Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse. As Property Week went to press the US presidential election was on a knife edge and England was bracing itself for a second national lockdown.
Fun times. All I can say is thank God the authorities saw sense and did a U-turn on pubs and bars not being allowed to sell takeaway alcohol. It would have been the final nail in the coffin for many businesses (and many of us will need a few stiff drinks to get through this).
What worries me is that people can only put up with so much for so long. The rising sense of frustration is inevitably going to spill over. Necessity may be the mother of invention – and the hospitality and retail sectors have been amazingly innovative throughout this crisis – but when that invention is to no avail, what then? Then necessity becomes the mother of desperation.
This week, it became clear just how febrile the situation has become in the US when we saw stores and businesses being boarded up ahead of the election in anticipation of violence. With Trump crying fraud, the election may well end up being decided by the supreme court.
Another bitter battle heading to the courts is the one between UK retail landlords and their tenants as relations become increasingly rancorous over unpaid rents.
A growing number of landlords are resorting to county court judgments (CCJs) in a desperate attempt to claw back rental arrears. One dispute lawyer described CCJs as “the only remedy they’ve got right now” and they are likely to remain so if the moratorium on the forfeiture of commercial leases for non-payment of rent is extended until March, as many predict it will be.
That would mean a year of unpaid rent for some landlords. How can any business survive that? Yet, incredibly, landlords continue to be hung out to dry, ever the villains of the piece, while retailers are portrayed as the innocent victims. As Irwin Mitchell’s Tim Rayner notes: “There is this stereotype of the big nasty landlord and the small retailer. In many cases, it’s the other way round. You have a relatively small landlord and an enormous well-capitalised corporate tenant.”
It is little wonder that some landlords have said ‘enough is enough’ and are now calling their non-paying tenants out. I wish them luck.
Another group I wish the best of luck to are this year’s magnificent cohort of RESI Trailblazers, who we unveil this week ahead of our now-virtual RESI Convention on 10-11 November. This formidable bunch underline how innovative the industry remains in the face of the greatest of challenges, and how diverse it is becoming. Against all the odds, this year’s list is our most diverse yet, showcasing talent that spans discipline, gender, age and experience. It is also our most inspiring.
Every year, we ask our Trailblazers to give us their mantras. Two particularly resonated with me this year: Riccardo Iannucci-Dawson’s “Sheer grit and determination wins over raw talent every day of the week” and Alexandra Jezeph’s “Perseverance: if you don’t keep trying, you’ll never know what might be possible”.
If there was ever a time when the industry needed to show that sheer grit and keep trying, that time is now.