More help for firms, individuals to get rental relief as coronavirus legislation comes into force

SINGAPORE – Firms and individuals can get more help in obtaining rental relief during the coronavirus pandemic, as related legislation came into force on Wednesday (Sept 30), the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said.

These amendments to the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act and related laws strengthen the legal mechanisms available to support businesses and people in dealing with the impact of the pandemic, it added.

The changes include giving expanded powers to rental relief assessors and providing a way for those affected by construction-related delays to get help.

Under the new rules, rental relief assessors can now make decisions on disputes that relate to the amount of rent to be waived, under the rental relief framework.

This applies to cases where the amount of waiver is affected by issues such as maintenance and service charges, especially where such charges are not explicitly listed in lease or licence agreements.

It also applies to scenarios where the amount can be offset by earlier assistance provided by the landlord, where the tenant occupies the property for only a part of the relief period and where there is sub-division of property, which means there are multiple sub-tenants whereby not all of them may be eligible for waivers.

But rental relief assessors will not review existing arrangements that have already been agreed upon by landlords and tenants, regarding the implementation of rental waivers.

Those who have disputes relating to the amount of rent waiver can submit applications for a rental relief assessor to review.

They have to submit the application by Oct 14, if they received notice of a cash grant by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) on or before Sept 30.

Those who receive it after Sept 30 can submit applications within 10 working days of receiving the notice.

Besides those with disputes, the new changes also provide a mechanism for those affected by construction-related delays to get help.

This mechanism aims to provide relief for those who rent goods used for construction work who are now liable for additional expenses due to a delay or breach in a related contract.

For example, a contractor may have rented goods such as scaffolding material or hand drills from a supplier to perform works under a construction contract with a third party.

But the works may be delayed due to the pandemic, incurring additional rental expenses. The contractor can then apply for relief, said MinLaw.

The support also applies to tenants of non-residential properties who cannot carry out or finish renovation or fitting out works during their rent-free period.

Tenants are typically granted a rent-free window to finish such works, but they might have lost out on this window if contractors could not complete renovation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The tenant may apply for relief for the part of the rent-free period that was not used, MinLaw added.

Lastly, the new mechanism also applies to landlords of non-residential properties who are unable to deliver possession to the tenant by a stipulated date, because of coronavirus-related delays in construction.

To be eligible for relief, applicants must also check that their affected contracts had been in force anytime between Feb 1 this year and March 31 next year.

The contract must also be entered into before March 25, and any delay or breach must have occurred between Feb 1 this year and March 31 next year.

They must submit applications for relief by May 31 next year.

MinLaw added that an assessor appointed by the ministry may adjust the contractual terms to mitigate the impact of the delay, in those specific circumstances.

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