A new law that seeks to resolve certain remaining commercial rent debts accrued during the pandemic received Royal Assent on 24 March 2022. The new law introduces a legally binding arbitration process to resolve certain outstanding commercial rent debts related to the pandemic. It is hoped that this new law will help resolve disputes about certain pandemic-related rent debt and help the market return to normal as quickly as possible.
The law applies to commercial rent debts of businesses in England and Wales including pubs, gyms and restaurants which were mandated to close, in full or in part, from March 2020 until the date restrictions ended for their sector. Debts accrued at other times will not be in scope.
Before using the arbitration process, commercial landlords and tenants are strongly encouraged to negotiate agreements using the Commercial rents Code of Practice that was published in November 2021. The Code of Practice applies across the UK.
The general moratorium on commercial evictions and restrictions on Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) in England and Wales also ended on 24 March 2022, but eligible firms remain protected for the next 6 months during which arbitration can be applied for or until the conclusion of an arbitration.
The moratorium provided firms with breathing space to negotiate how to address the cost of commercial rent debts caused by the pandemic before the new law came into place.