Landlords' 'refusal to budge' leaves Scots firms struggling

One in seven Scots firms fear they won’t be able to pay the rent during the rest of this year, according to a Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) survey.

The High Street needs support to get back to pre-Covid activity levels
The High Street needs support to get back to pre-Covid activity levels

Landlords are now being urged to offer greater discounts to struggling high street businesses, including deferments and holidays as they seek to manage the impact of coronaviruis restrictions.

More than two-thirds of businesses owners (68 per cent) have been forced pay rent as normal throughout the crisis, with only about a quarter of firms (23 per cent) able to negotiate a reduction.

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Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, said: “Over the course of 2020, Scottish businesses located in high streets, office blocks and industrial estates have faced everything from disruption to temporary closure. Many of these firms have seen a collapse in their income, while other have not been able to use their premises since the start of the year.

“Feedback from our members suggests that some landlords have done the right thing and offered flexibility to their small business tenants. Other landlords, however, have offered no such help and have piled pressure on local operators.

“As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, we want to see more landlords share the burden of this crisis with Scotland’s small business community.

"We want to see these property owners, and their representatives, get in contact with their tenants and pro-actively offer help to see them through the winter.

"While the Scottish Government has introduced some measures aimed at strengthening tenants’ hand, many small businesses have told us that their landlord has refused to budge.”

Looking ahead to next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, FSB wants the next Scottish Government to deliver commercial property reform, including action to see widespread adoption of a standard small business lease.

The organisation wants to make it more affordable for smaller firms to take on empty units, and would like to see new initiatives to help independent businesses negotiate with large landlords and their agents.

"The lack of flexibility and understanding shown by some landlords during this pandemic reinforces our view that reform is required,” Mr McRae said.

“That’s why we’re looking for the winners of next year’s Scottish Parliament election to put commercial property reform high on their agenda.”

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