I lease commercial premises. Can my landlord forfeit my lease?
As part of the Coronavirus Bill there is some good news for tenants in so far as it included the following:
- All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland missing rent payments are to benefit from a government ban on forfeiture of their lease.
- Landlords then will be prevented from terminating leases and “evicting” commercial tenants.
- The above provisions rules will apply not only to principal rent, but to “any sum a tenant is required to pay”, leaving the burden of supplying services and insuring the premises on landlords. The bill will last until 30 June 2020, with an option for the government to extend this deadline.
Whist this is helpful to any Tenant planning not to pay rent or other payments due under their lease insofar as they will not suffer forfeiture and be evicted, it should be noted that the contractual obligation to continue paying rent and all other costs due under the lease remains and Landlords will still be able to take action to recover any payments due under the lease that are in arrears.
The Home Office has not stated when it will end these temporary measures, albeit it has stated that it will provide a warning. Where employers have carried out checks using the temporary measures, the Home Office has confirmed that it will require employers to carry out retrospective checks on any of the following:
- Employees who started working for you when the temporary measures were in place
- Employees who required a follow up check during the temporary measures (for example because their previous leave was coming to an end).
It is not explicit from the guidance but these retrospective checks must require you to have in your possession the physical ID in its original form. When carrying out the retrospective check, employers must record this using the following wording “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.”
These further checks must be made within eight weeks of the temporary measures ending, and employers must keep records of both checks undertaken. Where the employer discovers that the employee does not have the right to work during the retrospective check they should stop employing them.
In making a Traffic Regulation Order (“TRO”) local authorities must follow the regulations, which include provisions relating to publicity requiring publishing the notice in a local newspaper, making the orders available for public inspection at a Council’s offices (which are likely to be closed to the public during this time) and where considered appropriate, posting the notices on the streets.
In recognition of the potential difficulties with complying with the publicity requirements, the Department for Transport has issued guidance as to how a Council may still publicise a TRO. The guidance recognises that not everyone may be able to access local newspapers online and suggests that people and organisations could be adequately informed by means of letter, leaflet drops, or local radio. In respect of making the relevant document available at the Council’s offices, the guidance suggests that notices could be placed online or outside offices with brief details and including a telephone number or email to use to request a hard copy of the documents.
While the guidance is helpful, it is important to note that it is guidance only and that the regulations have not been relaxed. Authorities will still need to demonstrate that they have satisfied all of the publicity arrangements in respect of the TRO.
Companies House guidance on the impact of coronavirus on their services can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-guidance-for-companies-house-customers-employees-and-suppliers
This flexibility offered by Companies House could be a useful short-term help to businesses that are struggling to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, but be sure to take action in advance of your filing deadline.
Some employers falling into the third group of organisations described above could understandably feel aggrieved that on the first reading of the guidance they are not able to furlough employees and rely on the Government scheme. Many publicly funded organisations that are not public sector employers, receive a package of public funding with little expectation on how that funding is used or applied, other than broadly for it to be used in providing the services it is contracted to deliver. Also, several publicly funded organisations have many different income streams and the element of funding that is received from the public purse can be only an element of their operating costs.
Unfortunately there is still no clear guidance on when employers falling into the third category identified above can use the scheme. The only reference in the guidance on this states that where organisations are not “primarily funded” from the public purse and whose staff cannot be redeployed to assist with the coronavirus response, the scheme might be appropriate to be used for some staff. This seems to suggest that where an employing organisation is not wholly or mainly funded by public funding and staff cannot be redeployed to work in areas in the effort to combat coronavirus, then it would be appropriate for the employer to access the scheme.
If considering applying for grants under the scheme a sensible approach would be to look at the combined total of your public funding and payments under the scheme and make sure it will not represent more than 100% of the level of total income you would have expected to receive during this period in a non-Covid scenario.
Local Authorities are expected to maintain support to suppliers and this should be considered:
The Chancellor announced:
- A new “job retention bonus” for employers to access for furloughed employees subject to certain conditions being met – see below for more information.
- A “Kickstart scheme” which will directly pay employers to create jobs for any 16-24 year old at risk of long-term unemployment.
- Incentives for employers to take on apprentices.
As a result of the CJRS being extended, the Job Retention Bonus will no longer be paid in February 2021.