code

Coronavirus: Commercial Tenancies Code

Further to our COVID-19 blogs on the Federal Government led arrangements on employee standdownsnegotiating changes to commercial leases and the JobKeeper subsidy, the National Cabinet on 07 April 2020 agreed on a mandatory Commercial Tenancy Code previously foreshadowed as part of the “hibernation” strategy for Australia’s economy.

“preserve the lease, to preserve the relationship, keeps the tenant in their property and keeps the tenant on the lease, which is also good the the landlord… which underpins the value of those assets

The Code applies to tenancies where either the Lessee/Tenant or the Lessor/Landlord is eligible for the JobKeeper program.

The Code is based on a set of leasing principals intended as the Prime Minister says to operate such that it “preserves the lease, preserves the relationship, keeps the tenant in their property and keeps the tenant on the lease, which is also good the the landlord… that underpins the value of those assets“.

The overarching obligations are for landlords and tenants to work together in an honest, open and transparent manner and to negotiate in good faith on a lease by lease basis so as to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus on the lease arrangements.

The Leasing Principles themselves include:

  • Landlords must not terminate the lease due to non-payment of rent during the pandemic period*
  • Landlords must not draw on a Tenant’s security (bank guarantee, personal guarantee or cash bond etc) during the pandemic period
  • Tenants must honour the Lease
  • Landlords must reduce rent proportionate to the trading reduction in the Tenant’s business over the course of the pandemic period through a combination of:
    • waivers of rent (accounting for at least 50% of the rental reduction); and
    • deferrals of rent (spread over the remaining time on a Lease and for no less than 24 months)
  • No interest, fees or charged are to be imposed  on the rent waived or deferred
  • Rent increases (other than Retail Leases based on turnover) are frozen during the pandemic period
  • Any statutory or insurance charges passed on to the tenant are to reduced in the appropriate proportion
  • Tenants should have an opportunity to extend the Lease period  of the rent waiver/deferment period
  • A binding mediation process will regulate these co-operative arrangements.

*The pandemic period is from 03 April 2020 and for the period during which the for the period during which the Commonwealth Government’s JobKeeper program remains operational.

To view the Prime Minster’s statement following the National Cabinet meeting here.

The States and Territories will legislate these arrangements as soon as is possible.

Banks are urged to support landlords in a similar manner.

Residential tenancies remain a State and Territory issue, not being determined by the National Cabinet. To register your business’s interest in the JobKeeper system, visit the Australian Taxation Office’s dedicated page.

FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information in relation to legal issues arising from Coronavirus or if you need to discuss how to best deal with commercial tenancy issues, please contact us on (02) 9521 2455 or email help@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice.

Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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Purchasing a Franchise?

What is a franchise?

A franchise is a business system controlled by the franchisor, using the franchisor’s symbol or trade mark for a fee, subject to rules/restrictions/restrictions as stated in the relevant Franchise Agreement.

Given the bargaining power of the franchisor and franchisee being very different, the relationship of franchisor/franchisee is regulated to help ensure fairness in their dealings.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) regulates the Franchising Code of Conduct (Franchising Code), which is a mandatory industry code that applies to the parties to a franchise agreement.

Franchising Code

The Franchising Code is in Schedule 1 to the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes – Franchising) Regulation 2014 made under s. 51AE of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The Franchising Code applies from 1 January 2015 and replaces the previous 1998 code.

In short, the Franchising Code:

  • requires parties to act in good faith (for example, reasonably, honestly etc) in their dealings
  • introduces financial penalties and infringement notices for serious breaches
  • requires franchisors to provide prospective franchisees with a short information sheet (Disclosure Document) outlining the risks and rewards of franchising
  • requires franchisors to provide greater transparency in the use of and accounting for money used for marketing and advertising and to set up a separate marketing fund for marketing and advertising fees
  • requires additional disclosure about the ability of the franchisor and a franchisee to sell online
  • prohibits franchisors from imposing significant capital expenditure, except in limited circumstances
  • provides a dispute resolution process

Disclosure Document

An important requirement of the Code is the requirement for the franchisor to provide a prospective franchisee with a “Disclosure Document”.

The purpose of the Disclosure Document is to provide prospective franchisees, and existing franchisees that wish to renew or extend their existing agreement, with information about the business and the franchisor to allow the franchisee to make an informed decision about the franchise and obtain current information regarding the franchised business.

The Disclosure Document must provide information on the business, including:

  • the franchisor, its contact details, its business and its directors and their business experience
  • details of any master franchisor
  • the franchise site or territory
  • details of legal proceedings against the franchisor and its directors
  • contact details of current (and former) franchisees
  • financial details
  • the franchisor’s requirements for supply of goods or services to a franchise
  • whether online saes are permitted and any restrictions
  • details on marketing or other cooperative funds
  • details of payments such as pre-payments, establishment costs and other fees
  • details on any trade marks and patents that are part of the franchised business
  • details of arrangements when the franchise arrangement ends

If you are purchasing a franchise, before entering into an agreement, you should seek legal and accounting advice.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to buying/selling businesses, franchises or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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