Clause 2 - “Rent” and “business tenancy”

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 9 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

The clause provides clarity with regard to which payments owed by a business tenant to their landlord under their tenancy contract will be considered to be rent for the purpose of the Bill. Rent includes contractual payments owed by the tenant to the landlord for occupation and use of the property, as well as payments collectively described as service charges and interest on any unpaid amount. Including both service charges and interest on any unpaid amount within the definition of rent will allow the arbitrator to consider a broad range of arrears that may be owed by the tenant to the landlord, rather than only the payments for occupation and use. The arbitrator will then consider whether relief should be awarded in respect of some or all of the amount owed.

The definition of business tenancy in the Bill is broadly consistent with the definition of business tenancy under section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which served to temporarily prevent landlords from evicting tenants. However, the Bill focuses on business tenants and their immediate landlords.

I commend the clause to the Committee.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank the Minister for his opening comments on the clause.

Clause 2 defines the key terms that are central to the operation of this legislation, notably rent and business tenancy. Rent is stated to include the cost of using the premises and service charges, as well as interest on unpaid amounts relating to either, with VAT included. We have no concerns about this definition; it seems sensible and we hope that it is widely accepted.

Business tenancy means a tenancy to which part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 applies. That Act applies to any tenancy where property is or includes premises that are occupied for the purposes of business. The Minister will have heard the concerns of the British Retail Consortium, raised on Tuesday, about the definition of the business tenancy. It has concerns that any tenancy contracted out of the 1954 Act would fall outside the scope of these protections. Will the Minister confirm the assurances that he gave the British Retail Consortium on that point?

As Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality said in her evidence, also on Tuesday:

“It is important that this piece of legislation sits within the existing canon of property law”––[Official Report, Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Public Bill Committee, 7 December 2021; c. 5, Q3.]

and that definitions are consistent with that existing canon. Subject to meeting the BRC’s concern about business tenancies, the definitions in clause 2 would in our view meet that test. I look forward to the Minister’s response. We support the definitions and will support the clause.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London)

Yes, I can confirm that tenancies to which part 2 of the 1954 Act applies are covered by the Bill, including where parties have agreed to exclude certain provisions of part 2 of that Act. I should also say, in reply to the hon. Lady’s earlier comments about future powers and what would happen in another coronavirus situation. The Bill does indeed contain a power that allows the provisions to be applied again in the event of future closure.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.