Murphy extends protection for business tenants until end of September

Date published: 28 June 2021

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended emergency protection for tenants having difficulty paying rent on commercial leases as a result of the pandemic for a further three months.

Murphy extends protection for business tenants until end of September

The special provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which was first applied at the end of March 2020, is being extended once again, until 30 September 2021, giving a total of 18 months special protection.

Making the announcement, Conor Murphy said: “Although most restrictions have now eased, economic recovery will take some time and I believe the extension of these provisions is necessary to give businesses some much needed stability and certainty in the months ahead.  

“This protection for tenants has been accompanied by significant financial packages of business support provided by the Executive. In addition to the grant schemes, over £500 million in business support through 24 months of rate holidays has been provided to the hardest hit sectors, including retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism.

“As we move forward, we continue to take full account of our local situation here for both tenants and landlords; this three months period ahead gives us the opportunity to engage with the business sector in relation to next steps.” 

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 again until 30 September 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. The Department of Finance exercised its powers within the Act to extend the relevant period to 30 September 2020 by way of a Statutory Rule in the NI Assembly and did this again for a further three months until 31 December 2020, then for a further three months until 31 March 2021 and then for a further three months until 30 June 2021.  The period will now extend to 30 September 2021. 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. In Scotland, the protections have been extended until 30 March 2022 with two-monthly reviews from 30 September 2021. In Wales, the moratorium has been extended until 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

8. Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance Press Office at dof.pressoffice@finance-ni.gov.uk

9. Follow us on Twitter @dptfinance

10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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