Total unpaid rent bills for 2020 could total £4.6bn, according to the British Property Federation.

With the government’s latest three-month extension of the eviction moratorium – originally set to end on 30 September – the BPF predicted the £4.6bn unpaid rent would include all commercial property, but the vast majority would be from the retail and hospitality sectors.

Industry trade body UK Hospitality welcomed the extension earlier this week but said whilst it “should give businesses some much-needed breathing room to come to agreements. This alone, however, is not going to solve the crisis.”

Conversely, BPF CEO Melanie Leech said she was disappointed by the blanket extension, adding that the “majority” of landlords and tenants were working collaboratively together.

Although the extension is intended to support companies unable to pay rent because of ongoing challenges posed by the crisis, and provide extra time to come to agreements, Bill Hughes, head of assets at investor Legal and General criticised the move as “misguided.”

“It has encouraged tenants to ignore their obligations, and in many cases, occupiers have chosen to avoid any sort of dialogue with owners,” he said. “There are many occupiers that are well capitalised and trading from property, where they could easily pay rent and service charge, but are actively choosing not to do so.

“This has created unwarranted uncertainty around real estate as an asset class that could ultimately undermine its attraction to long term investors.”

A spokesman for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: “The measures we’ve announced will protect jobs in businesses facing uncertainty following the period of closure earlier in the year, but this is not a rent holiday. Rent is still owed, and where tenants can afford to pay in full they should do so. If they cannot pay in full now, they should pay what they can.

“This extension provides landlords and tenants with an opportunity to come together to reach agreements on any outstanding commercial rent that work for both parties, using the principles set out in the Code of Practice published earlier this year.”

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