Murphy appeals for commercial landlord leniency

Date published: 29 April 2020

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy has appealed for commercial landlords to show leniency to tenants who are experiencing difficulty paying rent on commercial leases due to the current circumstances.

Speaking following a call with Roger Pollen from the Federation of Small Businesses, Conor Murphy said: “My Department inserted a provision into the Coronavirus Act 2020 that protects commercial tenants in situations where non-payment of rent would normally enable a landlord to treat a lease as forfeited.

“I am disappointed to learn that some landlords are seeking to enforce a right of repossession or forfeiture of the lease for non-payment of rent.

“I accept this is a challenging time for everyone, however, I would appeal to landlords to show leniency to businesses. We must work together to help businesses survive through this pandemic.”

Commenting, FSB NI, Head of External Affairs, Roger Pollen said:

“At this unprecedented time many businesses are under immense pressure and struggling in tough economic circumstances. For those who are currently unable to trade, they have seen all sources of income dry up, while fixed costs and overheads remain.

“In order to try to find a successful resolution, we would encourage landlords and their commercial tenants to engage in dialogue at the earliest opportunity, with the aim to explore how best they can share the burden of the closure of premises in a way that allows businesses to be sustainable in the future.”

Notes to editors: 

1.       The Department of Finance has inserted a special provision into the Coronavirus Act. The special provision applies during the period from 25 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.

2.       The new temporary protection applies to all business tenancies within the meaning of the Business Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and to any tenancy to which the Order would apply if any relevant occupier were the tenant.

3.       Section 83 that enables this protection, is part of the Coronavirus Bill 2020 and provides protection from forfeiture.

4.       This section establishes that where non-payment of rent enables a landlord to treat a lease as forfeited, that right cannot be exercised for a relevant period. The relevant period commenced on the date on which the Coronavirus Bill (now Act) obtained Royal Assent (25th March 2020) and will end on 30th June 2020—with a power for the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland to extend the period if it is needed.

5.       The territorial extent and application of this section is Northern Ireland only. England & Wales have taken similar protection.

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