The Bill gives the tenant the right to say, "I give up my lease." We call it "disclaimer." Under the Landlord and Tenant Act if premises are sufficiently damaged by enemy action, the tenant has the right to what is called "disclaimer." We propose to give him the same right in the event of requisitioning.
The second matter with which the Bill deals is this: It is designed to resolve the difficulties of those tenants whose leases do not correspond with the hypothetical lease on which the right to compensation under the War Compensation Act is based. Under the War Compensation Act, compensation has to be assessed as provided in Clause 2 (1a); that is, broadly speaking, on the basis that the tenant undertakes all the usual tenants' rates and taxes and has to bear the cost of repairs insurance and other expenses, if any, "necessary to maintain the land in a state to demand that rent." It may and frequently does happen, particularly in the case of flats and offices, that the landlord provides certain services, such as heating and a lift and things of that sort and, consequently, the tenant pays a much higher rent than he would pay if those services were not provided. What is to happen if those premises are requisitioned and the tenant goes out of them, and cannot any longer avail himself of those services? As the law stands, if the requisitioning does not put an end to the tenancy, the tenant has to go on paying the amount fixed by the lease, although that amount is swollen by reason of the fact that the landlord has provided those services to which I have referred. In practice, I am glad to say that requisitioning Departments have, largely, been able to resolve these difficulties by bringing the landlord and the tenant together. If often happens that the requisitioning Department requires these services, and in those cases, an arrangement is made between the requisitioning Department, the landlord and the tenant, and in the great majority of cases that arrangement works well. There are, however, some cases in which it has not worked and in which the landlord has been insistent on getting the full rent, although he is no longer required to provide the services.
This Bill, in Clause 5, provides that the rent payable by the tenant, in the cases which I have put, may be adjusted so that the tenant, although he may be liable under the lease, is to be liable only for such rent as is attributable to those premises on the basis of the compensation, and not of the rent as swollen by the fact that those extra services have been provided. The landlord, of course, is relieved from his obligation to provide the services unless the requisitioning Department requires them, in which case the Bill provides that they shall be available for the remainder of the teen of the lease, upon the Department undertaking the obligation to pay for them on the basis of the lease. That is to say, in the case which I have indicated, the tenant will pay the rent on the basis of the Compensation Act, and the Department will pay such part of the rent as represented the services.
I give another instance. Suppose a floor in a block of offices is taken over by a requisitioning authority, that authority will probably need the use of the lift and possibly also a hot water supply. The Bill provides that, so long as the lease lasts, the Department concerned may require the landlord to continue to provide such services on the same basis as that contained in the lease, the requisitioning Department paying to the landlord the appropriate part of the rent in respect of those services. Technically, therefore, that may involve a charge on the Exchequer, and that is why it is necessary to have a Money Resolution. In practice, I do not think it should involve any additional expenditure. It is really a more convenient way of obtaining services which the Department concerned would, in any case, have to secure and which it would otherwise secure by direct negotiation with the landlord, or by getting the outgoing tenant to require the continuance of these services and paying compensation to the outgoing tenant in respect of them.
It is hoped that this little Bill will give tenants a useful measure of relief in cases in which they are suffering hardship and inconvenience as a result of requisitioning. We have tried to hold the scales fairly between landlord and tenant, and I believe we have done so. Restricted as it is to leases which have only a short period to run, and to those cases in which the tenant is in actual effective possession, I do not think landlords can regard the Bill as an injustice to them. We invite the co-operation of the House, to see whether the Bill can be improved in Committee, but, as far as the Second Reading is concerned, I feel confident that all parts of the House will welcome the proposals and will agree that they merit consideration in subsequent stages.