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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 3 Feb 1989

Vol. 386 No. 6

Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Bill, 1988: Committee and Final Stages.


I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, to delete lines 36 to 40.

The purpose of this amendment is to delete from section 1 lines 36 to 40, that is subsection (3) (b) (ii) which states: "It applies in relation to occupation of the whole or part of the tenement under any other lease or contract of tenancy that is in force during the whole or part of the currency of, and is made after the making of, the first-mentioned lease or contract of tenancy."

From the Explanatory Memorandum circulated with the Bill, this appears to be very straightforward and simple legislation. The Minister, when introducing the Bill and again in response to Second Stage, stated that it is aimed at financial services companies only. My belief is that in that general aim, unwittingly or otherwise, other concepts are being drawn in.

The Minister mentioned the example of a bank manager living over the premises or in adjoining premises. Does he not envisage persons coming to work in a financial services company staying on, and being independent of the company maybe because they leave the company's employment, they are dismissed, they retire or the company ceases trading? It appears the legislation is not designed to deal with such eventualities. The people living on premises adjoining or contiguous to the tenement might have entitlement to stay on or remain in the area of the Authority but the purpose of this Bill would be to deny them occupational rights.

We must be clear about this. The 1931 Act, the 1980 Act and this Bill in part are designed to deal with two separate types of tenancy, one of which is a business lease. That can be clearly understood in the concept of the authority and the area. The business of financial services, where it is established, would clearly come under the terms of a business lease. Consequently in law, as it stands prior to the passing of this Bill, at the end of three years that company would be entitled as of right to a renewal of the lease for 35 years. The Bill is correct not to allow that right to exist. It reflects the importance of the site and of the authority maintaining proprietorship, and dominion, and it also reflects a desire to maintain the integrity of the centre as a business financial services area so that a company coming in initially under the guise of financial services does not convert to subsidiary activities or, on gaining proprietorship, sell their interest to a company not engaged in the same type of activity.

The concept is right in regard to businesses, but I do not think the same concept is right in regard to people who might come, to live in premises or areas within the centre. I am trying to make the case that legislation should reflect what the local authority are trying to do and what we as legislators should try to do, that is, to encourage inner city residential occupation. If, by whatever means or design, a person takes up occupation of part of the premises within the area, the laws should be there in full to protect them.

Then we deal with the other distinct concept, that is, the right to renewal of the lease for 35 years of a person who has lived on the site for 20 years. That is an inordinate long time but, nonetheless, there are people who would be there for that length of time and who would appreciate that right. As I have said, in the Irish Life Centre, over the bridge from the docks site, the position is similar in many respects; there is an area for business interests and there are shops on the ground floor. There are many people there who are fast approaching their 20 year tenancy and who will have fixity of tenure as a result. They can continue to live there under conditions to be negotiated.

A very important feature of this legislation, in answer to anyone who has suggested otherwise about convenants, is that you cannot contract out of the rights that accrue to you under this area of the law. It recognises that people, who in business have committed themselves for three years or are in occupancy for 20 years, get rights that are so important that they cannot be contracted out.

Arrangements and agreements for introducing cognisance in the leases cannot deal with the problem. The Bill must exist if one is to deal with the problem. I am trying to tease out whether we are being over protective of the authorities dominion on property on the one hand to the detriment on the other of encouraging people to take up leases for living purposes and remaining there until their initial intentions have ceased, namely work with or involvement in a financial services company. That is my worry and it is illustrated by all of the neglected, unoccupied and undeveloped living areas that exist in the uppermost floors of commercial premises throughout the city. I do not want the same blight to afflict this worthy development when it is in full commission. I am concerned that the law is being unduly restrictive regarding people who are in occupation of premises. I cannot understand when one has two distinct concepts of business on the one hand and occupancy on the other how the Minister can maintain that we are dealing exclusively with business or financial services. If he says it is occupancy in connection with financial services I would accept that but I say we should legislate not to disadvantage those people. Even if they come in initially as the bank manager or as the financial services company manager they should be entitled to the protection of the law as it exists. They are required to remain in occupancy for up to 20 years before anything can accure by way of rights under this legislation. I do not think that is unreasonable and it is something that would help to secure a permanent residency dimension to the financial services centre. Perhaps, therefore, the Minister would look again at the proposals and the reasons we advanced them.

I am opposed to this amendment. The purpose of paragraph (b) (ii) is to ensure that sublessees do not acquire rights to renewal to which the lessee is not entitled. It is entirely appropriate that the same rights and conditions should apply to the sub-lessee as applies to his immediate lessor. This is a common feature of leasing arrangements in general. In effect, paragraph (b) (ii) copperfastens the provision at paragraph (a). In practice no difficulties will arise because we are talking about leases in the Financial Services Centre only. It may happen in the initial stages that the financial services company may lease more than their immediate requirements with a view to expansion at a later stage. This provision will enable the financial services company to sublet their immediate surplus requirements if they so wish without any rights accruing to the sub-lessee. It would be unacceptable that such a sub-lessee would be entitled to acquire statutory rights when his immediate lessor would not. The financial services building will be a high-tech building designed solely to facilitate financial services operations and there could not be a lease to a financial services company which would also include residential accommodation. I am sure there will be residential accommodation in the Custom House docks area but not in the Financial Services Centre. The ordinary landlord and tenant legislation will apply to such development.

I am afraid I cannot leave the matter at that because paragraph (b) is not dealing simply with subleases to other financial services companies. Paragraph (a) deals with the business lease element and paragraph (b) deals with occupancy. Under the law occupancy is an entirely different concept and it has nothing to do with business. As it suggests it is accommodation for the purposes of living. They are completely different concepts, a business lease on the one hand and occupancy on the other. Paragraph (b) contemplates subleasing for the purposes of occupancy. A sublease for the purpose of business would be dealt with under paragraph (a). We should not penalise people who occupy premises for whatever reason. I accept the Minister's view that under the specifications the Financial Services Centre will be a high-tech area and may not have an occupancy dimension to it. The Bill deals not only with the financial services area but with the Custom House docks area so that this legislation will not be confined to the high-tech areas or the non-residential areas of the site. It is legislation to deal with the entire site.

It is related to buildings approved for the purposes of the Finance Act.

Yes, under paragraph (a) it is related to the Finance Act for the purposes of defining the meaning of a financial services company. There is no reference to the financial services definition under the Finance Act in paragraph (b) and consequently we must go outside those definitions to the high-tech area. That is my concern.

I would ask the Minister to clear up one question I have in relation to this paragraph. When I looked at it at the beginning I assumed it dealt with subleases of premises for commercial use. Because of the wording of subsection (3) (a) I assumed that paragraph (b) referred to the same matter because it states, "Where this subsection applies by virtue of paragraph (a) in relation to occupation ...". I assume it deals with subleases and while I understand the point Deputy McCartan made in relation to living accommodation and so on, that might go with a particular job which somebody holds in the Financial Services Centre I think that paragraph (b) (ii) could not be seen to refer exclusively to it because first, such accommodation would not come under subsection (3) (a) and, secondly, paragraph (b) (ii) states:

it applies in relation to occupation of the whole or part of the tenement under any other lease or contract of tenancy that is in force during the whole or part of the currency of, and is made after the making of, ...

It is not stated that it is dependent on. The type of tenancy Deputy McCartan was speaking about is a tenancy that is dependent on a contract of employment within the Financial Services Centre. Paragraph (b) (ii) refers to a sublease. It does not refer to a lease that is in connection with another lease or is dependent on it. It is simply contemporaneous with the first lease and we could get ourselves into a knot if we forget that. I do not think any differentiation is necessary or that there is any necessity to delete that paragraph.

Deputy Colley is correct in her comments on what Deputy McCartan has said. I think Deputy McCartan has misread paragraph (b) because it reads:

Where this subsection applies by virtue of paragraph (a) in relation to occupation—

Paragraph (a) applies to business occupation.

I take it that Deputy McCartan is not pressing his amendment.

I am pressing my amendment.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.
Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle am I in order in asking the Minister to explain something he said in his reply to the Second Stage debate? I think the Minister stated that the Financial Services Centre, would be completed next September and I am asking him to confirm if that is what he said. My understanding is that the centre comprises about 400,000 sq. ft. Will the Minister comfirm that it will be completed by September of this year?

The Deputy will have little or no trouble in reading in the Official Report what I said and I stand over that.

Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 12.25 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 February 1989.