End archaic rents practice

The British Retail Consortium is stepping up its campaign by writing to each of the UK’s 471 councils, in their capacity as retail landlords, asking them to agree to accept shopkeepers’ rents monthly in advance rather than quarterly. Local councils collectively own non-residential property worth £112 billion.

The practice of paying rents quarterly dates back to the Middle Ages. At a time when the horse was the best form of transport available, collecting rent more than four times a year was impractical. As a result, the lords of the lands sent out their agents every three months.

The BRC has already called on private sector landlords to help retailers by offering them more flexible terms. 80,000 small retailers, a string of major chains and 51 MPs have backed the campaign.

A number of commercial landlords have already indicated they are prepared to consider switching to monthly terms, particularly on new leases. The BRC believes councils should follow this example.

Says BRC Director General Kevin Hawkins: “Requiring rents three months in advance is at odds with standard business practice. It’s an anachronism rooted in the days when the horse was the fastest means of communication. It cannot be justified in the modern business world.

“Retailers are the lifeblood of local economies. They provide a vital community service in our villages, suburbs and town centres, but many are struggling to cope with energy and wage bills, rents, rates and service charges rising well above inflation.

“As major retail landlords, councils could make a significant difference by accepting rent on monthly terms, rather than demanding three months up front.

“Seeing retailers driven to the wall is in no-one’s interest. By making the commitment, a council will be actively supporting local traders and saying ‘we want to be an attractive place to do business’.”

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