Protection for business occupiers under The Coronavirus Act 2020 notes for Landlords

Fri, 03 Apr 2020

Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on the 25th March 2020. It provides temporary protection from eviction to lawful occupiers of business premises (whether or not they are tenants), in two respects:

  • it prevents enforcement of rights of re-entry (whether by action or otherwise) for non-payment of rent during the relevant period;
  • in the case of possession proceedings which had been commenced before the Act was brought into force, it prevents the High Court or County Court from making an order for possession which would result in the occupier having to give up possession of the property before the end of the relevant period.

In connection with existing or future lease renewal proceedings, the Act also prevents a landlord from relying upon non-payment of rent during the relevant period to oppose renewal on the ground stated in s.30(1)(b) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (persistent delay in paying rent).

How Long Does the Protection Last?

The relevant period (ie. the period in respect of which the temporary protection is provided) is defined in s.82(7) as the period commencing upon the date when the Act was passed (25th March 2020) and ending on 30th June 2020. The period in respect of which protection to business occupiers is provided is, therefore, shorter than that which the Act affords to residential occupiers. But it is capable of being extended by statutory instrument.

Points for Landlords

Commercial landlords should note the following points:

  • the restriction in s.82(1) on the enforcement of rights of re-entry applies only to re-entry for non-payment of rent. It does not prevent the landlord from peaceably re-entering for other breaches of tenant covenants where it is otherwise lawful for him to do so. Whether, in the current climate, that would be commercially advisable is a different matter;
  • there is no restriction on the commencement of proceedings to recover arrears of rent as a debt, nor upon the usual insolvency procedures
  • landlords are still able to use the Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery procedure continued in Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007
  • it expressly provided by s.82(2) that, during the relevant period, no conduct by or on behalf of a landlord, other than giving an express waiver in writing, is to be regarded as waiving a right of re-entry or forfeiture for non-payment of rent. However, there is nothing in that sub-section which operates to prevent a landlord from accidentally waiving an entitlement to forfeit for other breaches of tenant covenant during the relevant period.

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