The UK government has announced that the moratorium on the enforcement of commercial leases will be extended until 25 March 2022, a full two years after it was first introduced.
Thanks to political cover from the Labour opposition, and fears of widespread job losses in the hospitality and licensed sector, the government has resisted pressure from landlords to end the moratorium.
In a statement on Wednesday 16 June to the House of Commons, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced the moratorium’s extension. This had been widely anticipated since Monday’s announcement that the final stage of lockdown restrictions would now take place on 19 July.
Barclay said he planned to introduce legislation to promote the orderly resolution of debts resulting from Covid-19’s impact on business. Legislation would introduce a backstop so that where negotiations are not successful landlord and tenant go into binding arbitration, he said.
“Until that legislation is on the statute book existing measures will remain in place to protect tenants from eviction until 25 March 2022,” he told Parliament.
“It is the government’s first position that both landlords and tenants should resolve debts through negotiation and I welcome the various schemes already in operation.
“To be clear all tenants should start to pay rent again under terms of their lease, or as otherwise agreed with their landlord, as soon as restrictions are removed on their sector… this strikes [the] right balance between protecting landlords and supporting those businesses most in need, based on the successful Australian approach.”
The move was welcomed by the official opposition spokesperson, Rachel Reeves.