Outbreak fuels renewed push for fair tenancy law
As businesses suffer, Govt urged to set up fair tenancy commission
The food and beverages industry, reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, has called for legislation to give businesses more flexibility when dealing with landlords.
The Fair Tenancy Framework Industry Committee's (FTFIC) 15 recommendations for a fair tenancy framework were submitted yesterday to the Law and Trade and Industry ministries.
The framework outlines a three-pronged initiative: Calling upon landlords to be transparent with tenants; that landlords must observe a conduct of behaviour; and that landlords must maintain a fair tenancy commission.
It also recommended that two levels of rental data be available for tenants to use in negotiations.
One would include a public-rental database to be uploaded each month, while mall-level productivity and performance figures should be provided by landlords to tenants.
Mr Ashok Melwani, owner of Italian restaurant Modesto's, told The New Paper yesterday that this has been a long-standing issue even before Covid-19.
It came to the fore after the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Bill was passed last month to ensure commercial property owners unconditionally passed on property tax rebates in full to their tenants as part of the relief measures.
Mr Melwani, who has been in the F&B and retail industries for 38 years, said: "There is a mandate among institutional landlords to be rent-maximising, leaving little to no wiggle room for trustees to negotiate terms."
Such sour experiences are one of the reasons why Mr Melwani, 62, has decided to shut Modesto's doors next month, after 23 years. "If institutional landlords don't reach out to save tenants, sadly there will be a lot more closures to come," he said.
Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and chairman of FTFIC, told The Straits Times: "When rental rebates were announced, there was much tussle over whether the landlords will issue the rebates to tenants and how much they will release.
"Many institutional landlords even imposed conditions on tenants when giving rebates and it almost always came with a gag order. Some did not even care how urgently the tenants needed the speedy help, and proposed delayed and time-staggered payments through months ahead."
Mr Andrew Kwan, co-chairman and vice-president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore, said: "If we cannot find a resolution during this period, what will likely happen is this is going to translate to actual closures and loss of jobs. We hire about 200,000 workers and the impact can be large."
Mr Logan Wong, a distributor for Yankee Candle, said yesterday such legislation will help tenants like him who have been grappling with tenancy negotiations.
Mr Lucas Tok, marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said these recommendations should have been put up a long time ago.
He said: "Brick-and-mortar shops have been suffering for the past few years and landlords haven't exactly been supportive. It has always been at the fulcrum of discussions that landlords should be more responsible. These issues are long-running and Covid-19 has brought upon an urgency to address them."