§ 8. Mr. Fernyhough
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he is aware that many owners and owner occupiers of leasehold property, the leases of which in some caes expire in the next one to ten years, are being pressed by their ground landlords to buy the freehold at an excessively high price and that this is causing both anxiety and hardship; and if he will introduce legislation to protect such owners and owner occupiers from unreasonable demands on the part of the ground landlords.
§ 10. Mr. Grey
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if, in view of the continuing demand by landlords for exorbitant terms from tenants on the renewal of leases, if he will introduce legislation to ensure security of tenure for leasehold property owners on the expiration of their leases.
§ 12. Mr. G. Thomas
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he is aware that ground landlords in South Wales continue to charge large premiums before renewing leases; and whether he will now take steps to prevent this happening.
I have asked representatives of the professional bodies concerned with land and property to let me have information about the practice of landlords, especially in South Wales, in relation to renewals of long leases and sales of the freehold. I prefer to make no statement until I receive their reports which I hope to do this month. It is often assumed that the terms asked for renewal of a lease are exorbitant when in fact they only represent fair value. People should take professional advice before they jump to conclusions. Meanwhile the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, provides security.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Does not the Minister realise that that Answer is very little more helpful, and quite as unsympathetic, as the Answer which I received when I last raised the matter? Of what has the right hon. Gentleman to be ashamed that he dare not face these shameless men who are exploiting this situation—these "get-rich-quick boys"? 183 How can the Minister believe in a property-owning democracy while at the same time allowing hundreds of thousands of people to be treated in the way in which they are being treated today?
§ Mr. Grey
May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the people who are involved in this kind of thing will not get much satisfaction from his Answer? Is he aware that only recently these people have made the necessary approach to the landlord with a view to purchase but without success and that they are very worried about it? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that something should be done to stop this kind of thing before it becomes a complete racket?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the Minister aware that the people of Wales will welcome the fact that evidence is being collected? Is he further aware that we are surprised that he has not already had this evidence? We appreciate that he regards the problem as one of particular hardship in South Wales. But does not the Minister realise that there is a sense of urgency in this matter? While we appreciate that he wishes to collect the facts, may we ask for an assurance that he will make an early statement on Government policy with regard to revising the leasehold laws?
I hope to receive the report—although I cannot be certain—within the next few days. When I have received it I shall, of course, make a statement of the attitude of the Government in the light of such facts.
§ Mr. Gower
In considering the information which he is collecting, will my right hon. Friend not only take account of the expiring of these leases and the problems which will ensue but also of the existence in some areas of large numbers of leases of less than forty years upon which it is almost impossible to raise money on mortgage and which therefore tend to create another problem 184 which may be distinguished from that resulting from expiring leases?
§ Mr. Callaghan
We welcome what the Minister has said about hardship. Would the right hon. Gentleman be willing to take into consideration in this matter that there is almost a universal demand in South Wales that leaseholders should be free to purchase the freehold of their property? Will he also take this into account before making a statement of policy and, if he is willing, introduce legislation?
9. Mr. Feruyhough
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs is he aware that many owner-occupiers of leasehold property, the leases of which in some cases have only a few years to run, are being asked by their ground landlords to carry out costly repairs to the property, much of which is below 1962 standards, and that this is causing anxiety and hardship in many cases: and if he will introduce legislation to protect such owner-occupiers from unreasonable demands on the part of the ground landlords.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
If that be so, can the right hon. Gentleman tell me how it is that the Government take no steps to prevent landlords from issuing instructions to tenants to improve the standard of property which is already substandard? Does not he think that it would be a waste of the materials and resources of the nation to compel tenants, as some landlords would like to do, to repair property which has long outlived its usefulness?
As I explained to the hon. Gentleman in a letter, in this limited matter to which I am referring there is substantial protection for the leaseholder. For example, there is no power to require him to undertake such 185 repairs. The landlord can sue for damages, but he can succeed only in certain circumstances—if the lease is within three years of termination, or, for example, if there is a proved diminution in the value on reversion. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that in this matter the law provides adequate protection.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
But is the Minister aware that the 1954 Act also takes away the property and gives it to the ground landlord when the lease runs out. It is no protection for the owner of the property to be told that he can stay there when the lease runs out if he pays the full economic rent. This is regarded as a major injustice by those who bought their own homes.
I am answering the Question in relation to repairs. The hon. Gentleman is, not unnaturally, returning to the earlier Question.