BBC News:Landlords push back against CVAs


Landlords have called for a government review as more struggling firms ask for rent reductions.

The British Property Federation says too many companies are abusing an insolvency process called a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

The Federation called on ministers to urgently conduct an independent inquiry into the process.

The pushback from landlords comes as House of Fraser tries to finalise a rescue plan that involves a CVA.

As many as 31 of the department store chain's 59 stores could be closed, Press Association reported.

Landlords have expressed serious reservations about the proposals and met on Tuesday to discuss their response. Three quarters of landlords must approve a CVA plan for it to succeed.

It remained unclear when a final announcement on House of Fraser store closures would be made and it did not respond to a request for comment.

BPF chief executive Melanie Leech said landlords wanted to help genuinely struggling businesses, but some of its members believed that CVAs were being misused.

"Landlords get a raw deal in any CVA - they are going to be one of the biggest creditors," she said.

"They are always going to be hard hit. The issue is whether they are fairly taking a share of the pain."

According to Ms Leech there can be "unfair disCRImination" between creditors, where landlords are asked to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the costs compared with shareholders and banks.

Businesses can also misuse CVAs as cost-cutting measures to negotiate rent cuts or close uNPRofitable outlets while keeping profitable shops open, she added. "The CVA is not just a tool in the armoury of cost-cutting."

Firms misusing the process also fail to take into account the other parties affected by CVAs. Large pension funds can have stakes in property which take a hit, Ms Leech said, while local economies suffered from shop closures.

The British Retail Consortium said retailers only entered a CVA after exploring all other options and will not have taken the decision lightly.

"CVAs offer retailers the ability to continue trading while taking emergency steps which if successful may lead to jobs being saved and fewer property vacancies," a spokesperson said.

A number of retailers have embarked on CVAs this year, including New Look, Carpetright, and Poundworld.

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