A ban on evicting commercial tenants is set to be extended into the summer as part of a broader package of support measures set to be announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The Financial Times has reported that the chancellor will use his upcoming Budget speech to reveal plans that would see struggling businesses across the UK given some breathing space as they look to survive the repercussions of the Covid pandemic.
According to those reports, the eviction ban for commercial tenants will be extended until the end of June 2021, with an earlier deadline having been set for the end of March.
The Job Support Scheme, which has enabled many thousands of people to be furloughed at various points over the past year, is also expected to be extended for a further three months, as is the business rates relief policy that’s been in place almost since the start of the virus crisis.
Huge numbers of businesses that occupy commercial premises have been forced to close their doors or been left operating at well below normal levels for much of the past 12 months.
In many cases, the ban on evictions has represented a vital safeguard against being forced out of business, although thousands of companies have nonetheless become insolvent or been pushed deep into debt.
Prime minister Boris Johnson recently announced details of a “roadmap” intended to chart the England’s course out of lockdown but that plan still requires most consumer-facing companies to remain closed for some weeks.
Hospitality UK said in response to the prime minister’s announcements that it expects many of its members to run out of money entirely as they await the end of the current nationwide lockdown.
For many businesses currently in financial trouble and struggling to survive, the decision to extend the scope of the commercial property evictions ban will come as good news but unpaid rent arrears are known to be stacking up across the country.
Reflecting on that issue, Hugh Osmond, formerly the boss of the restaurant chain Pizza Express, told the Financial Times that the problem of unpaid rents is “existential” for many businesses.
“There is no alternative but a government mandated solution. For a quarter of businesses, it is straight life or death,” he’s quoted as saying.