Sompting landlady racks up £10,000s of debt after paying full rent during pandemic

A Sompting landlady faces losing her family home and her business after racking up tens of thousands of pounds of debt during the pandemic.

Maggie Treacy, 63, took over the running of The Gardener’s Arms, in West Street, Sompting, in 2009, with her partner, Mick.

She lives above the pub and, until the pandemic struck, her children worked with her as part of a family business.

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Mick sadly passed away a few years ago, leaving The Gardener’s Arms to Maggie.

The Gardener's Arms in Sompting. Owner, Maggie Treacy, and her daughter Maria. Pic Steve Robards SR2102034 SUS-210302-151058001

But the grandmother is now more than £30,000 in debt to the company that owns the building, Wellington, as it continued to charge full rent despite the country being in lockdown.

Next month, Maggie faces another £10,000 rent bill for the next three months.

“I really don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Maggie, who has had to take Universal Credit.

“I try to think ‘another day, another dollar’ and get up to do what needs to be done, but the debt keeps piling up.”

Maggie said Wellington offered her a three-month rent holiday and another six at half price, but only if she extended her remaining three-year lease by five years.

She rejected the offer, not wanting to be tied in to a long commitment, but an alternative deal did not come.

Instead, the debt piled up as she failed to pay her rent, faced council tax bills for the flat and utility bills of almost £1,000 a month.

Maggie has had to let all her staff go and, when the pub is allowed to reopen, will single-handedly serve, clean and cook to keep it going.

Her daughter Maria, 34, worked at the pub but has had to find another job.

She said they had received a £25,000 Government grant which they spent on mandatory renovations as part of their contract. She said had they known how long the restrictions would last they would not have done it.

“I don’t think anyone knew at the beginning how long this would go on for,” she said.

“This is our family home. Even though we don’t all live there, every occasion that happens all revolves around there. It’s really sad to think that potentially we will have to give that up.”

The business has gone from being worth £120,000 to almost worthless, she said.

Maggie said she hoped to sell the business in three years when her lease runs out, to fund her retirement.

Instead, she has seen what was to be her pension pot decimated by the pandemic and all of her life savings gone.

The Herald contacted Wellington but had not had a response at the time of going to press. A statement on its website said it was ‘open to discussions’ with its tenants to find ‘mutually beneficial’ support.