COVID-19

23 Mar 2020

As all of our members and key stakeholders are, we are adjusting the way we work in accordance with Government guidance, to ensure that we continue to represent members effectively and deliver a first-rate service to all during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. 

We have already seen many excellent examples of property businesses acting to support their customers and communities through these unprecedented times. Please do let us know of any concerns that your business has, or actions it is taking, in respect of COVID-19.

Support To Members 

In a rapidly evolving political and policy environment, we are continuing to work with our members to understand your issues, represent your concerns to Government and in the media and do what we can to support you.

We have set up a dedicated coronavirus task force and are also using our existing committee network to identify and address the wide range of issues impacting on all parts of the sector.

We are issuing a new weekly coronavirus newsletter to members alongside our normal weekly update. Sign up here.

Please do let us know if there are issues relating to COVID 19 or otherwise that we should be addressing, or we can support you. All staff are contactable either by email or by phone or contact us here.

Support For Business

A package of support for business has been announced by the Chancellor. We provide some details below, but information and advice from Government can change quickly. For all the latest Government information, please visit the UK Government website, the Scottish Government website, the Welsh Government website or the Northern Irish Government website, or access the latest BEIS newsletter for business here.

Vat and Tax
For all businesses, Q1 VAT payments have been deferred with immediate effect there will be no payments between now and the end of June. Businesses will have until April 2021 to pay this back, easing cash flow immediately. Self-assessment payments are also deferred until January 2021.

All businesses that have outstanding tax liabilities as a result of cashflow issues can request extra help through HMRC’s Time to Pay system.

Business rates 
For small retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, the Business Rates retail discount in England has been raised to 100% for the 12 months of 2020-21 for all retail properties, and retail properties that have a rateable value of below £51,000 will also be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 distributed by local authorities.

Government loans and grants 
The Bank of England has a new lending facility for large businesses experiencing severe short-term disruption to cashflows – the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. Companies that need £5m or more will be able to contact their existing bank to request more details. The scheme is open now and information can be found here.

From the week of 23 March, small firms (up to £45m in turnover) will be able to apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme a loan facility of up to £5m with no interest payable for the first 12 months. This offers firms both interest and fee-free loans via an overdraft, a term loan, invoice finance or asset finance. Full details are available from the British Business Bank here.

From early April, all businesses in receipt of Small Business Rates relief and Rural Rates Relief will also be eligible to receive a £10,000 cash grant. These will be distributed through Local Authorities who will get in touch in early April.

For employers 
Before the end of April, all businesses will be eligible to receive grants from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to cover a portion of the salaries of workers that a business has to furlough as a result of coronavirus. The government will pay up to 80% of furloughed workers’ salaries (up to £2,500 per month) as a grant.

Small businesses will also be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus, for up to two weeks of an employee’s salary. The rebate mechanism for this is being developed at present, and more information on eligibility can be found here.

Extra advice can be found on the governments dedicated Business Support website and a helpline 0300 456 3565, and UK Finance has a dedicated coronavirus webhub here.

Commercial tenancies 
The government has introduced emergency legislation through the Covid Bill to ban evictions for commercial tenants for at least three months.

Should this not be paid once this clause of legislation has lapsed, landlords will be able to claim for forfeiture. This approach encourages businesses that are in a position to make their rent payment to do so, whilst providing three months’ grace to those that are struggling. The guidance is clear that this is not a rent holiday, and that landlords will still be owed rent.​

Residential 
The Government has published guidance for residential landlords and tenants: 

  • Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020;  
  • Court action on possession cases during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak; and 
  • Property access and health and safety obligations in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, including the conduct of gas and electrical checks.

Government has also published guidance to advise local authorities in England how to go about their duties during the COVID-19 outbreak.   

These guidance documents are available here.

Guidance has also been issued for those affected by building remediation issues, waking watches, etc: here.