Coronavirus Briefing Note

In these difficult times, we know that the number one priority for our clients is the health of their family, friends and colleagues. We also know that the wheels of commerce continue to turn, but with challenges that were unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

Much has already been done to support businesses, and in fact so many new government packages have been announced in recent days that it can seem hard to know where to begin.

Employment and Business

Things are changing on a daily basis, but here are some of the key measures:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme;
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments;
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs);
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England;
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief;
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000;
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank;
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans; and
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

The details and practical implications of these packages remain uncertain but the current government guidance can be found here.

Housing and Property

In relation to housing, the government has announced the following measures:

  • Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place;
  • No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis; and
  • Landlords will also be protected as the three-month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy-to-Let mortgages.

Again, this is still very much a work in progress, but the government guidance can be found here. A moratorium on the forfeiture of business tenancies for rent arrears has also been announced, until at least 30 June 2020.

Companies have been given an automatic three-month extension to file their accounts at Companies House (link here).

Court Proceedings

The civil courts continue to operate but with the focus now very much on hearings taking place remotely. Detailed guidance was provided by the Lord Chief Justice on 19 March 2020 (link here) and was updated again on 23 March 2020 (link here), with Court users now being told that “hearings requiring the physical presence of parties and their representatives and others should only take place if a remote hearing is not possible and if suitable arrangements can be made to ensure safety”.

We are aware of a substantial seven day trial with witness evidence that is about to begin and which will now take place entirely remotely. We expect that trend to be followed more widely.

New arrangements have been made in relation to the hearing of bankruptcy and winding-up petitions, which are often used as a means of collecting undisputed debts.

How we can help you

At Ingram Winter Green, we believe there are a number of ways we may be able to assist you. We can:

  • Help you negotiate rent deferrals or rent holidays with your landlord or with your tenants. We can also advise more generally on any mortgage, rent, tenancy or lease issues that you may be facing, either as a landlord or as a tenant.
  • Advise you on your rights and obligations as either an employer or employee. We know there are difficult decisions to be taken.
  • Assist where property deals are falling out of bed. We have seen several instances of buyers being unwilling to complete on contracts that have already exchanged.
  • Review existing loan arrangements, and document any changes that may be agreed between lenders and borrowers.
  • Advise on your position as a company director and the fiduciary duties that you owe.
  • Consider existing contractual obligations where one party is unable or unwilling to comply. We expect contracting parties will be looking very closely at their force majeure provisions.
  • Provide restructuring and insolvency advice, although we hope that won’t affect you or the people you deal with.

Ingram Winter Green is very much open for business and we want to help you through the current period of uncertainty with the minimum of disruption.

If there is anything we can do, please get in touch with your usual contact at the firm. Alternatively, any of the partners would be delighted to hear from you and contact details for everyone at the firm can be found here.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.