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How should I approach negotiations with my landlord?

Given the impact the Coronavirus is going to have upon the commercial property market, landlords will undoubtedly, as a matter of good commercial sense, will have to seriously entertain approaches from tenants seeking a rent suspension – notwithstanding there is no entitlement to the same under their lease.

Some landlords may decide it is better to waive or suspend rental payments over the short term rather than face their tenants going out of business and leaving them with an empty building in a flat or dead market.

A measure falling short of a rent suspension would be for the tenants to negotiate with their landlord’s monthly payments of rent rather than quarterly and for those monthly payments to be in payments arrears, rather than in advance.

Related FAQs

Do I need Planning Permission to change the use of a warehouse or factory unit to a temporary mortuary?

Mortuaries are a sui generis use, unless ancillary to some other use of land, a hospital for example.

Sui generis uses are not within any Use Class. Consequently planning permission is required for the:

  • Change in the use to a sui generis use
  • Subsequently for the change in the use to an alternative use, whether that be another sui generis use or a use within a Use Class

Acknowledging the above, if the scale of the use is above de minimis, planning permission is likely to be required to change the use of a warehouse or factory unit into a temporary mortuary.

Should planning control be breached, a local planning authority must decide whether to take enforcement action or not. That enforcement is discretionary was recently reiterated in a Ministerial Statement issued on 13 March 2020 a link to which is below.

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-03-13/HCWS159/

Depending on the form of the enforcement action, there could be a right of appeal.

Can I dismiss someone who refuses to wear PPE?

Potentially, yes. If someone refuses to follow the health and safety measures that have been put in place to protect them, colleagues and possibly their customers, including (where appropriate) the use of PPE then this is a disciplinary issue and should be dealt with as such. Repeated failure to comply with the requirement to follow these measures, or a one off significant failure, may be sufficient to justify dismissal, depending on the circumstances.

What are the data protection implications of homeworking?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announce new guidance in light of coronavirus.

The ICO is providing new guidance to organisations regarding data protection and coronavirus, which can be accessed here: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-and-coronavirus/

The ICO has stated the following:

Data protection is not a barrier to increased and different types of homeworking. During the pandemic, staff may work from home more frequently than usual and they can use their own device or communications equipment. Data protection law doesn’t prevent that, but you’ll need to consider the same kinds of security measures for homeworking that you’d use in normal circumstances.”

Whether you work from home or in the office, you still need to comply with data protection laws. While you need to process personal data with the same care you use in the office, the home working environment throws up specific data protection concerns particularly in respect of data security. You should make sure you have a home working policy which deals with data protection and these data security issues.

 Organisations must ensure that, for staff who can work from home, their obligations in respect of processing personal data are clearly communicated. Organisations may already have a home working policy – if this is the case, then this should be reviewed to ensure it remains relevant and up-to-date for practices during this pandemic.

I have trespassers occupying my land. Can I evict them?

On 18 April 2020, it was announced that an exception to the current stay in possession proceedings and ban on all evictions has been made to allow possession orders to be made against trespassers.

This means land owners can take action to remove unauthorised persons occupying their land. Trespassers include: squatters; travellers; failed successors of secure tenancies; and licensees whose licences have been terminated.

Further, the automatic stay to possession proceedings currently imposed no longer applies to applications for interim possession orders meaning any persons found to be “squatting” on land without permission may again be subject to an order requiring them to leave your premises within 24 hours of service of that order.

Does Force Majeure apply to the leasing of commercial property?

Some commercial tenants have queried whether the current situation is a force majeure which may allow it to terminate the lease. Clauses which allow a party to terminate a lease for a force majeure event or, to put it another way, an “act of God”, are however extremely rare in modern commercial leases. Even if there is such a provision in your lease, it would need to be drafted to apply to an outbreak of disease.