The UK Government has extended measures to prevent struggling companies from eviction over the summer.
The extension, until the end of September, comes alongside further support to help local businesses plan for economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.
A new Code of Practice has been developed with leaders from the retail, hospitality and property sectors to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so that all parties are supported.
These interventions are in addition to the comprehensive financial package provided by the UK Government to businesses during this difficult time and is in recognition of the strain that the sector is currently under.
The code is voluntary for businesses and is relevant to all commercial leases held by businesses in any sector which have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It encourages tenants to continue to pay their rent in full if they are in a position to do so and advises that others should pay what they can, whilst acknowledging that landlords should provide support to businesses if they too are able to do so.
The suspension of the forfeiture of evictions will come as a relief in particular to pubs, cafes and restaurants, after the hospitality sector called upon the government for action in this area.
Communities Secretary, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “As our high streets come to life and our town centres open for business, it is crucial that both landlords and tenants have clarity and reassurance as they seek to keep their finances stable and bounce back.
“That is why we are extending measures to protect those who are unable to pay rent from eviction so that businesses have the security they need to plan for their futures.
“And in recognition of the strain that the virus has had on our high streets, our new code, backed by leaders across the industry, will help unlock conversations on rent and future payments whilst ensuring best practice is displayed across the board as we confront the challenges of this pandemic.”
Business Secretary Alok Sharma MP said: “From clothes stores to our local book shop, we want as many high street businesses as possible to emerge from the pandemic, in the best position to bounce back.
“During this particularly challenging time for businesses, our retail stores are safely welcoming shoppers back and taking the necessary steps to drive economic recovery.
“By putting a stop to unreasonable evictions, these measures will protect jobs and provide further flexibility to our high street businesses that were trading successfully before the COVID-19 emergency, so they can focus on continuing to deliver for their customers and communities.”
Across the UK, the code will encourage tenants and landlords to be transparent in their discussions and to act reasonably and responsibly whilst recognising the impact that coronavirus has had on businesses’ finances.
The UK Government has confirmed the following changes to the existing package of measures for the commercial sector;
• We will lay a statutory instrument to amend the Coronavirus Act to extend the time period for suspension of the forfeiture of evictions from June 30 to September 30, meaning no business will be forced out of their premises if they a miss a payment in the next three months.
• We will also lay secondary legislation to prevent landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery unless they are owed 189 days of unpaid rent. The time period for which this measure is in force will be extended from June 30 to September 30.
• An amendment to the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill has been tabled which will extend the temporary ban on the use of statutory demands and winding-up petitions where a company cannot pay its bills due to coronavirus until 30 September.
UK Finance has also confirmed its members’ continued support for commercial landlord customers including amendments to facilities and capital payment holidays.
The UK Government’s financial package of measures to support businesses during the economic emergency includes;
• A Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme where small and large employers can apply for a government grant of 80% of workers’ salaries up to £2,500 a month. The scheme will be backdated to March 1 and available for at least three months, with first grants to be paid within weeks.
• Deferral of the next quarter of VAT payments for firms, until the end of June – representing a £30bn injection into the economy.
• £330bn worth of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses.
• A Bounce Back Loans scheme, providing loans of up to £50,000 to benefit small businesses with a 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. These loans will be interest-free for the first 12 months and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.
• A Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to help eligible freelance workers receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least three months.