Clause 23 - Temporary moratorium on enforcement of protected rent debts

Part of Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 14 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 9:45, 14 Rhagfyr 2021

The clause and schedule 2 cover a temporary moratorium on enforcement measures.

The difficulties of paying commercial rent during the pandemic are best addressed through negotiation. The Bill provides a system to resolve protected rent debt when negotiation has not worked. It has been designed to consider both parties’ circumstances in the exceptional context of the pandemic. If the landlords could pursue other enforcement methods in respect of the respected rent, parties would lose the opportunity to resolve the debt by mutual arbitration applied by the Bill’s arbitration system. That is why the clause introduces a temporary moratorium on enforcement measures detailed in schedule 2.

During the moratorium period, landlords may not make a debt claim, exercise the right to forfeiture or use the commercial rent arrears recovery—CRAR—power to seize goods in respect of unpaid protected rent debt. They may not recover protected rent debt from the tenancy deposit while the temporary moratorium is in place. If they have done so beforehand, the tenant cannot be required to top up the deposit in that period. If the tenant makes a rent payment without specifying the period it covers, the payment must be treated as relating to unprotected rents before protected rents.

Schedule 2 also enables the arbitrator to consider protected rents under a debt claim issued between the Bill’s introduction and its coming into force, or a judgment on such a claim. It also treats rent payments made after the end of the protected period, when closure or other relevant restrictions are lifted, as for unprotected rents before protected rents.

I emphasise that the Bill’s moratorium and other remedies are temporary. We want the market to return to normal swiftly. Under the clause, the temporary moratorium applies only until arbitration is concluded or, if neither party applies for arbitration, until the application period closes. The temporary moratorium also only prevents access to remedies in relation to protected rent debt. If the tenant in scope of the Bill has failed to pay rent attributable to a period before 21 March 2020 or after the protected period ended, the landlord can take action in respect of that debt. Clause 23 and schedule 2, which the clause introduces, are important to give viable businesses an opportunity to resolve protected rent debt by mutual agreement through the Bill’s scheme.