Westminster unveils code of practice for commercial leases


THE UK Government has launched a new voluntary code of practice for the commercial property sector to provide guidance for commercial leases affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The document, which is available here, was developed in conjunction with trade associations including UK Hospitality. It encourages commercial tenants to pay rent where they are able, but encourages landlords to provide support to their tenants if they are experiencing difficulties due to the pandemic.

The Scottish Government introduced measures as part of its Coronavirus Bill which adjusted the law on evictions to ensure tenants unable to pay their rent are protected for a period of 14 weeks and similar protections were introduced in England.

Westminster said the aim of the new code of practice  – which applies to businesses across the UK – is “to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so that all parties are supported”.

UK communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said the document “will help unlock conversations on rent and future payments whilst ensuring best practice is displayed across the board as we confront the challenges of this pandemic”.

UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, welcomed the introduction of the code of practice but called for further support for businesses.

“The hospitality sector has seen its income almost totally wiped out by this crisis and therefore businesses simply cannot meet their rent obligations,” said Nicholls.

“Although the majority of landlords have been pragmatic, a minority have aggressively pursued tenants that have been closed for months and have no ability to pay.

“This code goes some way to bringing together landlords and tenants in the pursuit of a negotiated solution to allow hospitality businesses to move on and revert to the new normal, but this must be recognised as a first step that needs to be built on by all parties.

“Further time and support is needed to facilitate a recovery for the hospitality sector, that is at the heart of our social lives and communities.

“The reality is that we are now at a point where fiscal support is going to be needed in many cases. It is now the only option if we want to avoid widespread business failures. The government must consider supporting hospitality businesses who cannot pay rent.”