Property leader opposes extended commercial tenancy declaration

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THE Property Council of Australia and the ACT branch of the Australian Hotels Association has opposed the ACT government’s decision to extend the Commercial Tenancies Declaration yesterday (September 10), saying Canberra has been able to re-open and economic activity has resumed. 

Both industry associations, who are representatives on the government’s Commercial Tenancies Administration Committee, argued strongly against the extension in that forum saying that impacted parties had, on their own accord, struck satisfactory rent relief and support.  

Under the extended arrangements offered to small and medium enterprises who are struggling to pay commercial rents during the COVID-19 Health Emergency, the new declaration comes into effect on September 28 and will stay in place until January 31. 

“The codes were an extraordinary intervention at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency phase, however, in many jurisdictions the spread of the virus has been significantly slowed or halted altogether,” says Property Council of Australia ACT executive director Adina Cirson. 

“Commercial property owners are highly motivated to support existing tenants who are experiencing hardship and were doing this prior to the code’s implementation – we don’t need extra regulation to do continue this should the need warrant it.”

Deloitte analysis found that the impact of the commercial leasing code across Australia on commercial landlord revenues over April to September period is at least $4 billion to tenants under the code, and extension would impose an extra $4.8 billion in costs on commercial property owners and potentially threaten the viability of many small and mid-sized commercial property businesses, Ms Cirson says.

The general manager of the AHA ACT branch, Anthony Brierley, says the pandemic conditions are different now in the ACT.

“Our preference has always been that the coronavirus restrictions are adjusted so that there is no need for this declaration to be extended,” he says.

“The ACT government is refusing to adjust the current restrictions in line with the health risks associated with COVID-19 in the ACT. This is causing ongoing unnecessary financial hardship for landlords and tenants.

“With no cases in more than six weeks, it is time the government allowed the hospitality sector get back to a financially-viable level of trade. We know that this can be done safely with average patron density of one person per two square metres.

“One person per two square metres is the best relief for our industry, and comes without any cost to government. Instead we have a government which cost-shifting the burden onto businesses, without justification.” 

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