Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Dublin Estate Tenants.

34.

asked the Minister for Justice if he is aware of the circumstances of certain tenants on the Proby estate, Sandycove, Dún Laoghaire, who had entered into agreements with the estate; and if, in view of the recommendations of the Landlord and Tenant Commission that renewal of the leases should be granted to tenants on this estate, he will consider including a provision in the legislation which will also cover those tenants who have already entered into agreements with the landlord so that they may be refunded any payments made.

I am aware that some tenants on the Proby estate whose leases expired in recent years without statutory rights of renewal entered into new agreements with the landlord. The Landlord and Tenant Commission, while recommending that rights of renewal should be granted to tenants on the estate in question, including tenants whose leases had recently expired, specifically excluded from its recommendation any tenant who had made an arrangement with the landlord for the granting of a new lease or for the purchase of the landlord's interest. When recommending this exclusion, the Commission was aware that there were, in fact, cases of this kind.

I am not prepared to recommend to the Government that, as suggested by the Deputy, tenants who have already entered into agreements should also be covered by the legislation and refunded any payments made. Such a departure from the Commission's recommendations would, in my opinion, be an undue interference with existing contracts and be open to serious objection in principle.

Is the Minister aware that, whatever may apply in respect of cases that have been completed before the matter was considered by the Commission, the landlord here used the threat of eviction in order to secure settlement with a number of these tenants? There is no doubt that this action was what could only be regarded as in breach of the question being considered by the Commission at the particular time.

While I have some sympathy with these couple of tenants who missed the bus for the reasons stated, there will always be some people who will find themselves legally in this position. I would refer the Deputy to recommendation No. 62 in the Report of the Landlord and Tenant Commission, which I am sure will be accepted by all of us as completely independent. Here is what they said:

If the suggestion in paragraph 60 above is accepted, regarding an extension to cover the case discussed of the rights to a reversionary lease, the amending legislation should contain a similar provision. Any such section should give rights only to a lessee holding on under the expired lease without having made any arrangement with his landlord for the granting of a new lease, or for the purchase of the landlord's interest, or otherwise.

These men went before this Commission. The Commission heard their evidence and were aware of their position. The Deputy will appreciate that, as I understand it, these men did purchase the fee simple—at least one of these men had contracted to purchase the fee simple. I have grave doubts whether what the Deputy is seeking is constitutional.

Is the Minister aware that in some of these cases—certainly in a few of them—the landlord took ejectment proceedings while the Commission was sitting which in any other circumstances—if there were court proceedings—would be regarded as contempt of court? This action was designed to stampede tenants who were not in a position to resist the claim legally but who nevertheless had the justice of their case recognised by the recommendation of the Commission.

If the Deputy says there were definite proceedings in these few cases excluded by the Commission, I will accept what he says. I do not know in how many cases from this estate there were proceedings but the fact remains that the Commission brought in under the recommendation some 100 of these tenants and specifically excluded those who, for whatever reason, whether partly under threat or not, did purchase the fee simple. As far as my information goes, they made no bad deal in purchasing the fee simple as the property would be worth at least double what they paid for it. At all events, they did purchase and this independent Commission specifically excluded them for this purpose. That is in keeping with all landlord and tenant legislation which has passed through this House so far as I am aware.