Huge rent hike blow is ‘worse than the Boxing Day flooding’ for battling Leeds firms

Businessmen Tony Johnson and Alex Koi.  PIC: Tony Johnson
Businessmen Tony Johnson and Alex Koi. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Flood-ravaged firms in Kirkstall Road say they are being driven out of their units - and potentially out of business - by proposed rent increases of FIFTY per cent or more.

Businesses in the Burley Place industrial park contacted the Yorkshire Evening Post for help after being sent letters telling them their annual rent would go up when their current leases expire later this year.

Flooding in Kirkstall Road on December 27, 2015.  PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Flooding in Kirkstall Road on December 27, 2015. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

In one case, the letter came just days after they had managed to re-open after being devastated in the Boxing Day flooding which damaged 400 businesses in Leeds.

One firm, Abacus Doors, has been trading on the estate for almost 30 years, but its owner was yesterday told to agree to the new terms within hours - or hand in his notice.

The units are owned by London-based multi-national commercial property company Regus, which took them over from Evans Easyspace last year.

Tony Johnson, owner of Abacus Doors, said he had initially been told his rent was due to go up from £838 a month to £1,498, a 78 per cent hike which would have sent his annual rent bill soaring by almost £8,000. After protesting, he was told it would be reduced to a 30 per cent increase, something he says he still can’t afford.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said,

Alex Koi, who has run his Frame Game handmade picture framing business for almost 10 years - six of them from Kirkstall - said the rent hike blow was worse than the moment he walked into his shop and found it devastated by the flooding.

His rent was initially raised from £980 to £1,498 , a 50 per cent increase, but he was subsequently offered a reduced 35 per cent hike.

“It’s stressed me out more than the floods,” Mr Koi told the YEP.

“I walked in and saw everything under three feet of water and ruined.

“We bounced back from that - but how will we recover from this?

“We feel we have been treated very unfairly by our landlords, who are virtually making it impossible for us to stay - in the hope of achieving higher rent.”

Mr Koi said he suffered £10,000 of damage in the flooding, and claimed that the landlords were “invisible” during the clean-up effort, which saw hundreds of volunteers come together to help.

He added that the collective city effort – which included financial and other help from Leeds City Council – was a stark contrast to the current landlord row.

“They did not come to check on the buildings, offer support in cleaning up etc. They were invisible,” Mr Koi said.

“All the cleaning up and new electrics has been done by us.

“They have not made any steps to protect the building from another flood and haven’t even checked if it is structurally safe.

“A few days after we had re-opened we received an email from them telling us that the rent would be increased by 50 per cent, an increase of £500 plus VAT.

“To say I am disgusted with the way we have been treated is an understatement.

“We have been a tenant for many years now and have always paid our rent on time.

“The timing could not be worse and we simply cannot afford a rent increase on that scale.”

Another businessman, Ramin Sadri of Car Audio Point, said he pays almost £3,000 in total rents for his two units - but is also facing a 50 per cent increase.

“We understand rent goes up but it’s been all take, take, take and no give,” he said.
“I tried to call the landlords two days after the floods but could not get through at all. It has been shocking how little they have done.”

Regus, which has its UK headquarters in London and satellite offices in Leeds, declined to comment when approached by the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Up to 400 businesses in Leeds were heavily damaged in the Boxing Day flooding.

They won widespread praise for their resilience, and many are now back on their feet.

Hundreds of volunteers mucked in to help, and flood relief aid was made available to businesses from Leeds City Council.

This included a grant scheme providing up to £2,500 to aid immediate clean-up and recovery; full business rates relief for a minimum of three months and a flood resilience grant of up to £5,000.