would have had to pay if there had been no danger of clubs being refused new tenancies because of encroaching urban development and no need for this Bill at all. Accordingly, section 6 provides that, where the rent in a sporting lease has to be determined by the court—because the parties concerned have failed to agree —the court shall fix a fair rent. This section also provides guidelines for the court in the determination of a fair rent.

Another matter which I would like to mention in regard to sporting leases concerns the provision relating to compensation for disturbance. Subsection (3) of section 4 provides that the compensation provisions of the 1958 Act shall apply in a case where a sports club that is otherwise entitled to a sporting lease fails to obtain one because the landlord or any superior landlord is able to satisfy the court on a number of specific points. One of these points is that he requires the land for development and has obtained planning permission, and another is that it is reasonable that a sporting lease should be refused. The application of [985] the compensation provisions of the 1958 Act means that compensation will be measured in accordance with the court's opinion of the extent of the loss suffered by the sports club as a direct consequence of the refusal of the sporting lease.

I do not think that it would be appropriate for me at this stage to go into further details of the proposals concerning sporting leases except as regards the proposals contained in subsection (7) of section 2. This subsection proposes that the provisions relating to sports clubs shall operate from 3rd March, 1970. This was the date of a public announcement of the Government's decision, which had been taken that day, to frame legislation in relation to sports clubs on the general lines of the recommendations contained in the Second Report of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. The official statement of that day, which was released through the Government Information Bureau, stated that it was proposed that the benefits accruing under the legislation would operate from that day. The statement was published at the time so that all those who might be affected would be aware of what was intended and thus enabled to negotiate in the knowledge of the proposed changes in the law.

I now turn to the second matter with which the Bill is concerned. This matter, which is dealt with in sections 7 and 9, is of particular concern to certain tenants in Sandycove, County Dublin, and to others holding in similar circumstances. Section 8 is a replacement for section 10 of the Reversionary Leases Act of 1958. It extends the right to a reversionary lease under the 1958 Act, and consequently the right to acquire the fee simple under the Ground Rents Act of 1967, to a new class of tenants who hold under a certain type of pre-1931 lease. These tenants did not qualify for such rights under the Acts of 1958 and 1967 because their houses, although built by the original lessees under what would nowadays be called building leases, reverted to the landlord when the original leases came to and end and the landlord subsequently granted new leases to persons who had no entitlement to the lessee's interest [986] under the old lease. Consequently. when these new leases in turn began to run out the tenants who held them, since they were not the successors of the original lessees, had no right to a renewal under the 1958 Act.

The Landlord and Tenant Commission in their Second Report have recommended that the right to a reversionary lease under the Act of 1958, together with the right to acquire the fee simple under the Act of 1967, should be extended to the tenants in question. They also recommended that, in line with similar provisions in the 1958 and 1967 Acts, these rights should be available for a limited period to those lessees whose leases expired up to five years prior to the amending legislation provided the lessee under the expired lease was still in possession of the property, that he had not entered into a new arrangement with the landlord and that no other person was entitled to a reversionary lease of the property. The proposals in section 9, which concern lessees whose leases have already expired and which, as I have said, follow similar provisions in the 1958 and 1967 Acts, concern particularly certain tenants in Sandycove. The situation of the Sandycove tenants whose leases have expired is what gives urgency to these proposals and it is the reason for their inclusion in the present Bill.

The final matter with which the Bill deals is an amendment of section 10 of the Rent Restrictions Act, 1967, to remedy a defect in that section. In accordance with section 10 of that Act the tenant of a rent-controlled dwelling must, generally speaking, have the landlord's written consent to an assignment of the dwelling. This provision has had an inadvertent result in the case of those dwellings that technically come under the Rent Acts but are held on long leases. The application of the Rent Restrictions Acts—which involves the control of rents together with protection of possession—was extended by section 2 of the 1967 Rent Act to owner-occupied dwellings. These are dwellings whose occupiers hold under leases for terms of more than 21 years. Hitherto this class of dwelling had been excluded from the scope of the Rent Acts.

[987] The extension in 1967 of the application of the Rent Acts to owner-occupied dwellings was necessary for the protection of lessees, mainly certain owner-occupiers in Sandycove— the same people with whom sections 8 and 9 of the Bill are concerned—who had no protection in regard either to security of possession or the level of rent once their existing leases expired. One of the consequences of the application of the Rent Acts was, however, as I have mentioned, that the tenant's right to assign his interest is restricted. This means that the owner-occupier of a dwelling held on a long lease and coming under the Rent Acts cannot make a valid assignment of his property without the landlord's consent. There are certain circumstances where this restriction does not apply, namely, where the dwelling is used in part for business purposes, where the lease expressly authorises assignment without consent or where the assignment is to a bona fide resident member of the tenant's family. An assignment made without the landlord's consent, where such consent is required, is void. Section 10 of the Bill is designed to rectify the matter, with effect from the passing of the 1967 Rent Act, and to validate any assignments that may be void solely by reason of section 10 of that Act.

I hope that the Bill will meet with the approval of the House. As I said at the beginning, it is the first instalment of a considerable body of legislation that arises from recommendations made by the Landlord and Tenant Commission. Before I conclude, I should like to take this opportunity to express my own and the Government's appreciation of the excellent work which the members of the commission have done and are continuing to do.

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  All of us will join with the Minister in expressing appreciation of the work that has been done by the members of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. They have been in session for a considerable time and I think any of us who, for one reason or another, have anything to do with the law recognises the great volume of [988] work which it has been necessary for them to undertake and the intricacy of the kind of questions which they have to consider in relation to landlord and tenant law. Since their appointment they have done very excellent work and they deserve the tribute which the Minister has paid to them.

So far as the Bill itself is concerned, there will be general welcome for it. As the Minister has pointed out, it deals with three particular problems—first, the question of renewal of leases or giving of security in the case of sports clubs and so on and, secondly, the question of the particular problem of houses on an estate. I am not sure if other areas were affected or not but in the Sandycove area, by reason of the leasehold interests on what was originally a building lease reverting to the lessor and new leases being created, the occupiers found themselves without the protection or the benefit provided by what is known as the Ground Rents Acts.

The third matter being dealt with is one which—I am putting quite bluntly as a tribute to the legal profession— the legal profession have dealt with themselves by ignoring the provisions of the particular defective section which the Minister is now amending. For practical purposes, there was no other way of getting business done. Everybody recognised it was a mistake. It was discovered accidentally that in many cases, by virtue of the passing of the section of the Act which the Minister referred to, the landlords' or lessors' written consent to assignments of premises held under a lease should have been obtained. This was not intended by the Legislature. Frequently in the investigation of title it was found that that consent was not obtained because no one really knew that it was necessary to obtain it. Unless I misjudge my colleagues, a great many of us dealt with it by ignoring the fact that that law existed. I do not think we were reckless in doing so because my recollection is that there was an undertaking or commitment given at some stage that this would be dealt with in legislation and that the position would be corrected.

I am very glad that the Minister is [989] now remedying the defect in this legislation and that he is quite bluntly stating in this Bill that any assignments of the sort I have been referring to which have been made without consent will be regarded as valid. The fact that they were technically void heretofore will not any longer be the case. In other words, the remedying effect of this legislation is being made retrospective and that is the way it should be.

I want to raise a few queries with the Minister. The first is with regard to the question of definitions in relation to sporting leases. The meaning of sporting lease is the meaning assigned to it in section 2 which says:

A club or organisation (in this Act referred to as a sports club) carrying on some outdoor sport, game or recreation (in this section referred to as the sport) and holding land in accordance with the conditions specified in this section shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be entitled to obtain a lease (in this Act referred to as a sporting lease) of the land.

The Minister may not be in a position to answer this offhand and I do not intend to set puzzles for him, but I was wondering if, for example, gun clubs would be covered by this provision or if it is intended that they should be so covered. I was also wondering, in relation to angling associations and angling clubs, if it is intended that they should benefit by the provisions of this Bill. I know that there was one comparatively recent case that I am familiar with where an angling club or association for a great number of years fished on a particular lake and it was discovered—and negotiations were commenced when it was discovered— that the lake was in fact within the ownership of a particular estate. My recollection is that the point was made that many people over the years, a number of them from childhood, had fished on this lake without objection from anyone and that they possibly had acquired some kind of right or easement to fish there. I think ultimately a satisfactory arrangement was made whereby a new lease was given to the angling association in the area.

[990] That case brought to my mind the position of angling clubs or associations throughout the country which have fishing rights for a number of years over particular waters, whether they be river waters or lake waters. I am wondering whether this type of activity is governed by the provisions of this Bill because the Bill itself refers only to land. I wonder if, in that context, it covers land covered by water and if, in that way, anglers' associations would find themselves covered.

I can see some difficulties because if you think in terms of, say, golf clubs, football clubs or even athletic associations they, over the years, would not have found themselves in any difficulty about having met what might be called the improvement requirements which are needed to qualify for a new lease under the Bill, whereas sporting activities of the other type, such as gun clubs and anglers' associations, probably would not require to do very much by way of improvement, certainly as regards buildings. The ordinary gun club would probably set up a couple of traps which would be costly enough but over the years it could not be said that a great deal would be spent on improvements. You would have the traps, the stands and possibly, if it were a rifle club, you would have targets of different sorts. As far as angling clubs are concerned there would be very little to be done by way of improvement. Some of them build quite elaborate and extremely good boathouses, shelters for boats and piers but it would not be on a par with the kind of improvement expenditure which would be required by sporting clubs such as golf clubs, football clubs and so on. I should like to know if it is intended that the Bill should extend to such people and, if it is not so intended, is there any question of dealing with these clubs in a similar way in the general Bill when it comes up.

The Minister is quite right in what he has mentioned in regard to providing in the Bill that on renewals a fair rent will be charged rather than a rent fixed on a formula related to a notional market rent. The Minister mentioned such rent has generally been one-eighth of the market rent. I [991] think the Minister is right for the reasons he has given that where the formula system is operated it is, generally speaking, on the basis that the valuable part of the land is the buildings and the income coming from the buildings, whereas in lands occupied by sports clubs the essential value to the club and to the members is in the land rather than in the buildings. Apart from those remarks, about which I would like information, I have nothing else to say. I welcome the introduction of this Bill.

Mr. Keery: Information on Neville Keery  Zoom on Neville Keery  I, too, should like to welcome the changes affecting the position of golf clubs and the changes dealing with the problems of certain tenants in the Sandycove area. May I say that, as a layman, I was immediately interested in the way that Senator O'Higgins welcomed, as a remedy, the matters referred to in sections 9 and 10 of the Bill because the references to rent restrictions legislation in sections 9 and 10 of the Bill have given rise to concern among certain houseowners—lay people like myself—who undoubtedly suffer financial and other injustice as a result of the continuing pattern of rent control. I should be glad of an assurance from the Minister that section 10 in particular does not, even though it may appear to a layman to do so, affect the typical landlord and tenant relationship which falls under the rent restrictions code. I should also be glad if the Minister would do what he could to speed up the Government's programme of dismantling the rent restrictions code over a period of time.

Mr. Eoin Ryan: Information on Eoin David Senior Ryan  Zoom on Eoin David Senior Ryan  I should like to welcome this Bill which I think is a very useful and enlightened Bill. I am glad that the Minister has acted on the recommendations made by the commission. There is one section in the Bill —section 2 (3)—which provides for a situation where a subsidiary portion of land used for sports does not fulfil all the conditions required to attract the right to a new tenancy. In that case, the condition is that the club can get a special lease if it has had a lease for a term of 12 years or has been in occupation for 12 years. Unfortunately, I [992] know of at least one case where this admirable provision does not meet the situation of a sports club. I am sure the 12-year period has been selected after a great deal of care and consideration. I have no doubt that the Minister has good reasons for picking on this particular period. However, I would ask the Minister to have another look at this period and see if it would be possible to bring it down to ten years because in at least one case of which I am aware—and there are probably others—it would make all the difference between being able to avail of the admirable provisions of this Bill and not being able to avail of them.

Mr. O'Callaghan: Information on Cornelius Kevin OCallaghan  Zoom on Cornelius Kevin OCallaghan  In welcoming this Bill I will be very brief. I have a few points to make and I shall make them as briefly as possible.

Sports fields, golf clubs and football grounds are very necessary and have become part and parcel of the urban scene in these days, particularly when there is so much spoken about air pollution. They have come to be recognised as an important and integral part of the amenities of all urban areas. In these areas, sports grounds can perform a double function: they create an affection for the built-up area in which they are situated, and they are of course a recreational centre for urban and city dwellers.

“Sporting lease” is the term used in the Bill and to my mind it is somewhat of a tight designation. The Bill says that if a sport is carried on in a particular area, the area is entitled to be conferred with certain leasing benefits under this Bill.

I wonder if the Bill includes the land used for sedentary recreational purposes. By this I mean that there is often an area of parkland in a town which is commonly termed “the park” where in one corner there may be a football pitch and the remainder may be used by the older residents of the town as an area to walk around in, to sit down in, and even as a place for some of the young people to sunbathe in, if the weather permits. This sort of area cannot be designated as a sporting area. At the same time, it is functional as a recreational area for [993] that particular town or city. It is only a point that I wish to make, in passing, and I wonder if this sort of thing is included in the Bill.

I am anxious about the whole question of grounds used by agricultural societies for holding shows. The number of these areas which are permanent, in so far as they are grounds with permanent buildings on them for use as show rings, jumping rings. and so on, are very few. At the same time they form an important part of the rural and urban scene, and should be preserved. The Minister should give some consideration to such areas under this Bill. Show jumping is surely recognised as a sport. Wherever there is a show jumping arena there are usually amenities for showing cattle, horses and sheep. This type of agricultural society is performing a major function in educating rural and entertaining urban people who come to see agricultural shows. They also fulfil an important entertainment function. Show jumping is now recognised as having a very high entertainment value. This can be seen from television coverage. If it has that sort of entertainment value surely it could be considered under the Bill.

Considering the growing division of outlook between our urban and rural dwellers, the agricultural show and the show jumping ring have done much to bring about a meeting of minds between urban and rural dwellers. This is something which I believe ought to be fostered. There are not many of these societies in the country. However, there are few such grounds with permanent leases and with permanent buildings on them.

I would be grateful if the Minister in summing up would give me some idea whether he can consider these suggestions.

Dr. West: Information on Timothy Trevor West  Zoom on Timothy Trevor West  I also welcome this Bill. I should like to support Senator O'Callaghan's point about show-grounds. The Senator has brought up an important subject which has not been discussed before and I should also be interested to hear the Minister's reply in this regard.

I have one other question concerning the possible development of ground held by sports clubs under a lease of [994] this sort. I know that other laws apply to such development, but I could envisage a hypothetical situation in which a genuine sports club, with football fields and a pavilion, would come under the terms of this Bill. It often happens that the pavilion side of the operation increases to the detriment of the playing membership; the bar is extended from 20 feet to 100 yards; one-arm bandits and roulette wheels are installed and buildings go up on what were the playing fields. The club, while still remaining a sporting club in some sense of the term, changes its character so much, and developments occur to such an extent, that the whole original purpose of the club is lost, but it still can be termed a sporting club in the true sense of the word. It becomes a club in which, perhaps, the president and vice-president are making large sums of money out of the pavilion operations, and the playing members have been squeezed out altogether.

What restrictions are there on developments of this nature which change the character of the club? Can the Minister give me some guidance on how a situation like this might be prevented?

Minister for Justice (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  I should like to thank Senators for welcoming the Bill and for their approval of the principles underlying it. I shall endeavour to deal, as best I can, with the points raised by various Senators.

The first thing that I should say in a general way, because it deals with points made on behalf of different sports carried on by different types of clubs by quite a number of Senators, is that there is no form of outdoor sport excluded from the benefit of the Bill. Quite clearly, some forms of outdoor sport will find it difficult to comply with the conditions in the Bill, but there is no form which is excluded.

I shall take some examples. Senator O'Higgins spoke of gun clubs and angling clubs; Senator O'Callaghan and Senator West spoke of show jumping. Clearly these sort of activities are not excluded, but from such knowledge as I have of the nature of those [995] types of clubs it is unlikely that they will qualify. In the case of angling and gun clubs the necessary amount of money might not have been spent and in the case of show jumping the land would hardly have been used regularly enough unless show jumping took place very regularly. It is fair to say that in most show jumping arenas in Ireland it would take place perhaps only on one or two weeks in a year, and thus it would fail under the provision of primary user because the primary user of the land must be for sporting purposes.

That principle would cover the situation referred to by Senator West and I wonder was his question hypothetical, or is there such a club as that which he described, wherein the playing members have been pushed out of the way by the pavilion members. I know of one club myself which has a considerable bar membership and I understand has no sporting members at all. It has even been rumoured that the equipment for the sporting members has been sold to keep up the activities elsewhere. In that kind of situation I do not see that the club could benefit because it is not the fact of its being a club for carrying on an outdoor sport that counts, it must be actually using the land and outdoor sport must be the primary user of the land.

Dr. West: Information on Timothy Trevor West  Zoom on Timothy Trevor West  For the purpose of sport.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  If the only sport carried on was the type of sport that Senator West described and not outdoor sport, the club would not have established rights over the land, therefore the question of a lease for any part of it under this Bill would not arise.

Dr. West: Information on Timothy Trevor West  Zoom on Timothy Trevor West  Might I make my point a bit more clearly. Supposing the club genuinely obtained a lease, that it was a sporting club and after the lease had been obtained the changes took place.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  If it was a genuine club at the time and then became a purely drinking club, it——

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Would it not be covered by a covenant in the lease?

[996]Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  The gist of it is that it would lose its lease. The landlord could take it off it. It would have to continue during the currency of the lease to use the land primarily for sport and if it failed in this the landlord would be entitled to re-enter and take back the land and exclude the club. The Bill gives that right to the lessor in section 5 (3), paragraph (b), because that is one of the terms that would have to be inserted in the lease, if covenants in the lease were being fixed by the court in default of agreement.

Senator O'Callaghan referred to parks. I got the impression of parks in the sense of town parks where a football field might be in one corner and the rest would be used for walking and so on. The part not used for the football field would hardly be covered but no great problem would arise because any park of that kind would normally be owned by a local authority and, therefore, the question of having to get a lease for it would not arise.

Senator Keery referred to the rent restrictions code and to the reference in section 10 of this Bill to an amendment of section 10 of the Rent Restrictions Act, 1967. A number of people may feel that, because that Act is referred to and there is a reference here to rent restrictions, this Bill in some way affects rent restrictions. It does not affect it at all. The only reason this section is put in here is because a section of the Rent Restrictions Act, 1967, had an unexpected and unintended effect in a matter which had nothing to do with rent restrictions at all but with landlord and tenant matters. This Bill does not affect it at all and people can rest assured there is no change one way or another under this Bill so far as rent restrictions are concerned.

So far as the code generally is concerned the Government's policy on that was set out in the Third Programme for Economic and Social Expansion. In broad terms it remains our aim to try gradually to ease the restraints of rent restrictions. At the same time one has to bear in mind the fact that it is necessary to protect a [997] good many tenants who would be put in a very difficult situation. While there is a demand from a good many people today for more rapid relaxation of the rent restrictions code and while I accept that there are many valid reasons for it, one has only to look at today's Order Paper in the Dáil to see questions addressed to me, the object of them being the direct opposite. It is not an easy problem to solve because where one comes across many instances of old people and retired people living on very limited incomes and owning potentially quite valuable property but getting no return from it, one cannot but have sympathy for them.

There is then the other side of the coin: the growing problem in our cities today of young people, in particular, young married people often having to pay extraordinarily high rents for poor quality accommodation. To relax the restraints on one may increase the hardships on the other by reducing the supply of rented accommodation being made available and possibly damaging the national housing effort. I am trying to devise some method whereby one could be equitable to both. It is a problem which is worth attacking. There are two groups at the opposite end of the scale in one sense in that one are land owners or property owners and the others are not people of any property but both are suffering injustices—one by getting too little for their property and the other by having to pay far too much. I would hope it might be possible to work out some system whereby these kind of problems could be overcome with equity to all concerned and without the ill-effects to which I have referred.

I mention this simply by way of explanation or in reply to the fears raised by Senator Keery because this Bill does not deal with rent restrictions.

Senator Eoin Ryan referred to a case where the provision in subsection (3) of section 2 comes into it. This is the one dealing with subsidiary land and where the period is fixed at 12 years. He knows of a case where apparently a club will not benefit by [998] this subsection as a result because it is some short time short of that period. While I have every sympathy with the club I have to express matters in this way that, first of all, this whole system of qualification of subsidiary land is one that was not recommended by the commission. This is something that we had to bring in ourselves when we found that a number of clubs, particularly golf clubs, would qualify in respect of the bulk of their property but there were bits and pieces, corners and strips here and there which would not qualify. Unfortunately it is no good to give a golf club a new lease in respect of 14¾ holes——

Mr. O'Higgins: Information on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Zoom on Michael Joseph O'Higgins  Make sure they have the 19th anyway.

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  ——if the remaining bits are out because even though the bulk of the club is covered and is guaranteed a new lease the club is put in a very difficult position. We had to introduce this additional concept to the commission's recommendations and bring in the provision which is in subsection (3) of section 2 here giving a club additional rights where most of their land was covered by the general provision but where they had bits amounting to not more than a quarter that were not covered and which would not qualify under the main provision. We picked on a period of 12 years occupation. Whenever one is faced with this problem of trying to pick a particular period of years it is a most invidious situation because no matter what period you pick there is always going to be somebody who is a year less and if it was a year less he would be grand. The way I approached it was to try to get some sort of acceptable figure that has been regarded in the law down through the years as an equitable period of years where occupation would give rise to certain rights in the occupier. The best and fairest period that I could pick on by analogy with the Statute of Limitations was 12 years. So I picked on that for that reason. It does appear that there is a club which is a year below that but unfortunately if I make it ten years, there is no real basis for it, and I have no doubt that there may be two [999] or three clubs which are in fact in occupation for nine years.

The important thing to remember about this is that this was not in the commission's recommendations and the fact that quite a number of clubs have been saved by this subsection (3), so far as I know, from being wiped out, even though they were entitled to the benefit of the main recommendations, should be borne in mind. It is difficult to justify one hard case because it may well make very bad law. We have also got to bear in mind that presumably somebody owns the land and I feel that he has certain rights, too. I have a good deal of sympathy for the club but I think that only for the Bill the club [1000] would in fact be completely wiped out anyway. The amount of land involved in their problem is comparatively small and I am sure they will be able to come to some arrangement with the owners, particularly as they are so near the period.

I think that deals with all the points that have been raised and I should like to thank the Seanad for the manner in which the Bill has been welcomed.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd November, 1971.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.15 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 3rd November, 1971.


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