Fulham Shore has secured numerous deals with landlords over rent debt in recent weeks as the threat of a 50/50 Australian-style model of forgiveness has brought many of them to the table, according to chairman, David Page.

Alongside the extension of the lease forfeiture moratorium, until March 2021, and the debt enforcement moratorium, until September this year, the government will put in place a strengthened code of practice which will require operators and landlords to negotiate in good faith to try and reach a solution on historic rent debt.

UKHospitality understands this will include direction on an element of forgiveness, with the government having already made reference to the Australian rent model of the debt being shared 50/50 – and the trade body is pushing for the same in this country, said chief executive Kate Nicholls.

Page told MCA’s The Conversation that he would be surprised if landlords were prepared to forgive that level of rent debt, as “it’s an enormous amount of money”. “The threat of this has driven quite a lot of landlords to the table with us. Landlords don’t really want the government to interfere in the relationship as it might turn out really badly for them.”

Fulham Shore, which operates Franco Manca and The Real Greek restaurants, has managed to secure some deals with “really good landlords” for 50% of the rent debt to be written off, and around 80-85% of its landlords have been willing to negotiate in some way. However Page said the group had also had a couple of county court judgements land on its doorstep, “from very aggressive landlords”, and has a few landlords based offshore who have not engaged at all.

Fellow Conversation panellist Nick Collins, CEO, Loungers, said it had around 165 individual landlords of all shapes and sizes and took the approach from mid-March last year to talk to them, maintain dialogue and try and be as collaborative as possible.

As operators who have been unable to trade and generate any revenue at times, he said he thought it was right the landlords should share the pain. “The vast majority of our landlords have recognised the position that we find ourselves in and as per the original government code of practice have recognised the need to share the cost of Covid, and that it shouldn’t all fall on the operator,” he said.

“We have a small number of landlords who haven’t engaged in the conversation, and we have had a couple of county court claims raised against us,” added Collins.