Opinion: Greedy landlords should be named and shamed

WE are all in this together - unless you're a greedy landlord.

You people know who you are, and the only reason I'm not naming and shaming you is to protect the small businesses that have asked me not to.

Restaurants are among many that have been victims not only of coronavirus but of fat cats who refuse to show compassion or common sense and offer a reasonable rent reduction.

A 10 per cent reduction is not reasonable.

 

With many of Brisbane's best-loved restaurants already closed and countless families crippled financially, others facing the same awful fate have been told by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to "work it out" with their landlords.

Like they haven't been trying, begging even, to come to new agreements in these unprecedented times.

 

 

When the Federal Government shut restaurants down on March 23 - allowing only those who could transition to takeaway to remain in business (and we all know what a huge drop in revenue that means, making it largely unsustainable) - many owners had already been in talks with their landlords to cut them some slack.

You couldn't call them negotiations because they were one-sided.

Days ahead of one terrific restaurant closing for good, its owners reached out to their landlord, and in response were sent a copy of the contract, to remind them of its terms.

So much for Mr Morrison's naïve optimism of working it out together.

No empathy. No commonsense either.

Wouldn't it be better for landlords to receive some rent than none when tenants go belly up? It's not like others will be rushing to lease the space.

Desperate restaurant owners are hoping for some relief on rents during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: File image
Desperate restaurant owners are hoping for some relief on rents during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: File image

 

Another restaurateur has been lobbying the Government, without success but not for a lack of trying, to pass legislation forcing landlords to negotiate with tenants on fair rental relief.

In a letter to Federal Member for Brisbane Trevor Evans, this respected restaurateur, whose establishments have won many awards, said his industry had been undeservedly crushed.

"We didn't make a mistake, a bad investment or take our eye off the road. We have been literally banned from making a living and operating our businesses," he said.

"Now there's lots of talk about us 'all being in this together' but our lease situation pretty well proves that this is simply not true.

"There is absolutely no legislative impetus on landlords to 'do the right thing'. Some will, most won't."

"Even if we freeze our trading creditors, obtain government assistance for our staff and eat dry bread and cheese, the longer this goes on the more rent debt we will amass and the more likely we will be going under.

"Our landlord will end up the largest creditor and everyone else will get nothing."

 

 

In calling for legislation around fair rental relief, he said if landlords refused to negotiate or a mutually agreeable outcome couldn't be reached, then tenants should have the right to exit the lease.

"We desperately need help and legislation forcing our associated industries, especially landlords, to act like decent human beings and share some of the pain," he said.

I've seen a copy of Mr Evans' reply to this impassioned letter, the nub of which is "the issue of retail leases and other tenancies is one of the key priorities" of the national cabinet.

Priorities don't magically turn into actions.

It is one thing to expect people to act like decent human beings - which is the premise of Scott Morrison's "work it out" message to struggling small businesses - but is entirely another to see that they do.

Originally published as Greedy landlords should be named and shamed


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