COUNCIL bosses in York took a deliberate decision not to let all commercial tenants defer paying rent during the second lockdown.

The authority has a portfolio of more than 1300 ‘assets’, which include shops in Shambles, Swinegate and elsewhere, plus offices, the Spark:York site, and much more.

Rental income from the portfolio generates £6 million a year for the authority.

During the first lockdown, the council's commercial tenants were allowed to defer paying their rent between April and June.

But no such deferral has been granted for the second lockdown. Instead, the authority has been working with individual tenants to offer support and advice.

“It was recognised that the Covid crisis had and would impact different sectors in different ways .. and hence the council took a decision not to take a one size fits all approach to commercial rent recovery,” says the authority’s interim ‘Director of Place’ Tracey Carter, in a report to the council’s Executive which meets on November 26.

“Instead, individual circumstances have been discussed with tenants with a view of seeking to agree a suitable payment plan.”

No interest will be charged on arrears from debts built up by commercial tenants as a result of the Covid-19 situation.

In a briefing with The Press, Ms Carter said some businesses had made clear they did not want to defer their rents. “They don’t want to get into debt,” she said.

In her report, Ms Carter says that between April and September, 68 per cent of the commercial rent due to the council had been paid in full. Payment plans had been agreed for a further 21 per cent - while 11 per cent was still outstanding.

"These are predominantly in areas of leisure, retail and hospitality where some tenants are ... not in a position to as yet agree a repayment plan," she says in her report. "Discussions will continue with those tenants as they will with all tenants."

Ms Carter's report says there has not been a big rise in vacancies in council properties as a result of the pandemic.

The council's offer of deferring rents earlier in the year played a 'crucial part' in York's recovery, it adds.