Rent protection extended for businesses until September 30

Emergency protection for commercial tenants will be extended until the end of September.
Ryan McAleer

BUSINESSES struggling to pay rent have been given additional protection by Stormont.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said yesterday that emergency measures introduced for commercial tenants would be extended by another three months, until September 30.

It follows a similar move by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in London.

The special provision inserted in the Coronavirus Act has protected businesses in situations where non-payment of rent would have normally allowed a landlord to treat a least of forfeited.

But the protection is due to run out on June 30. It will now run to September 30.

Conor Murphy has previously expressed concern that some landlords are trying to manoeuvre around the interim protections.

Yesterday also saw the publication of a new voluntary code of practice by MHCLG in London.

It encourages tenants to continue to pay their rent in full if they can, while acknowledging that landlords should provide support to businesses in difficulty.

"I understand the financial pressure on landlords where rent is outstanding,” said Mr Murphy.

“However, I would again appeal for leniency to be shown to businesses in difficulty.

“I welcome publication of this new code of practice which seeks to promote good practice between tenants and landlords, working together to get through this pandemic."

Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the requirement for many shops to close during the lockdown had created “a gaping hole” in the finances of many businesses.

“This has been exacerbated by continued rent demands on stores across Northern Ireland, even where most have been closed for business.”

He described the code as a “a first step” in improving dialogue between retailers and landlords.

Aodhan Connolly. Photo by Hugh Russell.

“An extension to tenant protections against aggressive behaviour from some landlords is essential to underpin it, and we warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to this.

But he said the code does not provide a solution for retailers who are simply unable to pay what is being demanded.

“We now look forward to continuing our constructive dialogue with government and other parts of the property sector to address these unpayable rents.

“Without further action, both retailers and landlords remain in a precarious situation that could lead to substantial numbers of redundancies as soon as tenant protections expire.”

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