Covid-19: traders closed during confinement must pay their rents – 07/01/2022 at 11:36

Covid-19: traders closed during confinement must pay their rents - 07/01/2022 at 11:36

According to a decision of the Court of Cassation, establishments cannot avoid their obligation to pay rent, in particular because of the aid granted by the State.

A business closed on November 12, 2020, at the Champs-Elysees in Paris. (AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

After long months of waiting, the verdict has fallen for traders. The Court of Cassation ruled, Thursday, June 30, that despite the difficult period of Covid-19,

traders forced to close during the containment decreed in the spring of 2020 to stem the pandemic had to pay

their rent anyway. In three judgments, the highest court of the judiciary ordered these merchants to pay their unpaid rent during the period when non-essential businesses were closed.

It judges that the prohibition, with exceptions of

leaving home decreed to stem the spread of Covid

“general and temporary measure”, is not attributable to the lessors and has not definitively deprived the merchants of using their premises.

Numerous disputes between merchants and their lessors

She also considered that the confinement did not constitute a case of force majeure, as defended by the traders. ”

There is a whole range of legal tools that had been put forward

and systematically, the answer is ‘the payment of rent is due'”, underlines Me Ophélie Boulos, lawyer at Kramer Levin, who has defended landlords in other cases.

“We can think that this is the first step, quite solid, of fixing the case law, (…) a case law which is generally favorable to the lessors”, analyzes his colleague Me Renaud Dubois. Behind, the decision will arouse

significant economic consequences

. In the French courts, many disputes between traders and their lessors had indeed been put on hold pending the Court’s decision.

The high court itself had selected three files out of the 30 comparables that had been sent to it: those of a chain of low-cost stores, a Bordeaux real estate agency and a tourist residence. It is above all a reverse decision that would have been a thunderclap.

“It’s depressing, we haven’t learned anything”

It would indeed have allowed all the traders forced to close during the health crisis of

go to court to obtain refunds

. With huge amounts at stake: in a note, the Ministry of the Economy had estimated at more than three billion euros all the rents and charges immobilized due to the restrictions.

“It’s depressing, we haven’t learned anything,” reacted to AFP Emmanuel Le Roch, general delegate of the Procos specialist trade federation. ”

We have the feeling that whether or not there are customers

one of the parties must continue to pursue its commitment, that is to say, pay, and the other is protected and that, whatever happens, its contract is considered to have been performed.”

“It’s a disappointing decision for the lessees (the tenants), who will

now consider how to engage the responsibility of the State

“, also declares Me Guillaume Hannotin, lawyer for the discount store chain Action.

Aid for traders and not for donors

“The texts which are referred to” in the decision rendered by the Court of Cassation “are not those under which the stores closed, but texts from March and April 2020 which affected the freedom of movement of natural persons”, believes- he.

He adds that “economic considerations weighed heavily in this decision which invites the takers to believe that it is because of an editorial accident that they are not entitled to compensation”. “We can think that

the Court knows that the lessees benefited from a certain number of aids

(…) while on the donor side, this was not the case”, also believes Me Boulos.

The government had released many aids for traders

to help them cope with the closures. “Tomorrow, faced with the same situation, public finances are unable to compensate for the losses of the actors”, regrets Emmanuel Le Roch.