On 20 October 2011 Libyan militia fighters found Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle hiding next to the drainage pipes of a villa in Sirte, on the Mediterranean Sea. One of Gaddafi’s bodyguards threw a hand grenade at them, which bounced off the concrete wall and exploded in the midst of the leadership circle. The former Libyan leader was dazed by the explosion and wandered into the street, where he was immediately set upon by Misrata fighters who wounded him with a bayonet in his buttocks, and then began pummeling him with kicks and blows. By the afternoon of the same day, he was dead, with new major wounds that suggest he was killed in custody.
This brings us to commercial landlords in the United Kingdom. There is little dispute that Gaddafi was a nasty weasel of a man. It is heavily reported that, at the start of the Arab Spring in the same year, he ordered his troops to open fire on protestors, calling them "cockroaches" and "rats" and that his rule of 42 years was spattered with the blood of those who disagreed with him. It is hard to feel sorry for him and his wounded buttocks. Is it as hard or a bit easier to feel sorry for landlords this morning (Thursday 17 June), who were dealt a buttock-blow yesterday, it being announced that the UK Treasury has extended a ban on commercial evictions until March 2022, as the Government seeks to protect businesses through the final stages of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The NTI newsroom have unearthed this exchange of text messages between two Government officials:
"Bl**dy landords. They are a bunch of *****, b*****ds and n****s"
"You're right. We should cut their *******s off and feed them to the *****. Those ***** ******* *** ********. Matt Hancockians."
Once the latest moratorium has expired it will have been two years since commercial landlords will have been legally permitted to take action for unpaid rent. We know that £6 billion of rent arrears is owed, and this 'debt time-bomb' prompted fears that an early end to the moratorium would lead to the closure of thousands of shops as landlords demanded unpaid rents and pursued legal action to claim them. The NTI team have spoken to a number of practising insolvency professionals over the past fortnight, some of whom are fast-tracking their qualification through the JIEB's exams, now seeing that the ever-growing wave will not crash until next spring. But when it does ...
Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury, announced yesterday afternoon that the ban would be extended for a further nine months and it has prompted some of us in the NTI newsroom to start to feel sorry for landlords, in the way that some may have felt a tad sorry for Gaddafi's buttocks, as referred to above. There have been direct hits, in the guise of CVAs and Restructuring Plans, and shrapnel wounds in the shape of tenant led negotiations in favour of turnover rent. But now this buttock blow. Is it a bayonet wound too far?