Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 10 May 1978

Vol. 306 No. 5

Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Bill, 1977: From the Seanad.

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:

Section 2: In page 3, between lines 45 and 46, the following inserted:

"(8) Where a dispute arises in regard to the apportionment of the rent under subsection (7) (c) (ii), the matter shall be determined under section 17 of the Act of 1967 (which refers to the determination of certain matters by arbitration)."

The reason I am here is that the Minister for Justice was dealing with other legislation in this House and he asked me to pilot this legislation through the Seanad, which I did. We will have to leave it to the historians to decide whether it was successful or otherwise. It passed through all Stages in the Seanad. Basically this amendment is in conformity with an amendment proposed by the Opposition in the Seanad. It gives effect to a lacuna or a void in section 2. Effectively it is an additional subsection. It was brought forward for discussion in the Seanad by Senator Cooney and Senator Molony. This amendment is now before the Dáil to give effect to their wish.

If there are any details Deputy O'Keeffe would like to raise, within my competence I would be glad to deal with them. This amendment gives effect to an Opposition amendment in the Seanad—more or less; I do not want to mislead Deputy O'Keeffe or the House, it is not in direct or exact conformity with what was desired— which was withdrawn on the undertaking that an amendment would be introduced in this House.

I accept what the Minister has said. This is a technical question. The amendment was proposed by the Opposition in the Seanad to fill a lacuna and, in those circumstances, I welcome it as an addition to the Bill.

I am grateful to the Deputy for his attitude towards the amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:

Section 2: In page 3, between lines 45 and 46, the following inserted:

"(9) In subsection (7), references to a sublease or sublessee include, where appropriate, references to an assignment and to an assignee, his personal representatives and successors in title."

This amendment relates to subsection (7) of section 2. I understand it was inserted by an official amendment on Committee Stage in this House. Deputy O'Keeffe may have been the proposer of the amendment and he would have a greater knowledge than I of the history of the amendment proposed on Committee Stage in the Dáil.

The amendment was designed to cater for a situation the possibility of which was raised in the course of considering observations furnished by the Incorporated Law Society. Subsection (7) provides that where a lease made after the Bill becomes law is rendered void under subsection (3) because of the building of houses on part of the land, a sublease of the remainder of the land on which no houses have been built will not be rendered void, and the sublessee will become the direct lessee of the lessor who gave the terminated lease. In logic, even if not in law, that seems a reasonable proposition.

I understand this conforms with an Opposition amendment in the Seanad and is almost on all fours with it. We say it is more or less perfecting the proper amendment put forward by Senator Cooney and Senator Molony. I am not certain whether I have my facts exactly right in relation to the proposers of the amendment. I am told I have.

As Deputy O'Keeffe accepted the first amendment under the same circumstances, he might accept this amendment. It is proper to mention in defence of the Seanad that, if the Seanad were not there, there are occasions when, by virtue of pressure of business in the Dáil, amendments of this nature might escape the legislative net. In that way we can be grateful for the presence and existence of the Seanad. We are grateful to the two Opposition Senators who proposed the amendment we feel we have perfected.

The second amendment arose out of discussion here which was refined in the other House. The amendment seems to tighten up the provisions of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

There is a question I should like to ask.

The Deputy should have put it on the amendment.

The question refers to the commencement date of the Bill. I assume the procedure is that as soon as it is passed by this House it will go to the President for signature. A number of house purchasers have been in touch with me who are very worried about a practical point. These are people who have entered into contracts to purchase——

If the Minister of State wishes to answer the question I will not prevent him from doing so, but it is completely irrelevant to what we are doing at the moment. Put the question briefly.

I cannot make relevant what is irrelevant but I agree to facilitate the Deputy.

I am allowing Deputy O'Keeffe to put a question.

I appreciate the latitude. This is a rather important practical point which worries a number of house purchasers. These are people who have in recent times entered into contracts to purchase on the basis of long leases. Examples given to me include 999-year leases at 1p a year. These people are building houses on bridging finance on the basis of furnishing title to mortgage institutions as soon as the houses are completed. I accept that there is a provision in the present Bill for a developer to buy out the freehold under section 2 (5) where planning permission has been granted. However, in the circumstances to which I am referring, there would not be a contractual obligation whereby the house purchaser could force him to do so. I am concerned on behalf of these people because there appears to be a lacuna which could bring great hardship on them. They could fall between two stools: on the one hand, unable to enforce their rights under the existing contract and, on the other hand, unable to gain the benefit of the new Bill. Does the Minister appreciate this point and can anything be done to ensure that hardship to existing house purchasers will not arise in these circumstances?

I appreciate the point. If, as the Deputy suggests, that is the situation, it could be a very serious matter. With the passage of this Bill it will be enacted into law when it is signed by the President and this should be given maximum publicity. Such publicity should encourage people, who are in the process of contracting as the Deputy has described, to formalise their contracts before the Bill becomes law.

The purpose of the Bill is to prohibit the creation of future ground rents on ordinary dwelling-houses. I understand that is what the Deputy is speaking about. The Bill proposes to do this by making void any future attempted lease of such a dwelling that would create a ground rent, apart from renewals of existing ground leases. The amendment seeks to validate such leases, provided a contract for the lease has been entered into before the Bill became law. It was argued that when the Bill becomes law some unknown number of persons will have contracted to take ground leases but will not actually have taken them. If I can be of any further assistance to the Deputy and his colleagues they might be accommodated in some way.

Not at this stage.

The purpose of this Bill is to give certainty and to bring finality into the matter of the creation of future ground rents. That was one of the purposes behind the introduction of the Bill. Dealing with this point specifically might give rise to another point and we would have the domino situation, one point knocking down another. The purpose of the Bill is to prevent the future creation of ground rents and to give a cut-off date in relation to the application of the Bill.

The Chair would point out that this is a precedent that cannot be availed of again.

Amendments reported and agreed to.