Singapore

Tenants will get more clarity on rent relief soon: Edwin Tong

This article is more than 12 months old

More details on rent relief for tenants and the criteria that financially strapped landlords must meet to be exempt from giving the full rental waiver will be announced in the next few weeks, Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong said.

Guidelines are being worked out for the subsidiary legislation that is expected to give more clarity to parties on the new rent relief framework.

This comes after Parliament passed a landmark law on June 5 to help 260,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) cope with issues of rent, among other things, as the economic outlook worsens.

Under the enhanced Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment) Act, eligible tenants and sub-tenants in the food and beverage and commercial sectors will enjoy four months of rental waiver from April to next month - two months each from the Government and the landlord.

Those in the office and industrial sectors will get two months of rent waived for April and May - one month each from the Government and the landlord. This is as long as their leases are in force on April 1.

The enhanced Act - which is based on the premise of fair sharing of rental obligations among landlords, tenants and the Government - came into force as many SME tenants continued to struggle in the face of a slower economy.

Not all have had relief from their landlords. This, despite the passing of an earlier Covid-19 Act in April to ensure that non-residential property owners unconditionally passed on property tax rebates in full to their tenants as part of the Government's relief measures.

Part of the problem with the earlier scheme, said Mr Tong, was "a mismatch in timing".

"When rent is due may not always coincide with when the landlord receives the property tax rebate. That lack of coincidence sometimes means the tenant is wondering why the landlord hasn't given the rebate.

"To the landlord, who might himself be also cash-strapped, he will say, if I haven't received it, then I should not be funding this month's rental for the tenant. That mismatch caused some tensions.

"We became aware of that... and we realised that an easier way to do it would be what the scheme (has been designed) for now," he told The Straits Times.

The enhanced Act aims to ensure peace of mind and certainty, Mr Tong said.

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