The government has extended a ban on commercial evictions until March 2022, in a move that marks a blow for retail landlords but welcome news for high street tenants.
Existing measures in place will run to March 25. The government said this “is to ensure that the sectors who are unable to open have enough time to come to an agreement with their landlord without the threat of eviction”.
The government had faced some calls for the moratorium on evictions, finishing at the end of the month, to be extended. Many hospitality firms are under more pressure now after the planned June 21 easing of lockdown plan was delayed.
It is estimated there is some £6 billion of unpaid rent bills since the start of the pandemic, although part of that has already been written off by landlords.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that legislation will be introduced to ringfence outstanding unpaid rent that has built up when a business has had to remain closed during the pandemic.
Landlords are expected to make allowances for the ringfenced rent arrears from these specific periods of closure due to the pandemic, and share the financial impact with their tenants.
The government pointed to tenants and property owners working together on agreements, including potentially by waiving some of the amount owed, or coming up with longer term repayment plans.
In addition, the government said it is making it clear that businesses who are able to pay rent, must do so. Tenants should start paying their rent as soon as restrictions change, and they are given the green light to open.
The latest extension had been tipped in reports, including in The Telegraph, and a number of chief executives this morning told the Evening Standard the move would be either welcomed, or in some cases viewed as not helpful.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality’s chief executive said: “These measures are wholly welcome and will banish a grim shadow that has hung menacingly over hospitality since the Covid crisis began 15 months ago. The legislation will form a strong bedrock for negotiated and fair settlements that can help heal the damage that the pandemic has wrought.”
The British Independent Retailers Association’s Andrew Goodacre, said: “Perfectly viable independent retail businesses that have suffered months of lockdown need time to recover.”
The British Retail Consortium’s leader Helen Dickinson said the update addressed “an issue of vital importance in the nick of time”.
But Danielle Drummond-Brassington, a real estate disputes partner at law firm CMS, said: “Nothing is done here to address or recognise the financial pressure landlords are facing, or that there are tenants out there who can pay but have been taking advantage of the government’s measures.”
In some cases landlords say some occupiers refusing to pay rent are big, profitable companies.- Evening Standard.