Murphy extends protection for business tenancies until end of March

Date published: 21 December 2020

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended an emergency provision for commercial tenants by a further three months in order to protect businesses at this difficult time.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy
Finance Minister Conor Murphy

The move, which extends the special provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, means business tenants here continue to be protected from the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent until 31 March 2021.

Minister Murphy explained: “I am committed to supporting local businesses through a range of measures as we continue to battle the economic impact of Covid-19.  This particular emergency provision was to be in place until the end of 2020 but, given the current challenges, I am again extending this protection for businesses for an additional three months.  This will mark a full year of protection for business tenants.

“I would again encourage landlords and tenants to work together – tenants should continue to meet their legal obligations and pay their rent in full if they can.  However, where this is not possible landlords should show leniency to those businesses in difficulty at this time.”

Notes to editors: 

1.       The Department of Finance inserted a special provision into the Coronavirus Act. That special provision originally applied during the period from 25 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 and has been extended for the third time until 31 March 2021.

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 Bill 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. The relevant period commenced on the date on which the Coronavirus (Act) obtained Royal Assent (25th March 2020) and was originally due to end on 30th June 2020.

5.    However, the Department of Finance exercised its powers within the Act to extend the relevant period to 30 September by way of a Statutory Rule in the NI Assembly and did this again for a further three months until 31 December 2020.  The period will now extend to 31 March 2021. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/id/nisr/2020/332.

6.    England & Wales have both extended protection until 31 March 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

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