Government underlines its right to allow commercial property leases beyond 50 years
Government has tightened up the law to make clear it does have power to permit commercial leases of its properties for more than 50 years.
Its ability to grant such leases was challenged by the Auditor General, who asked the Supreme Court last year to determine if Government was right to have given Coco Reef Resort a 125-year lease.
Tourism and Business Development Minister Patrice Minors told the House of Assembly last night that the legal summons prompted Government to draft the Companies Amendment Act 2011 to ensure no further “conflicting interpretations” of the Companies Act 1981.
She said: “The Auditor General agreed to file a notice of discontinuance of the case without costs to either party, provided that specific steps were undertaken by the Minister, Bermuda College and Coco Reef Resorts Ltd, to clarify the position.
“These steps included several administrative functions which were specific to the Coco Reef lease, as well as the Minister undertook to amend the Act in the manner being presented today.”
She said Auditor General Heather Jacobs Matthews had agreed to include a statement in her next report confirming that the issues had been rectified to her satisfaction.
Coco Reef was given a lease for the Stonington property owned by Bermuda College on South Road in Paget in June 2003. It was granted a lease extension in 2009.
Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz said yesterday the amendment was not retrospective so gave no clarity on whether other leases previously issued for more than 50 years were valid.
“I think that's a mistake here in that sense,” he said. “If the Government wants to effect what it says it wants to effect, it should be retrospective and make good any previous leases that have been issued.”
Attorney General Michael Scott said the aim was to put the language of the section of the Companies Act dealing with leases “beyond question, beyond legal argument”.
The amended legislation was approved by MPs.
Ms Minors said further amendments of the Companies Act could be on the way, after her Ministry consults with industry stakeholders.
l Useful websites: www.gov.bm, www.cocoreefbermuda.com