An organisation representing firms behind more than 500 sites, from shops to hair salons, has urged the Government to extend a ban on business evictions as concerns mount over how some £6 billion of rent bills will be settled.
The plea from the Commercial Tenants Association (CTA) comes ahead of a moratorium on evictions finishing at the end of June.
It joins a chorus of voices sounding the alarm over the deadline. 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.
The CTA wants an extension to the end of the year, and warned it will take a “significant” amount of time for many firms to recover.
While some occupiers agreed rent holidays or deferrals with landlords, a number have not and are worried they will not be able to pay outstanding rent, after suffering months of closures.
The CTA’s boss Peter Bell has written to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to voice concerns.
In the letter, seen by the Standard, Bell said: “Tenants have substantial commitments across their businesses in addition to those due to landlords.” He pointed to full staff costs subsequent to the removal of the furlough scheme and Covid loans.
He added: “Prioritising payments to landlords will not help businesses recover lost trade and protect jobs.”
The association believes the starting point for tenant and landlord talks should be a 50% write-off of leasehold debt incurred during the pandemic.
A ministry spokesperson said: “The Government is considering responses to a call for evidence on commercial rents and how to best to support businesses; an announcement on next steps will be made in due course.”
Tenants have substantial commitments across their businesses in addition to those due to landlords
Peter Bell, the Commercial Tenants Association
Yesterday the CBI proposed the hardest hit sectors should continue to be protected for a further six months. Capacity remains restricted for pubs and restaurants as they stay limited to table service.