Retail businesses face confusion over rental holidays

  • 15th April 2020

Following the Government's forced closure of non-essential business in March, businesses have been following closely the financial aid and support packages announced by the Government.

These measures were introduced to try to support businesses, but it would appear that the lack of clarity and confusion over some schemes could be leading to strained relationships between landlords and tenants of retail property.

Accounting Web recently stated in an article that “large numbers of tenants have opted to not pay the current quarter’s rent, instead seeking rent holidays. As a result, landlords have reported facing a significant loss of income alongside a wave of tenant insolvencies.”

It is understandable that any business which has been ‘forced’ to close, is going to look at all the options open to then to ensure they can survive the closure. With no direct income, there are still overheads and bills to pay, ‘rent’ being one of them.

What has led to the confusion?

The Government announced in March a ‘three-month payment holiday’ on mortgage or rental payments which was also extended to tenants and buy-to-let landlords.

This announcement was issued as guidance. However it also stated ‘landlords with buy-to-let mortgages CAN arrange a payment holiday with their lender if their tenants are unable to pay the rent.’

The key thing here is that landlords CAN but do not have to offer this holiday. With commercial leases rather than residential, the landscape is even more blurry. Keystone Law have issued some guidance on this which you can read here. We would recommend in the first instance that you talk with your landlord as a matter of urgency if you are in a position where you are struggling with payment of rent. You may be able to come to a mutual agreement. Do take legal advice however, as commercial contracts do vary and you need to understand your obligations, even in the current economic climate.

What help is there for the small retail business sector?

Firstly, if the property has a rateable value of £15,000 or under, you can apply to your local authority for a grant of £10,000. If the rateable value is more than £15,000 but less than £51,000 you may be eligible for £25,000.

In addition to the grant above, the Government has announced that it will not charge business rates for companies in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in the year 2020/21.

You can also apply for the Job Retention Scheme for any staff you employ, which will include yourself if you are on the PAYE scheme. This covers 80% of your staff salaries. You will need to pay this whilst staff are furloughed, however Government have advised the online portal to claim this money back will be live on 20th April to ensure businesses are not overly exposed to costs they cannot afford when they have no income.

If your business is VAT registered there is also a VAT deferral scheme in place.

There is also the ‘time to pay’ scheme for those businesses with other outstanding tax liabilities.

Here to help

Forrester Boyd Chartered Accountants have a large team of business experts who can help and guide you with your business finances. Talk to us today.

Visit our coronavirus hub for more information on the support available for businesses

All data and figures referred to in our news section are correct at the date of publishing and should not be relied upon as still current.