Owners in talks with shops and restaurants “on leave” when rents are not paid

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Taxpayers could subsidize rent bills for shops and restaurants “on leave” during the pandemic recession as part of plans “seriously considered” by ministers as tensions mount between owners and businesses in difficulty.

The government is in detailed talks on a proposal known as the “vacation space subsidy program,” with officials summoning industry leaders last week to help prepare a bailout.

Commercial property owners risk losing billions of pounds by the next key payment date in June. The space leave program under discussion is modeled on a similar plan successfully introduced in Denmark.

The tenants would contribute part of the rent, the landlords would accept a reduction in payments, and the Treasury would bring in money to help close the gap.

The partnership approach could focus on the hardest hit sectors, such as retail and leisure, and provide a “sliding scale” of support, sources said.

Melanie Leech, executive director of the British Property Federation, the largest body in the real estate industry, said: “The government is seriously considering this. The conversation is about how best to fill this gap rather than not acknowledging that there is a gap. “

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