Most landlords should get notice of Govt cash grant by mid-Aug

The majority of property owners with tenants that qualify for rent relief under the amended Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act should receive notices about their Government cash grants by the middle of next month, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said yesterday.

Landlords cannot take enforcement action against tenants that meet the criteria for relief for non-payment of rent until the notices of the cash grant are issued, it said.

The amendments to the Act, which provide the rent relief framework for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and specified non-profit organisations, come into force today.

Landlords with eligible tenant-occupiers will receive their notices of the cash grant from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore from next week.

This notice will inform property owners of the rental waivers they should provide tenants.

They are required to provide their tenants with a copy of this notice within four working days of receiving it, so that tenants will have timely confirmation that they are eligible for the rent waivers.

Service of the notice may be done in person, via registered post or by e-mail, MinLaw said.

The rent relief framework will help affected SMEs that need more time and support to recover from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as eligible non-profit organisations.

Tenants and sub-tenants do not need to pay rent for the months covered by the rent relief framework.

Eligible tenants in the food and beverage, and commercial sectors will enjoy four months of rental waivers from April to this 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 were either entered into before March 25, or entered into before March 25 but had expired and renewed either automatically or in exercise of a right of renewal in the contract; and in force at any time between April 1 and today for qualifying commercial properties, and between April 1 and May 31 for other non-residential properties.

Once the property owner receives the notice of the cash grant, the applicable rent and any interest payable on the rent are waived under the Act.

Landlords may offset from the rental waivers any financial assistance, such as rental discounts, they had previously provided to their tenants.

If rent had already been paid, the rental waivers should be applied to the next immediate month or months of rent. If this is not possible, tenants may obtain a refund from their landlords.

Apart from the rent relief framework, businesses and individuals that are unable to perform their contractual obligations due to Covid-19 have other enhanced reliefs.

Tenants who were unable to vacate their premises after the expiry of their lease or licence due to Covid-19, because they were unable to hire movers, for instance, will not have to pay double rent for “holding over”, although some amounts will still be payable.

A cap on late payment interest and charges on arrears has been set at an amount equal to 5 per cent per annum of simple interest.

This cap applies to certain contracts, including hire-purchase agreements for equipment and rental agreements for commercial vehicles.

Once a notification for relief is served, the reliefs will apply for the prescribed period under the Act, which is currently until Oct 19.

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