RICS welcomes coronavirus crisis aid for UK firms and tenants

Financial protections for tenants during the COVID19 crisis in the UK have been welcomed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The economic health of the country is at risk from the spread of coronavirus and stringent measures in place to stop the number of infections from rising expotentially, leading to dramatic drops in consumer spending on the high street and the slowing of business activity.

In a bid to counter the impact of measures which threaten to slash economic output by between 10-20% by summer - according to one estimate – the government unveiled counter measures.

The stimulus package is likely to be particularly welcome in the retail sector, where landlords were already facing a growing vacancy rate and falling rent revenues. Meanwhile, in the private rental sector, there is the risk of mounting rent arrears, if the economic toll of COVID19 costs jobs.

Unveiling the package, chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said it was ‘unprecedented times’. 

For big companies, the government aid package includes:

• Support for liquidity, with a major new loan scheme by the Bank of England to help with cash flow.
• Increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first six months of that finance interest free. Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.
• Giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months.
• Increasing grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000.
• Providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.

Tamara Hooper, UK residential policy manager at RICS, said: ‘Giving tenants safety through rent and eviction protection measures during this national health crisis is welcome from government.

‘Ministers must now continue protecting tenants by ensuring any debt accumulated does not become a financial burden or used by a minority of unscrupulous landlords once the emergency protections end. The Government should now urgently update and republish their residential ‘How to Guides’ so tenants have all the information on these measures in one place.

‘With many thousands of tenants now staying home as per official advice, Government must acknowledge those living in tenures with the lowest standards and work to ensure they have the right to safe and good quality housing by introducing the rules and requirements recommended by the Regulation of Property Agent working group report.’

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