The ban on evictions for commercial tenants has been extended until next March, the Government has said.
Treasury minister Steve Barclay told that the Commons the current ban on evictions for unpaid commercial rent would be extended past the end of this month following the delay to easing further coronavirus restrictions.
The ban, which had stopped landlords from taking tenants with rent arrears to court, was due to end on June 30 but will now be extended to March 25 next year.
Mr Barclay also announced the Government would introduce legislation for a new arbitration system to solve disputes between landlords and commercial tenants affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “In recognition of the importance of jobs in the many affected businesses at the heart of local communities, we launched a call for evidence in April on further actions to take to resolve those debts.
“As a result of that call for evidence, the Government now plans to introduce legislation to support the orderly resolution of these debts that have resulted from Covid-19 business closures.
“We will introduce legislation in this parliamentary session to establish a backstop so that where commercial negotiations between tenants and landlords are not successful, tenants and landlords go into binding arbitration.
“Until that legislation is on the statute book existing measures will remain in place, including extending the current moratorium to protect commercial tenants from eviction to March 25 2022.”
Mr Barclay added: “To be clear, all tenants should start to pay rent again in accordance with the terms of their lease, or as otherwise agreed with their landlord, as soon as restrictions are removed on their sector if they are not already doing so. We believe this strikes the right balance between protecting landlords and supporting those business that are most in need.”
Responding, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “Of course I welcome what the Chief Secretary has to say today on commercial evictions, but the truth is if the Chancellor believed that this economic package was enough, he would be here announcing it himself because whatever this is, it is not doing whatever it takes to support British businesses and our economy.”
More than 1,100 UK nightclubs remain unable to reopen, while thousands more hospitality and leisure firms have seen trading constrained by virus curbs.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said plans to remove remaining pandemic restrictions on June 21 have been pushed back to July 19 amid concerns over the spread of the Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
The Government is not expected to alter planned changes to the furlough scheme following the delay.
Currently, the state will cover 80% of wages until the end of this month, with this tapering to a 70% subsidy next month with at least 10% covered by employers, and reducing until it is removed at the end of September.
The extension of the moratorium on evictions has been welcomed by the hospitality sector.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality’s CEO, said: “We welcome these measures as they will banish a grim shadow that has hung over hospitality since the Covid crisis began.
“This legislation will form a strong bedrock for negotiated settlements that can help heal the damage that the pandemic has wrought, and we are pleased that the Government has listened to our sector, and acted to ease its plight by bringing in an equitable solution where both landlords and tenants share the pain.”