Rent increases threaten businesses

Charlotte Newton TWO popular independent traders have been threatened with back-dated rent reviews spiralling into tens of thousands of pounds. Judy Chu, owner of Change of Heart and Gino Coen, owner of Park 59, in Park Road, Crouch End, told the Broadway

Charlotte Newton

TWO popular independent traders have been threatened with back-dated rent reviews spiralling into tens of thousands of pounds.

Judy Chu, owner of Change of Heart and Gino Coen, owner of Park 59, in Park Road, Crouch End, told the Broadway that they may have to close their shops if their landlord, Family Mosaic, goes ahead with a plan to ask for back-dated rent.

Mrs Chu, 57, said that she has had sleepless nights ever since the private housing association sent her a letter requesting �64,000.


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Mrs Chu, who has run the nearly new designer clothes shop since 2001, said: "I had a rent review in 2001 and although I was due for rent reviews in 2004 and 2007 they never contacted me.

"Then out of the blue in 2009, I received a letter from Family Mosaic, which if we proceed with their figures, would result in me paying more than �64,000. "I'm now paying a solicitor and surveyor to find out if they have any grounds for demanding such a huge amount of money.

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"It seems absolutely ridiculous to ask for that amount. I haven't got that kind of money in the pot so it's in the lap of the gods really."

Mr Coen, who has sold modern furniture in his shop for four years, said: "Family Mosaic came out with such a ridiculous request that the only thing I could do was to ask a surveyor and solicitor to help.

"I think it's very unfair because we've never caused the landlord any problems and this is not the best time to ask for money."

On its website Family Mosaic claims to provide good quality, affordable homes and housing services to more than 45,000 people in London and Essex.

It has, according to the website, more than 20,000 homes for rent, as well as homes for people with extra support needs and temporary housing.

The website says: "We are also building over a thousand homes every year and are selling shared ownership properties to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford their own home."

But a spokeswoman for Family Mosaic refused to be drawn on why the company was demanding money for rent retrospectively.

She said: "It is not Family Mosaic policy to negotiate in public. All we are seeking to do is achieve market rents in accordance with the leases which were freely signed with the tenants. They, or their surveyors, should be talking to our managing agent, which is normal procedure."

Crouch End Lib Dem councillor Dave Winskill said: "I'm aware that housing associations have a constitutional duty to maximise rental income from their commercial properties, but on the figures I've been told, demands of this size seem insane.

"Ten per cent of shop units in Crouch End are currently empty or under threat. Forcing small businesses to pay retrospective increase of this size will simply increase the number of empty shops. I'd be happy to take this up on behalf of the shopkeepers.

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