The government has extended the ban on evicting commercial tenants until 30 June.
The move is designed to help those worst affected by the pandemic, such as bars and restaurants, get back to business when doors fully reopen for hospitality no earlier than 17 May.
Residential tenants will also be supported as the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in all but the most serious circumstances – such as incidents of fraud or domestic abuse – and the requirement for landlords to provide 6-month notice periods to tenants before they evict will also be extended until at least 31 May.
This will ensure residents in both the private and social sector can stay in their homes and have enough time to find alternative accommodation or support as the country eases out of lockdown.
Ministers hope that with around 49% of hospitality workers and 36% of retail workers currently renting, the new measures will protect jobs as businesses reopen and many more renters can return to work.
The government says it will consider the best approach to moving away from emergency protections from the beginning of June, taking into account public health advice and the wider roadmap.
Its current position is to support commercial landlords and tenants to agree their own arrangements for paying or writing off rent debts by 30 June. This is supported by the code of conduct published by the government last year, setting out best practice for these negotiations.
If these discussions do not happen and there remains a significant risk to jobs, the government may take further steps. It is therefore launching a call for evidence on commercial rents to help monitor the overall progress of negotiations between tenants and landlords.
The call for evidence will also set out potential steps the government could take after 30 June, ranging from a phased withdrawal of current protections to legislative options targeted at those businesses most impacted by COVID-19.
We shall keep clients informed of developments.
Please contact Graham Jones if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of commercial property law.