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Fri 19th Jun 2020 - Government extends anti-eviction measures for businesses
Government extends anti-eviction measures for businesses: The UK government has extended measures to prevent struggling companies from eviction over the summer. It said it would lay a statutory instrument to amend the Coronavirus Act to extend the time period for suspension of the forfeiture of evictions from 30 June to 30 September, meaning no business will be forced out of their premises if they a miss a payment in the next three months. It will also lay secondary legislation to prevent landlords using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery unless they are owed 189 days of unpaid rent. The time period for which this measure is in force will be extended from 30 June to 30 September. An amendment to the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill has also been tabled that will extend the temporary ban on the use of statutory demands and winding-up petitions where a company cannot pay its bills due to coronavirus until 30 September. A new code of practice has been developed with leaders from the retail, hospitality and property sectors to provide clarity for businesses when discussing rental payments and to encourage best practice so all parties are supported. The code is voluntary for businesses and is relevant to all commercial leases held by businesses in any sector that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It encourages tenants to continue to pay their rent in full if they are in a position to do so and advises others should pay what they can, while acknowledging landlords should provide support to businesses if they too are able to do so. The suspension of the forfeiture of evictions will come as a relief in particular to pubs, cafes and restaurants, after the hospitality sector called upon the government for action in this area. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “As our high streets come to life and our town centres open for business, it is crucial both landlords and tenants have clarity and reassurance as they seek to keep their finances stable and bounce back. That is why we are extending measures to protect those who are unable to pay rent from eviction so businesses have the security they need to plan for their futures. And in recognition of the strain that the virus has had on our high streets, our new code, backed by leaders across the industry, will help unlock conversations on rent and future payments whilst ensuring best practice is displayed across the board as we confront the challenges of this pandemic.” UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “The near-total wipeout of income from the hospitality sector has left it unable to meet its rent obligations. This code goes some way to bringing together landlord and tenant in the pursuit of a negotiated solution to allow hospitality businesses to move on and revert to the new normal, but this must be recognised as a first step that needs to be built on by all parties. We remain of the view that further time and support is needed to facilitate a recovery for the hospitality sector, that is at the heart of our social lives and communities. The extension of the moratorium on aggressive enforcement and forfeiture is a welcome measure to allow this process to take place.”

Coronavirus alert level reduced from four to three: Britain’s coronavirus alert level was today (Friday, 19 June) reduced from four to three, meaning the danger of infections is believed to have lowered, which could lead to social distancing rules being relaxed. According to the roadmap previously set out by the government last month, at level three, the virus is still “in general circulation” but transmission rates are low enough to allow some social distancing rules to be relaxed. The hospitality industry has been pushing for the government to cut the social distancing measure from two metres to one metre, to further boost more of the sector’s ability to reopen and the viability of doing so. Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson hinted at changing the two-metre social distancing rule as a means of helping to revive the economy. In a statement, the UK's chief medical officers said: "There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues. It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur. We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues.” Health secretary Matt Hancock said moving to a lower alert level was “a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people's determination to beat this virus”.

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