‘Responsible’ businesses can emerge strongly from lockdown, says commercial property agent

22nd Apr

David Garness (left), managing director of Hull-based commercial property specialist Garness Jones, says his business has had to “ramp up” its property management consultation services since Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown on March 23.
The firm represents thousands of commercial property landlords and tenants across the Hull and Humber as well as further afield, and many have turned to his team for advice on issues such as rental payments and deferrals.
The situation has seen his team “working around the clock” to negotiate between many landlords and tenants over payment terms as manufacturers, retailers and restaurants and leisure operators were forced to shut up shop with no fixed date for reopening.
Mr Garness says it has been “challenging for all”, but he says he has admired the sensible approach taken, which up to now has ensured no matters handled by the firm have ended in dispute between the parties involved.
“These are very difficult times for many businesses, make no mistake about it, but we have been incredibly impressed at how people have been understanding and supportive of others, even when facing huge challenges and financial pressures themselves,” said Mr Garness.
“We have found that people are being very sensible, and responsible. If you had asked me when we went into lockdown last month what positon we’d be in now, I would have predicted many a dispute between landlords and tenants over rents and money owed.
“It certainly has not developed like that though. I think that is down to businesses and individuals who have collectively been responsible and sensible, and have of course appreciated the bigger picture.
“I also must pay tribute to our team who have demonstrated their exceptional skills at a really tough time.
“As a business our own income from property transactions is obviously down, but we took a decision to keep all our senior people working remotely as we knew businesses, landlords and tenants needed our expertise at this time.
“We could have taken a different approach and played safe, but we pride ourselves on our reliability and consistency and that is why we felt we had to actually step up and offer more.
“We’ve effectively been working flat out as brokers and go-betweens to help negotiate and find a middle ground, advising on the Government support available and planning a way through this.
“We are sure people will appreciate our help even more in the long term.”
Landlords have renegotiated rental terms to help businesses survive
Mr Garness has given examples of some of the flexibility shown by businesses across the region to negotiate through testing times.
“I can think of one large business which has been forced to shut its doors and cease trading, which now has no money coming in and significant overheads. We’ve been able to negotiate a position where it is no longer paying a quarter’s rent up front, but is doing so monthly,” he said.
“That has given this business the time it so badly needs, and of course, the business community needs that company supporting jobs and the economy when things return to normal.
“I’ve also been impressed at how businesses which do have the cashflow have continued to pay their invoices and bills. They are supporting others through this.”
Despite the positivity, Mr Garness admits that should the current lockdown remain in place beyond the current three-week extension, pressure on businesses will become more intense.
“We’re in a position of uncertainty and many of the agreements we have come to are of course short-term to see people through the current times,” he said.
“Of course, if we get another month down the line and we are still seeing businesses unable to trade, many will face further difficulty. What we are doing as a business at this time is making sure we are fully geared up to support people through each and every stage of this.
“From my experience of the past five weeks, it is a challenge I know businesses will do all they can to rise to and emerge stronger. I also know our team be there to support those who have played a part in our success and growth in recent years.
“Finally, we shouldn’t overlook that many businesses have come to the fore and have seen growth during these difficult days.
“That is not something we should shy away from recognising, In fact, we need to be ready to support those businesses moving forward and help them continue to grow.”

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