The UK government has responded to a petition set up by the current management team at Sheffield venue The Leadmill declining their request to suspend an element of the Landlord And Tenant Act pending an already planned review of those laws.
The Leadmill team are facing eviction next year because the owner of their building – live music company The Electric Group – wants to take direct control of running the venue. That decision has proven controversial within the Sheffield music community and beyond, with lots of artists, fans and industry people calling for the current Leadmill team to stay in place.
But the petition set up by that team on the UK Parliament website earlier this month wasn’t a generic call urging The Electric Group to have a rethink, but a specific request in relation to laws that govern the landlord/tenant relationship.
The venue’s General Manager, Ian Lawlor, explained in his petition: “Section 25 of the Landlord And Tenant Act can be exploited by landlords, allowing them to expropriate the investment the tenant has made into the premises, including any goodwill developed over many years”.
“The government has said it will review the Landlord And Tenant Act”, he added. “We are calling for a suspension of Section 25 (Grounds C to G), so that tenants cannot be evicted until a government review has been concluded, and any reforms implemented”.
When a petition on the Parliament website passes 10,000 signatures the relevant government department – in this case the Department For Levelling Up, Housing And Communities – is obliged to respond. In that response, the government said that, while it concedes current landlord/tenant laws need reviewing – hence the ongoing review – it’s not willing to suspend any laws in the short term.
Its response states: “The government has no plans to suspend Section 25 of the Landlord And Tenant Act 1954, part II, at this time. Suspension of Section 25 would not be a proportionate way of addressing the underlying issues with the legislation”.
“DLUHC is aware of concerns that the current commercial property legislation has not kept pace with the reality of the sector today”, it adds. “That is why, in December 2020, the government committed to launching a review of the landlord and tenant relationship and the legislation surrounding it”.
“Review of the commercial leasehold legislation will inform a new framework to support more efficient and flexible uses of space across high streets and town centres. The full scope of the review is yet to be confirmed; further details will be announced in due course. As such, the government cannot support further intervention in the commercial property market until the review has delivered its recommendations”.
The Leadmill team feel that review could change the law in a way that would help them in their current battle with The Electric Group but, given the vague commitments regarding the timeline for that review, it seems unlikely that will help without a suspension of the current system, as Lawlor’s petition had requested.
As of this morning, more than 27,000 people have signed the petition. If it passes 100,000, the issues raised by the petition would be considered for a Parliamentary debate.
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