Unreasonable landlords continue to oppress small businesses during COVID-19 crisis

The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA) is urging landlords to step up and create arrangements with their retailers that properly acknowledge the significant reductions in turnover occurring, as the Federal Government has done.

Despite newsagents, regarded an essential service, asking for sensible rent relief, there has been no attempt to do their part in making sure tenants can survive to continue paying rent in the long-term.

Ben Kearney, CEO of ALNA, said, “We are imploring landlords to work with us on this to find a sensible solution now. This remains the big piece of the puzzle that is still unresolved and urgently required to make it possible for small businesses to go into a semi-hibernation state while very prudently maintaining essential services during the crisis and to not lose the capacity to come out the other side.”

There are over 4000+ Lottery Retailers and Newsagents’ in Australia. They are an important and trusted part of Australian communities and approximately 35% of the Australian population visit these small businesses at least once a week (source – Retail Doctor Group Insights study). 

“Their biggest immediate concern now to surviving this crisis, is their financial capacity to continue to pay rent to their landlords during the crisis. Many are reporting that they will have limited capacity to continue to pay rent over the several months it may now take before any recovery in customer visitation occurs after social restrictions are lifted,” Ben explained.

How are landlords responding during this COVID-19 crisis?

“When they have reached out to landlords and their representatives as almost all have, and as the Prime Minister has suggested they do, to have a conversation about sensible rent relief and abatement to meet the requirements of their business in surviving this crisis and that is no fault of their own, they are consistently and overwhelmingly met with delay and obfuscation.”

Responses from landlords have included landlords asking tenants to sign a confidentiality agreement before any discussions can occur, delaying tactics, opportunistically cashing in bank guarantees, and chasing April invoices.

“The current COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our small retailers’ businesses in a significant way. Newsagents and lottery agents are not businesses with huge financial capacity or large margins. They are generally mums and dads, family enterprises, and first-generation Australians, who are having a go and working hard to make a success of their business.”

Consequently, ALNA have written to the Shopping Centre Council of Australia to ask its industry to step up to support its tenants who can with immediate short-term assistance continue to provide good long-term income.

“We are asking for landlords to show some leadership and to genuinely partner with their commercial tenants, to help see them through this crisis by entering immediate dialogue and delivering rapid outcomes. We are not asking them to go out of business, but to work on a common sense solution and the only reasonable option for both their businesses and their tenants.”