Relief period extended for some commercial contracts

Firms will be covered until new law allowing them to terminate contracts early kicks in

Buyers of some commercial and industrial property, who are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations owing to Covid-19, will continue to get temporary relief from legal and enforcement action for an additional two to three months.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said yesterday the relief period for certain contracts under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act will be extended to ensure businesses continue to obtain temporary relief from legal and enforcement actions until the recently announced Re-Align Framework is implemented.

The framework, which was debated in Parliament on Nov 3, will allow owners of micro and small businesses with a significant fall in revenue since the pandemic started to renegotiate certain contracts or terminate them early without penalty.

For hire-purchase, conditional sales and rental agreements for commercial equipment or commercial vehicles, the existing Nov 19 deadline will be extended to Jan 31 next year.

This excludes hire-purchase or conditional agreements entered into with banks or finance companies regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which will still expire on Nov 19.

The ministry said eligible hirers or renters of commercial equipment or commercial vehicles may take up a repayment scheme to pay outstanding arrears in instalments under the Re-Align Framework.

To take up this repayment scheme, the agreement must still be in force, and the hirer or renter must serve notice on all parties to the contract within six weeks of the Re-Align Framework coming into force.

The relief periods for these contracts have thus been extended to give hirers and renters who have served or need to serve a Notification for Relief under the Act the opportunity to take up the repayment scheme.

Meanwhile, option to purchase and sales and purchase agreements with developers will have the relief period extended from the current Dec 31 deadline to March 31 next year.

MinLaw said the extension will help buyers of residential, commercial and industrial properties who need more time to make their payments, particularly those who pay developers directly without taking a bank loan.

It will also have minimal impact on developers' cash flow.

In addition, it will let developers and purchasers seek temporary protection from being sued during the relief period, if they are unable to perform any contractual obligations owing to Covid-19, the ministry added.

The relief periods for other contracts will not be extended. For instance, the relief for secured loans to small and medium-sized enterprises and leases and licences of non-residential property will end on Nov 19, as announced earlier.

This means that parties to such contracts may commence or resume legal and enforcement action after Nov 19, as provided for in their contracts and in general law.

It applies, even if the parties were served a Notification for Relief before that date. Parties will also no longer be able to serve new Notifications for Relief or apply for an assessor to determine the outcome of disagreements.

The relief for event and tourism-related contracts will end on Dec 31, as announced earlier.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2020, with the headline Relief period extended for some commercial contracts. Subscribe