The Devil's in the detail for landlords

Dr Faustus or Faust is a variation on one of the most popular recurring story themes. 

 


The devil is in the detail for retail landlords

devil deal

 

 

 

 

A brilliant but frustrated person can’t get ahead in their chosen profession, or they get so far but want to be the very best and either can’t do the work required to achieve it or more often won’t. 

 

At this point in the story the devil appears. Sometimes in person, other times in disguise or he’ll send one of his minions such as Mephistopheles to negotiate on his behalf. An infernal affairs department if you will. 

 

A deal is then constructed where the customer gets whatever they want in return for their immortal soul and a few thousands years of torment thrown in on top as interest. 

 

Contract signed, in blood if you’re a traditionalist, and they then set about enjoying the fruits of their ill-judged labours. This is why the story has such power and resonance – they start to believe their success if entirely due to their individual brilliance and nothing at all to do with all the help and support they’ve received from anybody else to get to this point.  

 

All goes swimmingly – they are lauded, feted, loved and acclaimed for years until one day – there’s an imperceptible knock on the door. The bill has come due and their diabolical creditor has come to liquidate their assets – perhaps literally. 

 

The moral of the story is to justify thrift, putting in the hard work and avoiding tempting shortcuts, ignoring the undoubted success and enjoyment the damned undoubtedly had on their way to their destination or if it does address it, asks the reader or viewer to consider the cost of the deal.  

 

Not the price but the cost.

 

For Intu and other landlords, Friday might be the day when their deal with the debt devil comes due. 

 

It’s the quarterly rent day for the third quarter of 2020 and many professional analysts are already stating that this could be the worst day for returns ever -with some estimating that they could recoup as little as 10% of their total owed rent.

  

The British Property Federation anticipated that as few as 20% of retail occupiers would pay their rent but it could be even lower when the figures are released. 

 

Although non-essential stores were finally allowed to open their doors to the public, the combined effect of the collapse of retailers’ earnings during the coronavirus lockdown combined with the government extending the ban on forced evictions for non-payment of rent until September 30th 2020 at least indicate that this will be another red letter day of unwelcome financial firsts. 

 

In the second rental quarter of this year, the UK’s two biggest commercial landlords – Intu and Hammerson – received only 29% and 37% of their owed rents respectively. 

 

Their situation wasn’t helped with several familiar names such as Burger King, B&Q, Boots and Primark, taking the decision to withhold their contributions for the time being.

 

The situation is particularly critical for Intu who had already breached their lending covenants earlier this year. If they’re unable to agree some debt relief with creditors then the company would face administration and being broken up. 

 

This would see the temporary closure of some of the most famous shopping centers in the UK such as the Metrocentre in Gateshead, Eldon Square in Newcastle, the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Lakeside in Essex. 

 

At the moment landlords who can’t collect the agreed rent have few options beyond continuing discussions and making sure that their current and future legal agreements with tenants are watertight but the temporary suspension on the issuing of winding-up petitions and statutory demands is due to lapse on July 1st which could see an immediate surge in their use, unless the suspension is extended. 

 

There’s also another loophole that hasn’t been noticed by a lot of landlords. 

 

Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) notices remain suspended but companies can still obtain County Court Judgements (CCJs) for outstanding rent and apply for High Court Enforcement instead. 

 

Ultimately, Faustus’ downfall was due to not fully understanding the small print of his contract which, if he had, might have given him a route out of his predicament. Hence the maxim – “the devil’s in the detail.” 

 

The CRAR loophole might be a perfect example of a measure that might seem against the current spirit of the law but is very much legal according to the letter. 

 

If your business is undergoing trials at the moment and you’re scouring your contracts for possible ways to help relieve the pressure you’re under then a simpler solution may be at hand. 

 

Get in touch with us to arrange a free, initial virtual consultation where we can freely discuss what immediate issues you’re facing and help you find a way around or through them. 

 

We can then help you look for immediate and more medium and longer term solutions that could benefit your business. 

 

When it comes to helping businesses out of sticky situations – we’re definitely on the side of the angels.

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