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Exclusive: Letter To Mr Sharma From The British Property Federation

Posted on Sep 09, 2020. by NTI

Dear Mr Sharma

We at the British Property Federation hope you are well. How was last night's party with 100 under-30s? Did you manage to beat the record for the '500 metre conga' as planned?

We had an appropriately distanced chief executives' meeting at the cafe in Morrisons in Walsall yesterday, including David Atkins, of Hammerson (he sends his regards and asks if you still have his hedge strimmer), Neil Slater of Aberdeen Standard Investments, and David Partridge of Argent and, I can't lie to you, the conversation got quite heated. Peter Cowgill was invited, but couldn't make it as he is up to his eyes at JD Sports dealing with the shift to online sales (like our tenants aren't all in that boat), crowing about the £765 million he has kept in the bank. You know Pete, he got all aeriated about us landlords and a bit inappropriate and, I can't lie to you Alok (I hope you don't mind if I call you that), we were unchuffed when he said: "Landlords between 2007 and 2015 were increasing rent on a compound annual growth rate of 4-5 per cent every year and they didn’t give a flying toss (he actually used those words - pretty offensive, I am telling you) ... well the boot is on the other foot now."

We want it on record that we did give a toss when we were raking it in as landlords for the last, what is it now?, 50 years or so, as it was very nice and enabled us to have some very good times. I don't know if you know Zvi Noe? He is a managing partner at Capreon, a JD Sports landlord and has to deal with Pete and his potty mouth quite a bit. He joined us over some carrot cake yesterday and said (and we agree - the law is, as they say, the law): “If you have signed a lease and you can pay, then you should pay. Retailers might have a bad year and argue they should pay less, but if they make a multimillion-pound profit another year, they don’t offer their landlord a bonus." Right on Zvi. We landlords never get a bonus. Not even one. 

Getting to the point of this letter; we know that you Ministers are planning to decide this week whether to extend moratoriums that restrict property owners’ rights to pursue tenants for unpaid rent. We are only too aware (as I have it marked in red on a calendar opposite my desk in the office) that the present ban ends on September 30 and you should know (as we have worked it out) that billions of pounds of rental payments have been deferred or waived since it was introduced. Literally ... BILLIONS. It has been a nightmare for us. We have spent all of the rent paid over the last, what, 60 or 70 years and are, as they say in Walsall, 'strapped'.

I don't know if you know, but Zvi is only worth £606 million (according to the Sunday Times Rich list in 2019) and wouldn't even put in towards the tip yesterday. It affects us, too, you know. Dave Atkins feels the pain. Okay, he is president and chief executive of the UK's third-largest listed property company, but that doesn't mean he can easily maintain all his holiday homes and don't even get me started on Neil (Slater). He learned how to make ends meet when CEO of Japanese investment management business and, thank heavens, his company manage a total of £455.6 billion, if not we don't know what he would do.

Also, we want to make it clear that mass non-payment of rent could affect the 45 million Britons whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property because there is bugger all anywhere else to put it and we are all out of ideas about investment and stuff.

So, Alok, stop undermining the UK’s attractiveness as a place to invest in property and development, which could undermine the recovery and do the right thing. Let us sue these thieving little tenants and get Britain back on its feet. Do the right thing.

Yours, As Ever

Melanie

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive BPF

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