rental relief

Office Tenants Impacted By Pandemic To Get More Help From Amended Law

SINGAPORE – Entrepreneurs and businesses leasing non-residential properties, including office space and commercial property, that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can get more assistance in getting rental relief, announced the Ministry of Law on Wednesday (30 September).

On that day, revisions to the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act that were approved by the Parliament in September and related subsidiary legislation have taken effect.

The amendments include provisions that confer greater power to assessors of rental disputes that have been appointed by the Ministry. Under the new rules, rental relief assessors can now decide over disagreements concerning the rental amount to be waived, wherein the amount is impacted by certain factors.

For instance, there are maintenance & service charges, particularly in cases where such fees are not explicitly stated in the lease or licence agreements.

Another is the amount can be diminished or offset by assistance provided by the lessor earlier, or the lessee(s) only occupied the office space or commercial premises for a portion of the relief period.

Lastly, the property is sub-divided, meaning there are multiple sub-tenants, and not all of whom may qualify for rental waivers.

“The expanded powers only apply to unresolved disputes involving any of the above. The rental relief assessors will not review existing arrangements that have been mutually agreed upon between landlords and tenants on the implementation of the rental waivers,” said the Ministry.

For those who are facing rental disagreements related to the aforementioned, they can submit applications that will be evaluated by rental relief assessors. The applications should be submitted within certain deadlines.

For those who received the notice of cash grant or a copy of it from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) on or before 30 September 2020, they need to submit the application by 14 October of the same year.

If it was received after 30 September, the application should be submitted within 10 working days after receiving the notice. Most eligible landlords or property owners have already received their notice of cash grants by mid-August. Qualified lessors who haven’t gotten the notice, may manually submit an application to IRAS by 21 October 2020.

Moreover, Part 8 of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act took effect on Wednesday.

Apart from providing rental relief to renters of goods used for construction work, it also provides rental relief to tenants and landlords of office space and commercial property in specific situations.

In particular, lessees of non-residential properties are usually granted a period of free or reduced rent to complete renovation or fit out works. But if they failed to take advantage of the period to complete the necessary works due to COVID-19, the occupant may apply for rental relief for a portion of the period that wasn’t utilized.

Another beneficiary are lessors of non-residential properties who failed to deliver possession or enable use of premises to a lessee in accordance to the stipulated date in a lease or licence agreement, as the pandemic has affected the property owner’s construction contract with a third party.

To qualify for the relief, the affected contract must be in force at any time from 1 February 2020 to 31 March 2021, and the delay or breach in the contract must happen during the said time frame.

Also, the agreement must be signed prior to 25 March 2020. Leases or licences renewed on or after that date are also eligible.

Parties may apply for relief under Part 8 of the Act by submitting an application to the Registrar. Applications need to be submitted by 31 May 2021.

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