Irish News

Monday 22 September 2014

Businesses call for rent-rise law

Published 08/05/2014 | 11:12

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Customers in the Grafton Street Bewley's Cafe

A group representing thousands of businesses has demanded the Government adopt proposed laws to stop landlords forcing up high street rents.

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More than a dozen retail, industry and export bodies have come together to press for the coalition to live up to commitments given three years ago to abolish upward-only rent reviews.

With the Supreme Court to rule on a potential landmark legal battle over rent for Bewley's Cafe on Dublin's Grafton Street, business groups called for the proposed legislation also to be tested in court.

Mark Fielding, head of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association and a member of the group, said streets in towns across the country have been devastated by the upward-only rents.

"The Government might think this problem has gone away but it hasn't," he said.

"Many small businesses and retailers are still struggling to cope with high rents which, when combined with low levels of consumer spending, puts their very survival on the line.

"For many small businesses it's too late. They've already had to close down and many more are on the brink of doing so."

The proposed legislation to remove the upward-only clause in rent reviews was introduced in the Seanad by Independent Senator Feargal Quinn.

The group of business representatives, which includes the Small Firms Association, Irish Hotels Federation, Irish Exporters Association and Retail Ireland among others, said the Government is hiding behind legal advice that must be tested in court.

Last year a row over Bewley's rent - 1.4 million euros a year and subject to a five-year review - hit the High Court in what was widely seen as a test case on the controversial policy.

The court ruled that the rate should come down to market levels, almost half of what is being asked.

The landlord, Ickendel, which is part of the Treasury Holdings Group built by businessman Johnny Ronan, has challenged that in the Supreme Court.

Rent on the four-storey building on Dublin's most expensive shopping street went from 213,000 euros in 1987 when the lease was first signed to 1.46 million euros in 2007.

The business groups now pushing for Government action said Senator Quinn's proposals will allow for special rent reviews if a tenant is seeking a reduction because of distressed business.

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