Finance Minister Conor Murphy is encouraging business landlords and tenants to work together to resolve any outstanding disputes over rent payments.
The call comes as the extended emergency protection from eviction for business tenants is due to end on 25th March 2022. The special provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020, which was first applied at the end of March 2020, gave a total of 24 months special protection, in line with England and Wales.
Minister Murphy urged landlords and tenants to look at resolution options as businesses continue their recovery: “Landlords and tenants should keep working together to meet their legal obligations and resolve any rent arrears which may have built up during the pandemic. During the moratorium, we have provided stability and protection for businesses as they continue to recover during this challenging time.
"The two year moratorium provided time for landlords and tenants to work together to resolve any non-payment of rent. I urge landlords and tenants in dispute to seek third party advice and start the mediation process to ensure plans are in place before 25th March.”
There are a number of mediation and dispute resolution options available to businesses and landlords to guide them through this process.
John Fletcher, Director of Dispute Resolution at Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: “The protection from lease forfeiture will expire on 25th March and businesses here now have a number of weeks in which to prepare. The Commercial Rental Independent Evaluation Service (CRIES) offered by RICS draws on extensive professional experience handling negotiations between landlords and tenants to provide an independent and efficient solution for local businesses. By acting in the public interest, RICS professionals can support tenants and landlords to keep trading, retain important relationships and avoid the cost and delay of court action.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Department of Finance inserted a special provision into the Coronavirus Act. That special provision applies during the period from 25 March 2020 to 25 March 2022.
2. The 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 enabled this protection is part of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and provides protection from forfeiture.
4. This section established that where non-payment of rent enables a landlord to treat a lease as forfeited, that right cannot be exercised for a relevant period.
5. The Department of Finance exercised its powers within the Act to extend the relevant period during the pandemic. The period will now end on 25 March 2022. The legislation is The Business Tenancies (Coronavirus) (Restriction on Forfeiture Relevant Period) (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2021. [NI SR 2021 No. 185]
6. In England, the current protections for commercial tenants against eviction have been extended to 25 March 2022 until new legislation to support the orderly resolution of rental payments accrued by commercial tenants is enacted. The Welsh government also extended the moratorium until 25 March 2022. In Scotland, the protections are different but have also been extended to 31 March 2022, with two-monthly reviews from 30 September 2021.
7. A Code of Practice published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-for-the-commercial-property-sector(external link opens in a new window / tab)
8. Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance Press Office at email@example.com
9. Follow us on Twitter @dptfinance