Shopping malls face massive hit as unpaid rent surges amid COVID-19 crisis

Shopping malls are facing a wave of skipped rents and also could see vacancy rates triple by the year-end, with Coronavirus poised to leave its scars on a fragile retail sector long after the pandemic ends.

In the country’s enclosed regional malls — a category that includes Toronto’s Eaton Centre and Pacific Centre in Vancouver, only 20 per cent to 25 per cent of tenants paid rent in April, according to brokerage firm JLL Canada. Big box shopping centres and community strip malls took in only a little over half their expected rent.

Shopping malls and main-street shops, bastions of community commerce, were already under pressure after two years of weak retail sales, rising property taxes and the shift to e-commerce.

Nationwide shutdowns of all but essential stores during the pandemic have added further strain, with landlords facing lost rental income and tenant closures.