Boots facing lawsuits over unpaid lockdown rent

Boots UK is facing multiple lawsuits from landlords over allegedly refusing to pay rents at some of its stores during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Westfield Stratford shopping centre in London has launched a legal action against the pharmacy multiple over a rent dispute, with the shopping centre reportedly seeking to recover just over £1.1m in missed rental payments.

The multiple is also facing a suit over £1.3m in missed rental payments at another Westfield site. The second suit is being brought by German asset manager Commerz Investmentgesellschaft mbH, which owns the site.

According to the Telegraph, Boots is arguing that because it has suffered a significant drop in footfall and revenues during the pandemic, it should be treated similarly to businesses that were forced to close during lockdown.

As an essential retailer, Boots has been allowed to remain open throughout the crisis, though it did temporarily shutter 66 stores during the peak months of lockdown earlier this year.

The company reported in July that it had suffered a 48 per cent drop in retail sales in the previous financial quarter. The financial impact of the pandemic was a key factor in the company’s decision to axe more than 4,000 jobs and close 48 of its Boots Optician branches. 

In order to help businesses survive the pandemic, the Government has said landlords may not evict commercial tenants before the end of the year. However, landlords are still entitled to take action aiming to force tenants to pay any rent they may have withheld. 

Boots declined to comment when approached by Pharmacy Network News.

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