The streets are virtually empty across the UK, and once busy towns and cities up and down the country now find themselves with an abundance of empty offices, shops, pubs and restaurants. The pictures of a deserted central London are certainly unnerving.
The current situation is unprecedented and will be ringing alarm bells for property owners and occupiers alike. The Chancellor’s landmark announcement of support for businesses made on Tuesday will go some way to softening the blow, but there are many unanswered questions. Below is the summary of key changes for those in the property industry announced so far:
– Business Rate Relief – the proposed changes to business rates have been updated to include a 12-month business rates holiday for all shops, pubs, theatres, music venues and restaurants. This will remove a large overhead for many struggling businesses who will be concerned about meeting the rent, let alone the rates bill.
– Hospitality businesses based in smaller premises may be eligible for a cash grant for extra support.
– Planning rules have been relaxed to permit pubs and restaurants to switch to takeaway and delivery, without applying for consent to change of use. Tenants should also check their leases to see if their Landlords will permit this change of direction. Landlord’s consent is often required, regardless of the planning position.
– Mortgage repayment holidays of up to three months are to be offered to those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak; and
– At last night’s press conference, the Prime Minister announced protection from eviction for residential tenants during the Coronavirus outbreak. You can read our Property Guardianship team’s comments for landlords impacted by this here. In due course, if this move ties in with earlier policy proposals to halt “no fault” evictions altogether, landlords and investors will be watching developments closely.
The situation is changing daily, and we will keep you informed as new measures are announced.
As real estate lawyers, we expect to see renewed activity in terms of commercial lettings, with occupiers approaching landlords to seek rent concessions, lease variations and even surrenders as their footfall and income fall. Hopefully all parties will be pragmatic when considering the same, in these extraordinary circumstances.
If you have any queries or concerns in respect of your commercial or investment premises, we can help. Please get in touch.