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London landlords sound alarm over impacts from the pandemic on capital, and call for more government support

<p>‘Non essential’ retailers have had to shut shops at various points during the pandemic</p>

‘Non essential’ retailers have had to shut shops at various points during the pandemic

/ REUTERS
C

entral London faces a potentially “devastating and existential threat” from the impacts of the pandemic, landlords warned on Monday as Rishi Sunak’s budget nears.

The London Property Alliance, which represents more than 300 real estate organisations, sounded the alarm in a letter to the Chancellor where it set out a series of pleas for support.

The letter outlines how hard the capital has been hit by lockdowns, with a slower return to offices last summer and autumn than other parts of the UK, a slump in retail spend, and 28,000 jobs in the capital’s arts, culture and recreation sectors were lost between March and December.

Among measures the Alliance wants to see is the business rates holiday extended beyond April 1 and a reinstatement of tax-free shopping for international tourists.

The organisation also said the Government could help enable landlords to support their tenants by restricting foreclosures on landlords by banks and other financial institutions.

A number of property owners have provided rent deferrals and rent holidays during the pandemic. Flexibility from lenders would help real estate firms amid potentially less rental income.

The letter welcomed existing help from the government, but added: “Without additional support and a more equitable distribution of funding to help city centres, the Government risks squandering much of the welcome efforts of the past year and undermining its plans to re-open the face-to-face economy.”

The signatories include staff from a number of London’s commercial property owners, including Derwent London and Shaftesbury.

A government spokesman said: “We want to see a thriving capital city, which is why we’ve spent tens of billions of pounds supporting businesses and landlords through tax deferrals, mortgage holidays and 100% business rates relief.”

The spokesman said at the upcoming budget “we’ll outline the next stages of our plan for jobs to support businesses and families”.

Elsewhere today, PureGym boss  Humphrey Cobbold told the Today programme he expects to see “a rash of CVAs” and other issues when the rent moratorium ends.

A moratorium on business evictions is set to finish at the end of March.