Coronavirus: Hospitality firms beg for more rent forgiveness

The body representing thousands of leisure businesses across Britain has begged ministers to extend the moratorium on commercial property evictions or risk “irreparable” damage to the economy.

Sky News has been passed a letter from Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, to the housing secretary Robert Jenrick which claims that “hostile tactics” from landlords “risk crippling the hospitality sector”.

It is the latest in a series of warnings about the potentially dire fate of the pubs, hotels and restaurants industries as the coronavirus pandemic forces a months-long shutdown of high streets across the UK.

The government has introduced emergency legislation to protect business-owners, including a ban on evicting commercial tenants for three months.

In her letter, which was copied to Alok Sharma, the business secretary, Ms Nicholls called for an extension to cover all sanctions, such as winding-up orders and commercial rent arrears recovery, for non-payment of rent.

She added that the moratorium should be extended to six months.

Hospitality businesses have seen their revenues dry up with shops and leisure facilities closed, and the country in a state of lockdown.

This week, the Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s collapsed into administration.

“We understood that the legislation would give a signal to landlords to begin to negotiate rent deferrals and waivers to ensure that businesses survive this crisis,” Ms Nicholls wrote.

“The reaction from landlords has been mixed in their approach but there is a significant proportion of the landlord community that has taken a negative approach and instigated, or threatened to instigate, a range of alternative sanctions which risk crippling the hospitality sector, wiping out businesses and costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

UK Hospitality said it recognised that property-owners were also under pressure.

“The hospitality sector is sympathetic to the plight of landlords who of course have their own creditors.”

Ms Nicholls added that there could be “a broader debt enforcement moratorium for all business types and allowing more time to access available funding and secure bilateral agreements”.

Without it, she warned, the government risked “irreparable damage to the physical business environment of the country”.

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