Covid-19 – Your Rent and Lease Options

The continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19 is causing retail businesses a new financial challenge—handling rent payments.

For retailers, meeting rent due dates while undergoing store closures or reduced foot traffic is a significant challenge.

While this is causing financial strain, there are steps you can take to find relief:

  1. Government rules on rent collection
  • Government has banned landlords from enforcing rent collection ie. they cannot instruct bailiffs to pursue unpaid rent
  • There is an argument that you should not have to pay rent because the government has mandated closure of shops and restaurants, therefore it is not possible to trade. These circumstances could be referenced as a Force Majeure
  • When businesses reopen there is an understanding that there will be a lot of landlords chasing rent, which could lead to mass litigation when the courts reopen. The Chancellor’s office is considering options for mitigating this situation
  • Nothing has been agreed yet, however there could be a rent freeze. The government might limit the rent freeze to properties to a certain rateable value or companies of a certain size, or give tenants access to additional loans
  1. Understand cash impact from rates relief 
  • The government have suspended rates from 1st April 2020 for 12 months
  • HOWEVER where you closed your stores before this date you can still apply for repayment of previously paid rates
  • Appeal for a reduction in your rates valuation at the next listing
  1. Break clause and what it means for your negotiations
  • Negotiate now with your landlord on terms of your occupation 
  • This is particularly helpful if you have a break clause coming up or a lease renewal you could consider walking away and that would leave the landlord with the liability to pay the empty rates on the unit. Landlords do not want that now so there is an opportunity to renegotiate your lease terms
  • Landlords might also be prepared to renegotiate if you are coming up to your expiry
  • Bear in mind that landlords are now under a lot of pressure from their banks and some will have limited ability to deal independently right now, because they have to go via their banks.

Next steps

  • Check your lease in detail
  • Are you inside the Act and what are your break and termination options?
  • Get legal advice and consider not paying rent. There is an argument to wait and see what is announced by way of support from the government, and argue that rent may not be payable due to enforced closure
  • Register your property for a business rates appeal for 2021 onwards. Consult experts to support your appeal
  • Negotiate your overall terms with your landlord

We are working hard to bring you information you need to make important decisions about your business

Please stay safe and stay connected by joining our retailer community group or by clicking www.facebook.com/groups/creoateretailers/

 

This content is for informational purposes only. When making business and legal decisions, we encourage you to seek advice from qualified professionals.

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