‘Property Week’ reports:
“Business owners in London’s Chinatown are banding together to fight back against rent rises amid fears the character of the area could be irredeemably changed as traditional restaurateurs are forced out and replaced by chains.
Around 40 tenants in Chinatown have signed up to an initiative to share rent information in a bid to empower tenants in their negotiations with landlords.
The initiative, driven by the West End Chinatown Tenants’ Association (WECTA), with support from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and occupiers agency DeVono Property, will see the creation of a shared digital database of rents in Chinatown, in a bid to improve transparency around rent levels.
“This is about starting a fight back against rent hikes which are forcing businesses to close and move out of the area,” said Jon Man, WECTA chair.
Man hopes that through strength in numbers tenants in he area will be able to force landlords – and in particular the dominant landlord Shaftesbury, which owns around 70 premises in Chinatown – into fairer negotiations with tenants.
Man has seen the rent on his restaurant in Wardour Street rise from £66,000 a year in 2000 to £244,000 – and he has another rent review due in two years. He says he fears that he will be forced out of the area along with a host of other businesses.
“What we want is a fairer system – and we hope that by sharing information tenants will be more empowered in their negotiations,” said Man, adding that the database would also ensure new tenants to the area would not overpay.
“People coming into the area will be able to see the level of rents that are being charged, which is really important because when someone comes in and overpays that has an effect on the whole area.”
The WECTA is launching the initiative with an event at the Langham Hotel today, with more than 100 business owners from Chinatown expected to attend – and Man hopes the majority of those will commit to sharing their rent information on the database. “The more tenants we get the stronger the platform will be,” he added.
Sue Terpilowski, FSB London policy chairman said the initiative was the first of its kind in the UK and if it proved successful the FSB would look to adopt it as a model that could be rolled out to other areas of London, such as Shoreditch and Brick Lane, where small businesses are being hit by rapid rent hikes.
“Ultimately the aim is to replicate this across the UK as much as possible,” she added.
Adam Landau, of DeVono Property, said the agency already had a database of around 16,000 tenants across London which could feed into a wider shared platform to empower tenants in the capital.
“It’s a landlords’ market at the moment – but it won’t always be that way. If the economy dips landlords that have raised rent to unsustainable levels will find themselves without tenants,” he said. “So the more we can do to create a fairer system the better for everyone.”
Shaftesbury has been contacted for comment.”