Many of the temporary changes in law designed to help businesses were due to expire at the end of March. Here we round up which of these are still in place and which have ended.
EXTENDED: Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery restriction
The Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) procedure is available to landlords of commercial properties where tenants have reached a certain level of rent arrears. Landlords can serve notices on their tenants demanding payment, which can ultimately result in the seizure of the tenants' goods if the rent isn't paid. The number of days of unpaid rent needed to trigger this procedure has been temporarily extended again – between 25 March and 23 June 2021, 457 days of unpaid rent is required. Between 24 and 30 June, it'll be 554 days.
This ties in with the extension to the ban on commercial landlords in England and Wales claiming forfeiture due to unpaid rent, which we reported last month. Since then, that ban has also been extended in Northern Ireland (to 30 June).
PARTIALLY EXTENDED: Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020
Last year, this Act created various temporary measures to help struggling companies. Some aspects have been extended, while others have expired.
- Company moratorium: companies in serious debt can get at least 20 days' breathing space, during which they have a payment holiday from supplier debts and can't face legal action for debts run up before the moratorium. Temporarily, companies facing a winding-up petition can get the moratorium via a simpler process. Also, companies that have been in administration or subject to a Company Voluntary Arrangement in the previous 12 months are temporarily eligible for the moratorium. Last month we reported that both measures have been extended to 30 September in Northern Ireland – since then, the same extension applies to those in England and Wales.
- Winding-up moratorium: creditors have been stopped from using a statutory demand to form the basis of a winding-up petition against companies who owe them money. This now applies to any statutory demand served until 30 June. Similarly, winding-up petitions can't be presented until then (unless the creditor can show that the debt is unrelated to COVID-19).
- Wrongful trading liability: normally, a company director can sometimes be personally liable if their company enters administration or liquidation. This is the case if they knew (or should have known) that there was no reasonable chance of avoiding it, and they didn't take every step to minimise the loss to creditors. However, this was temporarily relaxed to encourage companies try and keep going during the pandemic – and has now been extended until 30 June.
- Filing deadline extension: deadlines for accounts, confirmation statements and events-driven filings that fell between 27 June 2020 and 5 April 2021 were automatically extended. The government has confirmed that this has now ended, though some companies may still be able to apply for a 3-month extension.
- Company meeting relaxations: there were temporary rules in place that allowed you to hold certain company meetings (e.g. AGMs) after 26 March 2020 in COVID-safe ways, even if they didn't adhere to your company's articles of association. These measures expired on 30 March 2021. However, based on the government's COVID-19 roadmap, it appears that general meetings will be required to be held on a closed basis until at least 17 May and possibly until at least 21 June.
EXTENDED: Scottish bankruptcy measures
Temporary changes to the bankruptcy process in Scotland were due to expire on 30 March. They have now been extended to 30 September. This means the minimum level of debt required for a creditor to issue a petition remains at £10,000 (instead of £3,000), and the moratorium during which a creditor can't take action against someone who has applied for bankruptcy stays at 6 months (instead of 6 weeks). The limit of one moratorium in 12 months remains temporarily removed.