Nickie Aiken MP (Cities of London and Westminster) has brought together a coalition of business organisations to urge government to close a rental loophole which could force many businesses to go bankrupt.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 guarantees protections for commercial tenants over non-payment of rent during this lockdown period.
However, Nickie has received several complaints from both commercial tenants and landlords in her constituency.
Despite the new legislation, some landlords are forcing businesses to pay rent within this quarter through the use of 'winding up petitions' (petitioning the courts to force a company into liquidation.) This is putting businesses at risk of bankruptcy, risking further staff layoffs and suppliers left without payment. The use of such petitions can affect a business’s credit worthiness even before it is heard at court.
Meanwhile there are complaints of big commercial tenants refusing to pay their rent, despite having the money to do so.
Nickie has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick asking them to urgently clarify its guidance and amend the new legislation to stop these practices.
The letter has been co-signed by the New West End Company, Heart of London Business Alliance, UK Hospitality and London Property Alliance - which between them represent thousands of businesses and landlords.
Nickie said: "This pandemic presents many challenges for businesses up and down the country, landlord tenant relations are one of them and I’m getting several complaints from both sides.
" I know that landlords have their own obligations to meet and must be able to function after the outbreak however while many responsible landlords, from large private estates to the owners of small single properties, are doing all they can to support their tenants, I’m aware of some who are petitioning the courts and threatening legal proceedings in attempts to force rent payments this quarter. This could have a devastating impact on our businesses, especially independents, resulting in the downgrading of their creditworthiness even without the case proceeding to court.
"Meanwhile, there are cases of some of the big tenants refusing to pay their rent despite having the money to do so. Many landlords are willing to come to an arrangement with smaller businesses, but they in turn need the big tenants to pay their rent.
"This is a big problem in the West End - which will be key to leading our recovery once we move on from coronavirus. If we are to turn the economy back on after lockdown, we need a constructive relationship between commercial landlords and tenants. The loophole needs to close urgently if we want our high streets to recover."
You can read a copy Nickie's letter in full below.