Two café owners have won the right to pay only half the rent for their premises for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, in a landmark decision by a court in The Hague, the Financieele Dagblad reports.
The owner of the Café Aimée location in The Hague had gone to court because his tenants were in arrears and had wanted to evict the couple.
The judge in the case said, however, that the two could have no idea of the lockdowns when they signed the contract. ‘The coronavirus crisis and the government measures have led to a fundamental shakeup of the balance in the rental agreement,’ the judge said.
Tenants and landlords have to ‘share the pain equally’, the judge said, and that includes the present lockdown.
‘This definitely strengthens the position of people working in the hospitality sector,’ lawyer Marie-Louise van Kleef told the paper. Real estate lawyer Boris Cammelbeeck said he believed the landmark decision would also help shopkeepers who want to lower their rent ‘particularly for the weeks of forced closure.’
The hospitality sector is one of the worst casualties of the crisis. Bars and restaurants have been closed since October 15 under the latest measures and in the last weeks non-essential shops have also had to close their doors.
Dirk Beljaarts, director of the hospitality industry association KHN, said the judge had ‘given an important signal’ but that he wouldn’t recommend a mass refusal to pay the full amount of rent. ‘That will only lead to conflict. But entrepreneurs will be stronger in the run up [to a request]’, he said.
According to tenancy law lawyer Claudia van Meurs, the decision also means more clarity for landlords. ‘The loss of revenue was looked into properly. The tenant still needs to prove that the arrears are caused by the close downs.’
A spokesman for property owners association Vastgoed Belang said that small landlords were not always in a position to lower rents. He pointed out that they, unlike tenants, do not qualify for government support.
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