Clause 23 - Interpretation

Part of Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 7th December 2021.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 3:00 pm, 7th December 2021

Clause 23 defines key terms for the purposes of the Bill. For example, it defines “long lease” and “rent”. Only long leases are regulated by the Bill. A long lease is generally a lease granted for more than 21 years, although some other types of lease are also captured. These are leases for a term fixed by law under a grant with a covenant or obligation for perpetual renewal—that excludes a situation where the lease is a sublease from a lease that is not a long lease—and leases terminable after a death, marriage or civil partnership. In the Bill, “rent” includes

“anything in the nature of rent, whatever it is called.”

Clause 23 also signposts where other terms, such as “peppercorn rent” and “regulated lease”, are defined elsewhere in the legislation.

We have arrived at these definitions after careful consideration. They have been drafted with the intention of avoiding the creation of loopholes that could be exploited to get around the intention of the legislation. The fact that ground rent has not been specifically defined is a very conscious decision, and has been arrived at following a great deal of deliberation. Rent has been defined broadly, and in the way it has been, to ensure that it captures the nature of ground rent without being too specific and risking landlords reintroducing it by another name.

Changing these definitions risks undermining the intention of the legislation. We have, however, provided some further clarification to the definition of rent in response to issues raised in the other place. Specifically, clause 23(3) makes it clear that other legitimate charges—such as service charges, insurance and so on—that might be reserved as rent in a lease will not be reduced to a peppercorn under the legislation merely because they are reserved as rent in the lease.