Shop Eat Surf Latest News: Some Landlords Offering Rent Relief to Retailers

Some large landlords are offering rent relief to tenants during the coronavirus crisis.

And retail experts say all tenants big and small should definitely be asking for rent relief right now, even if you are in a state where stores are still open but traffic is down because of the crisis.

Even some of the typically toughest landlords are coming up with rent relief programs for tenants.

The Irvine Company in California, which is known for being a very demanding landlord, recently sent its tenants a letter outlining an optional rent relief policy.

Beginning April 1, the Irvine Company will defer all rent charges for 90 days. The deferred rent can be paid back with no interest starting in January 2021.

“Your business is an important part of the Irvine Company community, and we are extending an optional rent deferral program to provide some financial relief during this difficult time,” the company wrote in a letter to tenants.

Other landlords around the country are offering similar programs, including Bedrock, a development company that has been rebuilding downtown Detroit. Under the plan, Bedrock won’t collect rent and fees from dozens of small businesses over the next three months, according to the Wall Street Journal.

We called up retail consultant Gregg Solomon, who ran Quiksilver’s retail for years and currently owns Tavern House Kitchen & Bar in Newport Beach, to ask his advice on how stores should be approaching landlords about upcoming rent payments.

Gregg definitely thinks tenants should be talking to the landlords now even if their stores are still open.

“If you are open, and your business is down 75%, you probably shouldn’t be paying rent,” he said. “Whatever money you are getting you will need to pay your staff if you are open.”

Given the scope and severity of this crisis, Gregg estimates there are not going to be a lot of tenants paying rent on April 1. He recommends reaching out to your landlord and trying to work out a solution.

He liked the Irvine Company’s move and suggested business owners ask landlords to forgive rent payments for three months and amortize those deferred rent payments over the life of the lease.

Gregg said he understands that not everyone has approached their landlords yet because the situation has been so fluid. But now that it’s clear this isn’t going away anytime soon those conversations need to happen.

“I was an early adopter that this is very real, that it’s not going to get better,” he said. “This is going to last a lot longer than 15 days.”

The impact of tenants around the country being unable to pay rent will of course trickle down to the banking sector if property owners can’t make commercial mortgage payments. And the difficulties aren’t confined to retail. Landlords and brokers say they are also seeing a flood of office tenants asking for rent relief, particularly among small businesses, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In addition to talking with landlords, Gregg also recommends that industry businesses that fall into the small business category begin filling out SBA loan forms now. According to the SBA, small business owners in all U.S. states and territories are currently eligible for a low interest loan due to the coronavirus.

And if Congress passes additional measures to help small business, it would be a good idea to have your paperwork in process already.

While no deal has been passed yet, one version of the bill included $350 billion in guaranteed small-business loans.