Friday, 15 January 2010

Rent is an administration expense - but at what cost?

A recent decision in the High Court (Goldacre (Offices) Limited -v- Nortel Networks UK Limited (in administration) [2009] EWHC 3389 (Ch.)) has confirmed that where an administrator makes use of a leasehold property the rent reserved by that lease will be an administration expense. This is in accordance with most practitioners' prior views.

However, the case did decide some other related points which are, in some ways, surprising as follows:

  1. the amount of rent which becomes an expense of the administration does not relate to the area occupied. Use of a small part of the premises demised will make the whole rent reserved an expense of the administration;

  2. if the administrator is using the premises on the rent payment date then the whole period's (e.g. quarter's) rent will be payable as an administration expense even if the administrators' use ceases during the relevant period.

These two points could have interesting implications. The corollary of (1) might be that where the premises are part sub-let and the administrators continue to use the other part then it may be that the administrators are exposed to the credit risk of the sub-tenant default. The corollary of (b) might be that where the administrator is not using the premises on the rent payment date then there is no liability for the rent as an expense even if the premises are used for the remainder of the relevant period.

Neither of the above points were directly addressed in the judgment.

It should be noted that the fact that it is now confirmed that rent will be an expense of the administration if the administrators are using the premises does not mean that the administrators have to pay it on the due date and in full. This is still dependent on there being sufficient realisable assets out of which the rent can be paid. This was expressly confirmed in the judgement.

So whilst the case confirms a generally held belief it has muddied the waters for both landlords and administrators in some regards and altered the balance of power slightly but with the administrators arguably still holding the upperhand through the benefit of the moratorium.