As London’s businesses start to reopen, London Councils and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are asking commercial landlords to do the right thing for their struggling tenants in these challenging times to support London’s economy.
With many businesses facing rent bills at the end of June, the FSB and London Councils are asking landlords to ensure business tenants get a fair deal on their rental payment that works for both parties and enables businesses to continue operating.
Although some property-owners are under financial pressure too, boroughs and the FSB are urging them to explore with their leaseholders how they can structure rents to ensure that businesses can successfully reopen.
An FSB survey of their London members has shown that for small businesses paying a mortgage or lease on their premises in London, nearly a third (32%) have failed to make, or faced severe difficulties, in making rent or mortgage repayments as a result of the coronavirus lockdown’s economic impact.
Commercial rents are typically paid quarterly, with the next bills arriving at the end of June, meaning tenants are dealing with increased uncertainty and pressure this month as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.
As London begins to emerge from lockdown and businesses start to reopen, many will face cashflow problems as they restock and put in place additional safety measures, such as screens and queuing systems, to keep their staff and customers safe. In addition, customer confidence will take time to grow and cashflow may well remain restricted for a significant period.
Commercial landlords that do offer immediate support to their business tenants are likely to benefit from a steady income and avoid the costs associated with finding a new tenant. They will also be supporting London’s economy by saving jobs, enabling businesses to rebuild and contributing to the growth of their area.
Cllr Clare Coghill, London Councils Executive Member for Business, Europe and Good Growth said, “As we cautiously look to reopen and celebrate London’s diverse and wonderful high streets, we are calling on commercial landlords to support their business tenants and play their part in kickstarting the economy. To ensure the survival of much-loved businesses, we urge landlords to negotiate with their tenants about setting realistic rents during this uncertain and challenging time.
“Many landlords have been outstanding champions for their business tenants, offering rental holidays as well as additional business support, giving their tenants some security in this difficult time. It is vital this collaborative work continues to achieve security for small businesses and for the future of London’s high streets.”
Michael Lassman, FSB London Regional Chair said, “Small firms in London are struggling with many self-employed individuals omitted from Government schemes and many sectors missing out on vital grants, rent and rates support. We are calling on London landlords to support our tenants.
“The negative impact of losing businesses would be more people unemployed and empty units that will be difficult to fill. Very few companies are seeking to take on leases and as such we need to see landlords working side by side with their tenants at this crucial time. Our campaign message if you wish to join the conversation is #LondonLandlordsListen.”
In addition, London’s boroughs have distributed over £1.4 billion to London’s small businesses via the business rates system, but the FSB’s survey of small businesses shows that close to a quarter (24%) say their landlord charges them for rent and business rates in a single recurring bill and therefore the grant has been given to the landlord, not the tenant.
The FSB and London Councils is also urging landlords to ensure that their tenants benefit from these grants where eligible, to help them withstand the significant and immediate fall in income they have experienced.