Property owners could be left more than £7.4bn out of pocket by the end of the year as a result of unpaid rent.

New figures from Remit Consulting show that the despite the improvement in levels of payments by tenants, the shortfall in rent that should have been paid by occupiers of commercial property in the UK during the pandemic could nudge close to £8bn.

Remit said that as part of its ongoing study into the volume of rent and service charge payments since March 2020, investors can expect a total shortfall in rent for the September quarter of around £435m. This means that by the December quarter day (25 December) the total shortfall in rent since the first Covid-19 lockdown is likely to have reached more than £7.4bn.

Laura Andrews of Remit Consulting said: “Each quarter since March 2020, commercial property investors, which include many pension funds and other institutions, have seen a shortfall in the rent payments. While the figures have improved steadily during the pandemic, we are still expecting a shortfall at the end of the quarter, across all asset classes, of around 6% compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is bad news for investors, and for anybody whose pensions and savings are invested in real estate.”

She added: “While the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 may not have a great impact on the figures for the last three months, the increased restrictions, particularly in the retail and leisure sectors, may affect the amount of rent collected when the December quarter invoices are issued by landlords and property managers.

“With the government’s moratorium on eviction of business occupiers for non-payment of rent is due to end in March, and the introduction of the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill, the situation regarding outstanding payments should be clarified over the coming months. It will not, however, be a fast process, and we can expect that it will take years to resolve.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Remit Consulting has worked with the British Property Federation, RICS, Revo, Agents Advisory Group and other members of the Property Industry Alliance, analysing the collection of rent and service charge payments by the country’s largest property management firms.