Thousands of UK gyms seek government protection over rent arrears

gym workout

The fitness industry fears that it faces a “ticking timebomb” on rent payments that could force thousands of gyms and leisure clubs out of business.

UK Active, the trade body, wants the government to grant protection to the operators of thousands of leasehold health clubs that face their next quarterly rent bill on June 24.

Like tens of thousands of commercial tenants in the leisure and retail sectors, fitness operators have been closed since March 20, generating no income but incurring heavy costs. Reopening will be no earlier than July 4.

Although most workers have been kept on companies’ books through the state furlough scheme, utility bills and rents that are due are causing concern.

After a consultation with leading gym operators, UK Active said that many were facing significant problems if nothing changed soon.

Adjustments already announced to rules on the recovery of commercial rent arrears mean that tenants have temporary protection from winding-up petitions and statutory demands. However, these measures expire at the end of the month, making gyms and leisure operators liable to punitive rent payments that most cannot afford.

UK Active said that this could force many into administration. The trade body is urging the government to extend the ban on forfeiture contained in the Insolvency Bill until the end of the third financial quarter in September and to scrap stamp duty on extending leases.

Huw Edwards, 45, UK Active’s chief executive, said that gyms and leisure venues would play a key part in the health and wellbeing of the nation after lockdown and their demise would be “a tragic loss. Thousands of gyms and leisure facilities are facing a ticking timebomb with rent payments approaching fast, despite the fact they have been closed for more than ten weeks.”