Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 24th April 2020
The government has announced a series of temporary measures designed to protect high street tenants who find themselves faced with “aggressive debt recovery actions” in the context of the coronavirus crisis.
Statutory demands and winding up petitions issued against commercial tenants by their landlords are being temporarily voided, the government has said.
Tenants of commercial properties are being asked to pay what they can during the coronavirus outbreak but landlords and investors are being told they need to work collaboratively with high street businesses that cannot currently pay their bills.
“In this exceptional time for the UK, it is vital that we ensure businesses are kept afloat so that they can continue to provide the jobs our economy needs beyond the coronavirus pandemic,” said Alok Sharma, the business secretary.
“Our unprecedented package of support can help commercial landlords, including through the recent expansion of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme,” he said.
“I know that like all businesses they are under pressure, but I would urge them to show forbearance to their tenants.”
The measures introduced by government are designed to build on the three-month moratorium on evictions of tenants of commercial properties that was announced recently.
Robert Jenrick, communities secretary, has said the government recognises the strain that landlords of commercial properties are feeling but suggested that national policy needs to reflect the interests of the wider economy and be focussed on achieving the goal of guiding the entire retail and hospitality sector through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that commercial tenants are as well placed as possible to get back to business,” he said.
Helen Dickinson from the British Retail Consortium welcomed the government’s announcements on protections for commercial property tenants, describing rents as being a “huge burden for retailers that must be paid even when shops are closed”.
“We thank Alok Sharma for his swift action, which will give retailers some vital relief and help safeguard millions of jobs all across the country,” she said.
Meanwhile, the leading trade body for the hospitality sector, UK Hospitality, has also welcomed the newly announced emergency protection measures for commercial renters, describing the policies as representing a “very helpful and pragmatic response”.
“Many businesses in our sector have no revenue whatsoever coming in, so paying rents has been out of the question for some,” noted Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality’s chief executive.
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