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Extension to rent moratorium considered as momentum for UK re-opening builds

Published:  15 February, 2021

Ministers are reportedly drawing up plans to extend the rent moratorium for commercial properties until past the March end date, further curbing landlords’ ability to evict businesses over unpaid rent.

As reported in the Times this morning, government has been talking to the property, retail and hospitality sectors over how best to extend the moratorium to help businesses struggling through the accumulative effects of the UK’s trio of lockdowns.

Amendments are also apparently being considered. Since March last year, rent arrears have swollen to £4.5 billion – a ticking time bomb that is allegedly leading government to consider differentiating between the needs of different sectors.

“There is every chance [the moratorium] will be extended,” Bill Hughes of the Property Industry Alliance told the Times. “The government is now distinguishing between leisure and hospitality, which have been hit very hard, and retail, which is more of a mixed bag.”

The news of a potential extension comes alongside increased speculation around a return to ‘normal’ for UK industries.

Over the weekend, the government said the UK could see the first easing of lockdown 3.0 with picnics and coffee in the park from 8 March, with a tentative end date to lockdown in April for both non-essential shops as well as pubs and restaurants, though for outdoor service only.

These dates have prompted further questions over how businesses are going to be supported in their recovery.

Delivery giant Deliveroo has called on the government to commit to a re-run of last year’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme when restaurants finally reopen.

Deliveroo along with 300 restaurant partner groups are calling for a return of the 50% discount meals scheme, with a joint letter to government outlining the “immense financial pressure” currently weighing down on businesses.

There also seems to be a return to the idea of vaccination ‘passports’ to help the hospitality and retail industries get back on their feet.

Though the idea has previously been played down by government, the idea of vaccination passports continues to form part of the conversation around reopening in both the UK and abroad, with many countries now considering implementing such certificates in order for Britons to travel.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has voiced calls for a global coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, stating “We have the technology that enables us to do this securely and effectively. The need is obvious”.

Counter arguments continue to double down on a swathe of ethical, legal, political and social challenges that come with such certification.

Andrew Bud, chief executive of iProov, told The Times that passports posed “tremendous advantages… but also tremendous opportunities for discrimination and harm to people by exclusion”.