Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat earlier on 26 May announced that small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) tenants – with qualifying leases or licenses – will get more rent relief through a S$2 billion cash grant to help offset their rental costs.
The cash grant will be distributed through property owners, and it will be disbursed by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) from end-July. To obtain the grant, SME tenants must possess qualifying leases or licenses commencing before 25 March 2020.
This means that the Government will offset about two months of rental for qualifying SME tenants of commercial properties and about one month of rental for qualifying SME tenants in industrial and office properties, on top of the existing property tax rebate.
In fact, a new Bill will be introduced on Friday (5 June) which seeks to mandate landlords to provide rental waivers for SMEs who have seen at least 35 per cent drop in average monthly revenue from April to May on a year-on-year basis.
“Certain landlords will find it difficult to give the full waiver. Qualifying landlords, particularly the smaller landlords, with one property [and where rental] forms a substantial part of their income – we will set out the criteria – they will only be required to give half the amount of waiver,” said Minister of Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Tuesday (2 June).
The announcements certainly brought hopes to SME tenants as some of them declared “victory” to their appeal; but for some tenants in the art industry, the rental issue with their landlords continues.
On Wednesday (3 June), Singapore lawyer Ryan Su shared an actual contractual clause on Facebook which he claimed the post was consented by “someone who came to him for help”.
The contractual clause reads, “No further tax rebates, whatsoever will be entertained as rental has been discounted at an extreme low rate but should there be an extension of the ‘Circuit Breaker’ period, landlord will also extend this period to tenant. This ‘Circuit Breaker’ period applies only to this period April 7 to May 4, 2020.”
Mr Su pointed out that the rental fee is, in fact, not discounted at an extremely low rate but almost the same as the pre-COVID rates. He noted that landlords are using the clause as “an excuse” to “unlawfully retain Government rebates” that should be granted to the tenant.
“Landlords have to FULLY pass these on to tenants BY LAW. This is legally and morally corrupt,” he asserted. “We will make sure this is investigated by the Valuation Review Panel and the relevant authorities.”
Mr Su claimed that many tenants who are in the arts community are facing the same issue with their landlords, adding that these tenants are the ones who “need” the Government rebates and cash grant “the most”.
“Landlords are doing this to tenants in Singapore RIGHT NOW – to artists, to freelancers, to creative studios, to art spaces who NEED the Government rebates and grants the MOST,” he remarked.