Finance Minister Conor Murphy has extended emergency protection for business tenants having difficulty paying rent on commercial leases as a result of the pandemic until March 2022.
The special provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which was first applied at the end of March 2020, is being extended once again, until March 2022, giving a total of 24 months special protection, which is in line with England and Wales.
Making the announcement, Minister Murphy said: “As we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19, it is important to provide as much stability and certainty as possible to businesses who are trying to recover from an extremely challenging time.
“We have been engaging with key stakeholders in relation to this and I fully recognise the genuine concerns in relation to the difficult financial situation businesses are facing. The reality is it will take some time for economic recovery and this moratorium is one of the measures that will help ease businesses back into full operation and deal with their financial challenges.
"This extension provides time for landlords and tenants to work together to resolve matters that have arisen over rent arrears accrued during lockdown restrictions. Wherever possible, tenants should of course pay rent.
“I will continue to engage with my colleagues in the other devolved administrations in order to consider what, if any, further measures in relation to commercial rent arrears accrued during the pandemic need to be put in place once the moratorium comes to an end.”
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 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. The relevant period commenced on the date on which the Coronavirus (Act) obtained Royal Assent (25th March 2020) and was due to end on 30th September 2021.
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, again until 31 March 2021, then until 30 June 2021 and then until 30 September 2021. The period will now extend to 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. On August 26, the Welsh government announced the moratorium would be extended 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
8. Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance Press Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Follow us on Twitter @dptfinance
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