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For many people, paying rent is not easy during the corona crisis. At the moment there is no law that drops the tenants’ obligation to pay the rent. And for landlords, it’s not easy to react in an appropriate manner to the request or demand of tenants who no longer want to pay.
The Flemish government is currently examining the issue of residential lease and has already announced that evictions will not be possible if rents are temporarily not paid during this period.
The document https://www.wonenvlaanderen.be/sites/wvl/files/wysiwyg/bijlage_huurrecht_-_gevolgen_corona-crisis_bis_clean.pdf provides answers to a few questions relating to the influence of the corona measures on the lease of private homes and social housing units in the Flemish Region.
It is not inconceivable that other legal measures will be taken in the near future. Pending these measures, communication and solidarity between landlords and tenants are key. Below we have listed the main questions you may have in your capacity as entrepreneur:
1. Can I, In My Capacity As Tenant, Terminate Or Cancel My Commercial Lease During The Current Corona Crisis?
No, this is not possible. It has not become permanently impossible for tenants to meet their payment obligation (even if it has become harder).
2. Is The Corona Crisis A Case Of Force Majeure?
The corona virus in itself can never be regarded as force majeure, but the measures imposed by the government in this situation can (closure, social distancing, etc.). Whether these measures are actually regarded as force majeure depends on the factual judgement by the Justice of the Peace. The Justice of the Peace will have to decide whether or not the execution of the agreement has been temporarily made impossible by these measures. It is however still uncertain how Justices of the Peace will decide in these cases. This will have to become clear in the future.
In case of commercial lease the situation is far from simple: the lessor still put their building at the tenant’s disposal and the tenant still uses it (interior decoration, stock, supply, etc. remain in the building). Only the possibility to receive customers in the building has become impossible because of the government measure. That does not necessarily mean that paying rent in itself has become impossible.
3. Which Attitud Do I Adopt In My Capacity Astenant?
Don’t wait and take action
Under the motto “you don’t get anything if you don’t ask”, we advise you to contact your landlord and to look for an amicable solution that works for both of you. You can for instance ask for a temporary suspension of payment of the lease until the corona crisis is over and rely on your landlord's sense of solidarity. Not paying the rent without having contacted the landlord first is not a correct attitude in our opinion.
4. In My Capacity As Landlord, How Do I React If My Tenant Unilaterally Suspends The Fulfilment Of His Obligations?
React as quickly as possible.
A late reaction can be regarded as an acceptance of the discontinuation of payment.
Assess the situation.
You can – for the time being – not be obligated to agree to your tenant’s proposition. An amicable agreement with your tenant is of course always a possibility and in some cases it is to your benefit as a lessor to compromise with your tenant. Some elements which may be relevant during this assessment are:
• Will this cause financial difficulties for me?
• Do I have a good relationship with my tenant?
• Did my tenant pay the rent in time and correctly prior to corona?
• Is my tenant under an obligation to close their business completely or can their activities be partly continued?
• How heavily is my tenant impacted by the corona crisis?
Does a suspension of payment of the rent suffice to give my tenant the necessary breathing space or is a more substantial measure required and does the rent need to be waived in full or partially?
Take into account the fact that you do not need to pay taxes on any rent that you waive.
If your tenant does not contact you but does not pay the rent, we advise you to send a reminder in which you demand payment of the rent due. This way you make it clear that you have no intention of releasing the tenant from his obligation to pay.
We are closely monitoring any legal measures the government may impose and will certainly inform you in time.
If you need help or advice in order to benefit from one of the above measures, we will gladly assist you. You can contact us by phone at 051 26 82 68 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.