Forum: Consumers pay the price in tenant-landlord tussles

Skyline of Singapore.
Skyline of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

There has been much discussion recently, especially online, between tenants and landlords over rental rebates and support.

An informal group called Singapore Tenants United for Fairness is pressing for help from landlords and calling for a more level playing field in rental terms.

But this is not an issue involving only tenants and landlords. It has an impact on regular consumers like us.

My dentist recently raised his fees. The building where his clinic is located has come under a new landlord who increased his rent by 15 per cent.

If he were to move out, he would need to spend a significant amount to reinstate the site and then another huge amount to renovate a new site, an investment he would probably take a year or two to recoup.

Then, there is the challenge of rebuilding a client base at a new location.

He is essentially stuck between a rock and a hard place.

This is the dilemma every tenant faces at rental renewal.

The reality is that most landlords, including companies that have a social enterprise mission, are chasing bigger profits every year. There is nothing to act as a counterbalance to their profit objective and, therefore, nothing to rein in rising rental rates.

This is one of the reasons why products cost more here than when you get them overseas.

The costs will eventually be passed down. Consumers will ultimately pay the price.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced tenants into an even tighter corner.

It is good that they start to raise important questions about the sustainability of such practices and what it means for local entrepreneurship.

Consumers are the ultimate winners when tenants get fair treatment from the landlords.

Koh Chern Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2020, with the headline 'Consumers pay the price in tenant-landlord tussles'. Print Edition | Subscribe