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If retailers want leases that reflect modern shopping habits, should they hand over a cut of online sales to their landlords?

Some property owners think this would be a fair trade off in the clamor for more flexible rent arrangements. So far, though, there is no good way to measure what landlords might be entitled to and tenants have few reasons to play ball.


From global fashion players like Zara and H&M to mom-and-pop stores, most retailers are demanding better terms from landlords as the Covid-19 pandemic slows sales, particularly offline. In the U.K., shop owners received only two-thirds of the quarterly rent they were owed in the three months to Sept. 22, according to data by Remit Consulting. More tenants

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a group of people walking down the street: Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex

Late-night revellers and publicans may not the be the only ones ruing the latest restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. A shift back to working from home and orders to close pubs and restaurants by 10pm will not help refill the coffers of landlords set to miss out on £4.5bn in rent between mid-March and the end of the year.

a group of people walking down the street: Shoppers in central London last week. The next ‘quarter day’ for commercial rents is this Tuesday.

© Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex
Shoppers in central London last week. The next ‘quarter day’ for commercial rents is this Tuesday.

“The restrictions imposed this week represent a step back in economic recovery and will negatively affect businesses in most sectors. While we feel the restrictions are fairly minor, we do think they will cause a reduction in the amount of rent we are able to collect,” says Mark Jarrett, head of property management at Colliers International.

With the government

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“I said, ‘Well, I can’t meet those terms, and I’ll be out on Sept. 30, your place will be broom swept,’” she said, adding that she was planning to file for bankruptcy.

The landlord, Greg Fournier with Greenbrook Partners, did not respond to requests for comment.

“It’s just another really sad story, of many more dozen people losing their livelihoods, myself included,” Ms. Stromberg said.

Other negotiations have produced happier outcomes. Blaire Papagni has owned Anella, a restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, since 2009. Anella shut down in March, opened for takeout in the middle of May and for outdoor customers in late June.

She laid off 22 employees, but was able to bring back eight. She has been kept afloat in part, she said, by her landlord’s willingness to cut her a break. Ms. Papagni declined to provide specific numbers, but said she has been paying roughly half her normal

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Phoenix will pay landlords a $500 bonus if they accept renters in the city’s Section 8 affordable housing program. (Photo: Getty Images)

Phoenix will give landlords a $500 signing bonus if they agree to rent to low-income tenants.

The city is trying to beef up its Section 8 housing assistance program to prepare for more housing insecurity spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Phoenix’s housing department has set aside $500,000 of COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government to use as a cash incentive to encourage more landlords to participate in the housing program. 

The city has funding for 275 Section 8 vouchers, which provide rental assistance for people in the very-low-income bracket — an individual who makes less than $25,500 per year or an annual income of $36,450 for a family of four.

People who qualify for a voucher are responsible for finding their own apartment or rental home.

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New pandemic escape clauses are making their way into retail leases as the coronavirus, and long-term economic trends, continue to batter the industry, according to retail brokers, attorneys and retail analysts.

Recently commercial retailers and landlords have started adjusting lease terms to include rent payments that correlate with a retailer’s open capacity. For instance, if a restaurant is operating at 50 percent capacity, it is only obligated to pay 50 percent of the rent. And for some leases in high traffic commercial hubs, landlords are conceding to easier lease termination agreements if occupancy falls below a certain percentage in the area. Other landlords are offering to defer rent and lengthen the lease term to make up for the lost rent at the back end of the contract.

“The pandemic has laid bare how interdependent landlords and tenants are,” said Judith Bachman, a real estate attorney based in New City, New

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