This month, I have seen an unusually diverse range of enquiries, requests for assistance and disputes come through my office.
A common theme for disputes is the return of bond or bank guarantee at the end of a retail tenancy. This could suggest an increased number of small businesses are either closing or changing their premises. Interestingly, a few tenants have sought our assistance having changed their mind the day after, or very soon after, signing a new lease, and wishing to walk away without financial penalty. This month’s enquiry trends also indicate genuine challenges continue to be experienced with the complexity of some commercial lease agreements. We’ve also seen an increased volume of queries regarding increases to rent and outgoings levied.
I was grateful to the Queensland Law Society for publishing my article this month in Proctor online, which explains our process and what businesses can expect if they lodge a request for assistance through to mediation.
My team continues to work closely with small business tenants affected by the closure of the Toombul Shopping Centre following the February flood event. I am aware there remain roughly 30-40 small business tenants that have yet to access either of the landlord’s support payments, flood related grants, or get in contact with my team for other assistance. If you were a small business tenant at the Toombul centre at the time of the flood, or you know someone who was, I encourage you to make contact by phoning my office on 1300 312 344. There are supports and assistance available and I want to ensure all affected small businesses access everything on offer.
Another interesting trend in enquiries this month relates to the disruptive impact of roadworks and other construction works on small businesses. It is possible that adverse weather conditions and a broader shortage of workers could be prolonging the impact, which might explain the increased number of complaints regarding disruptive impact of roadworks. It is critical that all levels of government find ways to work with small business during construction to limit the impact of disruptions such as restricted access, reduced car parking, and construction noise. The Queensland government has developed a good practice engagement guide Works with Small Business which I am using to advocate and ensure this important issue is brought to the forefront of government policy and decision-making.
I know it is tough on pretty much everyone at the moment, with increased costs of doing business (electricity, fuel, freight), the difficulty with getting enough staff, and retailers in particular are reporting increased incidences of retail crime. Our Queensland Small Business Hardship Appeal in partnership with GIVIT has already successfully matched some small business requests with donations. Don’t forget to use it if you need it, and of course if you have something you could donate – for example business equipment in good working order that you no longer need – please get in touch and we’ll sort out what you can do.
And finally, I wanted to an especially fabulous ‘small business thank-you’ message – spotted on the Boomerangz Thongs website during a recent meeting with them together with the Hon. Bruce Billson (Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman). We all know the wonderful economic and social ripple-effect when we buy locally and shop from small businesses, but did you know there are at least 22 individuals, fellow business owners and their families that benefit from every pair of Boomerangz Thongs sold? Check out their long ‘thank you’ note’ to read the full list of all the people’s livelihoods your purchase boosts. What a delightful reminder about why supporting small business is so important.
Queensland Small Business Commissioner