UKHospitality has asked for measures to protect businesses that include an immediate extension of the forfeiture moratorium for six months and broader debt enforcement measures, including winding-up orders, statutory demands and commercial rent arrears recovery (CRAR).
The organisation called on the Government to press landlords to negotiate terms with tenants, in a letter written to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Businesses were in desperate need of legal protection from pressure such as winding-up orders and bailiff action, chief executive Kate Nicholls argued.
She said: “We urgently need action from the Government to provide legal protection for businesses. The moratorium on evictions of commercial tenants announced last week does not go far enough, we need a full rental debt enforcement moratorium.”
The Government announced commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus would be protected from eviction for three months.
Nicholls continued: “Rather than use this as an opportunity to work with businesses to investigate rent deferrals or waivers, many landlords have instigated, or threatened to instigate, actions that will cripple businesses and lead to a further loss of jobs on a significant scale.
“We have had reports of excessive interest payments applied to rent deferrals, as well as winding-up orders and bailiff action being threatened – at a minimum imposing extra cost to business and, at worst, threatening their ongoing viability.
“We have also been alerted to instances where funds have been withdrawn from deposits with top-ups demanded in order to avoid lease terms being broken.”
Legal measures were needed to ensure jobs were not lost and pubs could reopen again after the coronavirus crisis, Nicholls said.
She said: “This is an unprecedented medical, social and economic crisis for the country, with citizens pulling together. Millions of people’s livelihoods and job security depend on businesses working in harmony. ‘Business as usual’ cannot apply at this stage.
“Yet, landlords are effectively signing a death sentence for many businesses that are just about keeping afloat.”