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Section 60 of the Retail Leases Act 2003 prescribes when a landlord can withhold consent to a proposed assignment of a retail premises lease. The most significant provision is sub-section 60(1)(b) which provides that:
“(1) A landlord is only entitled to withhold consent to the assignment of a retail premises lease if one or more of the following applies –
(b) the landlord considers that the proposed assignee does not have sufficient financial resources or business experience to meet the obligations under the lease;”
On its face s.60(1)(b) appears to give the landlord unfettered power to withhold consent – that is the landlord’s subjective view is all that matters. Despite the wording of the section VCAT has implied a requirement that the landlord must act “reasonably” in undertaking its consideration. In AAMR Hospitality Group Pty Ltd v Goodpar Pty Ltd  VCAT 2782 Deputy President Macnamara held at  that:
“With the utmost hesitation however I consider that the words ‘reasonably’ or ‘acting reasonably’ should be read into section 60(1)(b)……. The overriding policy evident in the Retail Leases Act is to provide special protection to a limited class of commercial tenants, namely those who are tenants of small retail tenancies and do not have the clout that say a listed corporation would have. The provisions of the statute are aimed at providing protection to this class of tenant and constraining and restricting a largely unrestricted power which landlords of these premises at common law and before the enactment of special retail tenancies legislation had available. To construe a provision such as section 60(1)(b) such that one of the protected class of tenants was to be at the mercy of the purely subjective determination of a lessor would not be conducive to the statute’s overall policy, per contra it would tend to subvert the wider policy of the statute, …”
In a recent decision Member Farrelly said that he agreed with Deputy President Macnamara’s reasoning and construed s.60(1)(b) as if it the word “reasonably” appeared before “considers”. See: Villa v Emaan Pty Ltd  VCAT 274 at - .
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