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Meanwhile Use Leases (MULs) for pop-up businesses

By Dru Haynes

15th May 2021

Vacant shops present a problem to landlords for a variety of reasons not least due to the significant business rates they face paying on empty units and ongoing costs of insurance, maintenance, and security. Meanwhile Use Leases (MULs) are a Government-backed means of filling vacant shops on a temporary basis developed in light of the recent economic downturn.


The intention of MULs is to allow non-commercial tenants - charities, voluntary organisations, learning providers, local artists, etc - to occupy premises on a short-term basis for little or no rent, whilst at the same time providing the benefit of occupied property to landlords. A boost to the local high street is also a major driver behind the project with a push to increase footfall in declining areas with popular community-based projects.


Positives for tenants:

  • access to high profile space on the high street which would otherwise have been too expensive
  • short-term commitment rather than a lengthy lease
  • opportunity to showcase something new with low costs and low commitment
  • enable tenants to test demand for and popularity of their venture

Positives for landlords:

  • low admin and legal costs - documentation already developed
  • reduction of overheads - utility bills, business rates, security, insurance costs covered by the tenant
  • tenant to return the property to the landlord in the same condition it was taken
  • letting is short-term only and can be terminated with little notice if a commercial tenant presents
  • occupation of the property protects the long-term prospects of its use as an attractive commercial space


A pop-up is a great way to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, test whether an idea is workable, and learn from direct experience. However usable business space is expensive, venture financing may be restrictive and intelligence on your potential market may be scarce, so creative forms are required. Running a temporary business can give you a chance to experiment, test the market and gain experience before making expensive investments.


If this sounds like something you might be interested in, why not take a look at the Meanwhile Foundation and gov.uk