The Government announced in June 2021 that it would be extending the current ban on forfeiture of a commercial lease for non-payment of rent until 25 March 2022. This will have been a welcome relief for many tenants, especially those in the leisure and retail sectors who have been most impacted by lockdown closures, but for those landlords who already have considerable arrears, there will be concern that by continuing the existing measures for a further 9 months it will do nothing to unlock the stalemate or allow the market to recover.
Landlords are still able to pursue a contractual debt claim and the ban on statutory demands and winding up petitions expires on 30 September 2021, so there are other options available. However, the most recent measures could be seen by some to be more favourable to tenants which will be frustrating for those landlords who have sought to work with their tenants during the pandemic to proactively navigate the implications of the nationwide closures.
It has also been announced that new legislation will be introduced by the Government in this Parliamentary session. It is intended that measures will be introduced to ring-fence any outstanding commercial rent arrears built up by tenants as a result of the pandemic closures and tenants and landlords will be guided to come to an agreement on how to deal with the money owed. This will be either by agreeing to waive some of the total amount due or by drawing up a longer-term repayment plan. Where agreement cannot be reached, an arbitration process will put in place under the new legislation to make a formal award that will be legally binding and must be complied with by both parties. This new arbitration scheme will be delivered by private arbitrators, who must prove their impartiality, in accordance with guidelines outlined by the legislation.
The extension to the current eviction ban and the proposed arbitration scheme will potentially be controversial, and while it could be a lifeline to some, it will undoubtedly cause hardship for others. If you are a tenant struggling to pay your current rent or you are a landlord who has tenants with arrears then it is worth speaking to a legal professional about your options.
AMD can provide you with specialist commercial property advice. Our commercial property solicitors can review your situation and provide you with practical and strategic advice about the best way to move forwards.
Please contact Helen Brewer on 0117 974 4100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.