Photo: 110th Street Productions / Helsinki City

Helsinki announces series of payment waivers and refunds to compensate for coronavirus closures

In its latest round of decisions, the City of Helsinki has decided to temporarily waive rental payments on commercial premises and terraces, refund fees for day care services, shut down two market halls, and more.

The covid-19 coronavirus crisis has fundamentally changed the operating environment of many businesses in recent days, and this group includes many companies that rent their premises from the city. Finland’s government has ordered businesses in the restaurant, bar and coffee shop industry to stop their operations until 31 May 2020. The situation has also greatly affected firms that rely on customer traffic for their business: indoor fitness centres being one example.

After careful analysis of the situation, the City of Helsinki has decided to waive rental payments for the period 1 April to 30 June 2020 for commercial tenants in at least the following lines of work: restaurants and other food services, retail stores, hairdressers, beauty salons, fitness and health services (including massage and physiotherapy), activities related to the arts, music and other public events, and business and start-up advisory services. This waiver also applies to rent on space in Helsinki’s market halls.

The decision will go into effect automatically, so business owners affected need not contact the city. Businesses that work in other sectors may also be exempted from rent payments, if it is deemed necessary in a separate assessment. During the waiver period, the tenants are free to continue the business operations covered by the lease, with the exception of the services shut down by state authorities. Tenants are asked to inform their property owner’s agent about any such operations.

The City of Helsinki advises its subsidiaries to consider the rental payment waiver when analysing the state of their finances. 

Government orders will determine how long the rental payment waiver will ultimately last, as will the duration of the business disruption brought on by the coronavirus.

No rent on restaurant terraces until June

The City of Helsinki has also made the decision to waive rental payments on uncovered restaurant terraces between the period 1 April and 31 May 2020. The move was considered necessary because the coronavirus will likely keep Helsinki’s restaurants closed until the first of June.

The decision applies to all of Helsinki’s uncovered terraces and parklet terraces, i.e. parking spaces that are temporarily repurposed for use as a terrace. At last count, there were 359 such spaces in the city.

The rental payment waiver will not apply to the four areas the city has leased out for use as covered terraces. Kiosks that sell food and groceries will likewise have to pay rent as usual, as the restaurant ban does not apply to their operations.

Rental payments will be cancelled automatically, so parties renting such space need not contact the city about the matter. It is not necessary to dismantle restaurant terraces during the ban, but the terrace furniture should be removed or stored so it cannot be used, and the areas should be kept tidy.

Two market halls closed

The City of Helsinki also decided to close up the Vanha kauppahalli (Old Market Hall) and the Hietalahti Market Hall due to the coronavirus. The last day of operations at the Hietalahti hall will be on 28 March. Vanha kauppahalli’s last day will fall on 9 April.

Reopening of the halls will be dependent on how the coronavirus situation develops, and how long the state of emergency in Finland continues. Operations will continue as normal in the temporary premises of the Hakaniemi Market Hall. Restaurants in the Hakaniemi hall will close, but the other stalls will remain open, according to the vendors’ wishes. Special attention will be paid to regular cleaning of the space with disinfectant and the maintenance of good hygiene.

Refunds of day care payments and customer fees

The City of Helsinki has also made decisions regarding customer and service fees in the areas of social and health care services, culture and leisure activities, and education.

It was determined that, as a rule, the state of emergency has not prohibited the use of social and health care services. Customer fees in this area are determined by how much care the customer requires, according to a treatment plan or the number of visits. 

In the area of day care centre fees, however, it was decided that all absences that occurred during the home care recommendation would be refunded for the duration of the recommendation. Invoices for March day care services will also be postponed until the end of April. The official City of Helsinki recommendation is still that parents and guardians should take care of their preschoolers at home, if possible.

More information on these decisions is available on the hel.fi website:

Helsinki decides to refund day care fees for absences due to covid-19

Discounts on autumn sport and leisure activities for those affected by spring cancellations

Special hospital and health care centre parking arrangements introduced

The City of Helsinki also made a decision to introduce special parking arrangments to ease the movement of social and health care service employees.

Parking areas for staff at the Laakso and Malmi coronavirus treatment hubs, the metropolitan area hospital network HUS locations, and Helsinki social and health care service locations will be reserved in a separate area that is not as close to central activities. These special parking arrangments have already been introduced at the Laakso and Malmi facilities.

More information on the arrangements is available on the hel.fi website: 

Separate parking areas established for employees of hospitals and health centres