AN emergency measure put in place in Scotland to protect business tenants amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has been welcomed by the property sector, writes Ian McConnell.

The move to extend the notice period for terminating leases for non-payment of rent from 14 days to 14 weeks is among actions to help businesses introduced in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act.

Scottish minister for public finance Ben Macpherson has written to business leaders to promote new powers in the Act, which was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament last week.

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Previously, commercial tenants served with a warning letter for non-payment of rent would have 14 days to pay. The extension to 14 weeks applies to all commercial property leases, including those where a warning notice has already been issued and has not already expired.

Mr Macpherson said: “This new emergency measure is designed to support commercial tenants, who may be facing financial difficulties outwith their control during these extraordinary times. Many businesses are experiencing a sudden drop in income and this [measure] will help them to reduce costs and prioritise maintaining jobs and productive capacity.”

He noted the Act gave Scottish ministers powers to extend the period beyond 14 weeks if necessary, and urged landlords and tenants to work together to manage specific situations. Mr Macpherson observed “tenants could still be in a difficult financial position even after these next 14 weeks”.

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Hew Edgar, at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “These are exceptional circumstances, and the Scottish Government has introduced many necessary measures to support Scotland’s commercial market.”

Scottish Property Federation chairman Robin Blacklock said: “The property industry recognises the severity of the health and economic emergency facing society and we have welcomed the Act on this basis. It is important both landlords and their tenant customers work together to manage the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, including where tenants struggle to meet rental liabilities through no fault of their own.”