Rent change is a relief for retailers

HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council has won praise from a national retail body for changing the way it operates as a commercial landlord. The British Retail Consortium said last week that it had awarded HDC its Flexible Landlord Standard after the council ag

HUNTINGDONSHIRE District Council has won praise from a national retail body for changing the way it operates as a commercial landlord.

The British Retail Consortium said last week that it had awarded HDC its Flexible Landlord Standard after the council agreed "to end an archaic rent collection practice which costs UK retailers more than £145 million each year".

But the council's estates chief Keith Phillips said HDC had made the change from collecting rents quarterly in advance to monthly off its own bat.

HDC has between 60 and 70 industrial and commercial tenants, who pay rent totalling about £250,000 a year. About 20 of them are shops, mostly in Huntingdon town centre and at Oxmoor, though it also owns shops in St Ives and St Neots.


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"Most of our tenants are small businesses, so we thought it was right to make the move," Mr Phillips told The Hunts Post. "All new leases are on monthly terms."

The BRC said the practice of demanding three months' rent in advance "dates back hundreds of years to the era when the horse and cart was the fastest means of transport.

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"The new rent terms will provide considerable cash flow relief, especially for smaller retailers. Vital to the health and vibrancy of local communities and under enormous pressure from the rapidly rising cost of taxes, wages and energy, they often struggle to find a whole quarter's rent in one go."

HDC is among 50 local authorities to sign up to the agreement so far.

The BRC is now calling on commercial landlords to follow the example set by the public sector and show a similar commitment to more flexible terms.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: "Shops are the lifeblood of local communities and Huntingdonshire Council should be commended for doing something practical to support retail businesses in their area. With shopkeepers under pressure from above-inflation increases in taxes, wages and energy bills this will make a real difference to cash flow and costs.

"Having to stump up three months' rent in advance is like being forced to pay three months of your mortgage in one go before you've been paid.

"Commercial landlords should now follow the example set by the 50 local authorities that have signed up to this agreement and put an end to this archaic and unjustifiable practice.

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