TL;DR – But it’s actually a good thing for many more people.
I read that the government is going to enact new laws because of this COVID-19 situation. The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill that will be introduced in Parliament next week will protect companies that are unable to pay their rent and individuals who have placed deposits for events including weddings. The Bill overs five categories of contracts:
- Non-residential leases
- Construction or supply contracts
- Event agreements
- Tourism-related contracts such as tour packages
- Secured loan facilities
The Bill, which is expected to take effect in mid-April, covers agreements made before Mar 25 when stricter safe distancing measures were introduced.
With this Bill, construction companies, they will not be liable for liquidated damages or delays arising from COVID-19. Which is why I’m not pleased with the Bill. You see, last year, I purchased a new condo apartment. It’s still under construction. And it is supposed to be ready by 2023 or so.
But now, with this COVID-19 situation, things might get delayed. And the construction company and developer won’t have to pay any liquidated damages for the delay! Basket.
But that aside, actually, I’m quite happy that the government is introducing this Bill. I have friends who either own F&B or retail businesses. They are bleeding cash since tourist numbers are practically zero and locals are staying home (Yes, please continue to stay home!) Some of them will very soon face the unpleasant situation of choosing between paying rent or paying their workers. Without this Bill, if my friends don’t pay their rent, they will be evicted, and the workers will still lose their jobs. But with this Bill, they can now choose to pay their workers instead, without worrying that they may be evicted.
It also helps that the Government has announced property tax rebates for commercial landlords, and said that it is prepared to take action when necessary to ensure that the property tax rebates granted to commercial landlords are passed on to their tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.
DPM Heng said this when delivering the Resilience Budget last Thursday, “So my message to landlords is: do your part, chip in and give additional help to tenants who are more badly hit.”
According to a Straits Times article, tenants are skeptical that landlords will pass on rebates down to them.
But I am happy to see that many of the bigger commercial landlords are already passing the property tax rebates on to their tenants in the form of rental rebates:
It is heartening to see that some of these landlords are giving more than that they have gotten from the government. CapitaLand and Mercatus Cooperative Limited are suspending rents for entertainment venues, tuition, and enrichment centres.
CapitaLand’s retail network in Singapore covers 19 malls, including Bugis Junction, ION Orchard, Jewel and Plaza Singapura. Mercatus, a real estate subsidiary of NTUC Enterprises, counts AMK Hub, Jurong Point and NEX under its belt.
All this measures are like blood transfusion for many business.
As Minister Shanmugam put it, they “will help stanch the flow of blood, specifically categories of contracts where you have seen a lot of calls from retailers and tenants that they are bleeding because Covid-19 is not something that anyone could have predicted”.
These measures will certainly minimise the chances that businesses that were otherwise well-run, stable, and profitable from going into insolvency because of the COVID-19 situation. And only when businesses can stay in business can they continue to hire workers. So while these measures are meant to directly help businesses, they indirectly help workers keep their jobs.
So… I suppose… this COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill is actually not bad. Not bad at all.
(Featured image via FB)