'Heartless' landlords threaten to bankrupt, evict business owners over unpaid rent

Commercial landlords are threatening to bankrupt and evict business owners who haven't paid rent.

Evidence obtained by Newshub shows shopping centre owners taking a tough line with tenants who didn't pay up during the lockdown.

Retailers face an impossible selling environment - but many landlords think it's still possible for shops to pay rent.

"We've received bullying notices, we've received threats, the behaviour's been completely disgusting in many cases," says Specsavers country director Brendan Thompson.

Newshub has seen eviction threats ordering Specsavers to pay up or get out of shopping areas.

"Completely heartless - [there's been] no discussion at all," Thompson says.

Specsavers' monthly rent bill is about $1 million across 55 stores - it didn't pay a cent last month, and is unlikely to this month.

The Coffee Club has paid some rent and expenses where it can. It too has been served legal demands to pay in full - in one case, with interest.

"A small group have been absolutely terrible, and a big group have been quite tough," Coffee Club co-director Brad Jacobs says.

Evidence obtained by Newshub shows one landlord offering Coffee Club a 50 percent rent reduction, if they extend their lease by a year.

Some offers were only on the table for a day - and if they refuse to accept? "Worst-case scenario is they apply to bankrupt me personally," Jacobs says.

But Council of Retail Property chair Campbell Barbour told Newshub there's another side to the story.

"For every story around landlords taking those positions, I could also tell you of a number of tenant positions that have been unfortunate as well."

However he wouldn't give Newshub any proof of that.

"We're the easy target," he said.

Businesses say they need the Government to urgently introduce a ban on evictions and stop landlords from sending them bankrupt.

"We're asking for the Government to step in, a moratorium on eviction notices and on debt collection for the next six months," Thompson says.

The Government says it's working on something - but until that's announced, business owners remain on the hook.