Colliers International’s retail and leisure responses to the UK Government’s announcement this week with new measures to protect the UK high street from aggressive landlord rent collection and closure:
Dan Simms, Co-Head of Retail at Colliers International
“This latest Government announcement is a welcome move in that it closes the clumsy gap in the hastily created legislation previously announced which prevented a business’ forfeiture for three months but did not deal with statutory demands or winding up orders.
“The statement provides some much needed protection from aggressive landlord moves, which will only take place in a very small percentage of overall landlord and tenant discussions, however it does nothing at all to help, guide, regulate or fund the principal issue facing the sector. The main question is how we will resolve the issue of non-payment of rent in an environment where little turnover is being generated and the profound future impact this has on both landlords and tenants.
“Furthermore, the government’s move gives some clear protections to tenants, which is welcome, but does little to reflect or assist the awful position of many landlords, many of whom have their own obligations to fulfil - either owing money to lenders and therefore potentially have little room to manoeuvre or those who pay out income to the general public via pension payments and dividends etc. Bland platitudes such as “We understand that landlords are facing their own very serious pressures and are concerned about their position with lenders. We are working with banks and investors to seek ways to address these issues and guide the whole sector through the pandemic.” after 5 weeks of lockdown is underwhelming at best! Positive words but no detail of a plan for how to fix the issue.
“The Government urgently needs to consider:
- Creating a grant scheme and a system of regulated solutions for furloughed retail and leisure space to assist landlords and tenants to come to an equitable and balanced solution to the question of payment of rent for the March and inevitably also the June Quarter.
- Extending the rates holiday to cover all vacant and non-property to ease the chronic cash flow burden now being felt by landlords. This could be funded by altering the current broad brush rates holiday provisions to vary the relief depending on whether stores are furloughed or still trading.
- Banks and other lenders now need to be drawn into helping create an overall solution, so that the industry can start to work on some constructive and balanced solutions where the inevitable pain is shared between tenants, landlords and lenders with Government assistance to ameliorate the situation.
“This is too large a problem to be left ongoing with no clear and effective Government intervention.”
Nigel Ball, Director, Licensed and Leisure at Colliers International
“This week’s Government announcement that it will provide temporary protection against the more aggressive debt recovery methods adopted by some landlords gives hospitality tenants some welcome breathing space.
“It makes it clear that the government expects landlords and investors to work collaboratively with business who are unable to pay their bills, and for those tenants who can pay some rent, to do so.
“However, in our conversations with operators in the hospitality industry, we are hearing growing concern over the impact that social distancing will have on their businesses post lockdown. It is clear that the Government’s new measures will likely need to be extended beyond the first three months, and that landlords also need help in order to manage their obligations to their lenders and investors.
"As Jonathan Downey’s current #NationalTimeOut nine-month free campaign gains momentum, now is the time for tenants, landlords, investors and banks to work together to find a funding solution. Surely the Government has a role in this too?
“Finally, the measures offer positive words but no detail of a plan for how to fix the rental issue. The onus has been removed from the government by saying that landlords and tenants need to work together.
"Perhaps the Government should take inspiration from the schemes being introduced in Denmark and other European countries, whereby the state supports the fixed costs of businesses that have experienced dramatic falls in turnover due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Without a way of knowing who will foot the rental bill, the issue is once again left unanswered.”