Coronavirus and commercial rent arrears

Over the last 18 months the Coronavirus pandemic has presented business with a number of unprecedented challenges: shops have been forced to close and large numbers of employees have been forced to work from home.

However, a significant issue for those with leases was how to carry on paying the rent when their business was closed, and they could not generate any sales? In many cases, tenants argued that the payment of rent should be suspended during those periods in which the business could not trade. In the main, the Landlords disagreed and insisted that the rent should continue to be paid. Perhaps inevitably, it was a matter that was always going to come before the courts for consideration.

A number of cases have now been heard on the issue of commercial rent and whether the pandemic has relieved the tenant of the obligation to carry on paying the rent during periods of forced business closure.

The arguments advanced on the tenants’ behalf have been varied. Some have argued that the lease has been frustrated while others have suggested that there is an implied term to the effect that rent is suspended during periods of national emergency such as the recent pandemic.

Whilst it is always important to consider the express terms of the lease in each case, the emerging theme seems to be that the courts are coming down on the side of the landlords on this issue and deciding that the obligation to continue paying the rent is not suspended and must be paid in accordance with the terms of the lease.

Each case must always be decided upon its own unique facts, but the general tenor at the moment is that tenants have an uphill struggle to argue that their rental payments should be suspended.

Andrew Grant is the sole principle in Ballantyne Grant Solicitors and can be contacted on 01244 394 230.

This article is not intended to act as a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice should be sought in each case.