Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Business, Enterprise & Innovation Robert Troy has called for the establishment of a Commercial Property Arbitrator to protect businesses against unfair eviction.
A similar code of conduct has been proposed by the British government to support small and medium businesses.
“A major challenge facing SMEs during the current crisis is meeting their obligations to pay rent under existing leases. While many landlords have been understanding, others are insisting that the rental obligations in leases are strictly adhered to. In these cases the tenant has no legal comeback or financial support to protect their business from being destroyed”, said Deputy Troy.
“It is unconscionable that we would allow small and businesses to fail because of their adherence to government directions in relation to shutting premises and social distancing. These SMEs, which are the backbone of our domestic economy, should not be penalised by this crisis.
“We have changed the law to protect residential tenants by banning rent increases and making evictions illegal. Mortgage holders (including those with mortgages on commercial premises) are being afforded mortgage payment breaks by the banks. I cannot understand the unwillingness of the government to step in and offer similar supports to SMEs.
“I am fully aware of the constitutional protections afforded to private property owners and I recognise that state intervention in this area is not straightforward. However, in this exceptional time of unprecedented crisis it is incumbent upon the government to consider what supports and protections can be given to commercial tenants and SMEs.
“Provided the response is proportionate and limited – in terms of duration and scope – I am confident that such measures would withstand constitutional scrutiny. By way of example, a Commercial Property Arbitrator, could be established, by statute, to determine rent disputes arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and by reference to statutory guidelines.
“I am calling on the government, in consultation with the Attorney General and his office, to consider what supports and protections can be given to SMEs and commercial tenants to ensure that they are not the victims of this crisis.”