Parliament: Short-sighted not to pass on property tax rebates to tenants, says Chan Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing urged all the major landlords to do their part in helping their tenants and to work together with them to get through the current challenges. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - It would be short-sighted of commercial landlords not to pass on property tax rebates to their tenants during this challenging period, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Tuesday (March 3).

He also said the Government is aware "there are some issues between retailers and landlords", and that Enterprise Singapore is helping to arbitrate.

His remark in Parliament comes a day after the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) issued a statement saying some landlords are dragging their feet in giving promised rental rebates to struggling food and beverage (F&B) operators.

The F&B sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with some restaurants expecting revenues to plunge by as much as 80 per cent in the coming months, RAS said.

Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who raised the RASs concern, asked whether any measures will be taken to urge landlords to pass on their rebates.

Mr Chan said that since the 15 per cent property tax rebate for qualifying commercial properties was announced last week as part of measures to provide relief to businesses, the Government has seen a range of responses.

"On the positive side, we have seen landlords which have proactively gone out of their way to share the rebates with their tenants," he said.

Some have even offered additional help to those facing slower sales, he noted.

"On the other hand, it has also come to our attention that there are some landlords which are still taking a bit of time to roll out their packages."

Enterprise Singapore is in close consultation with RAS as well as the Singapore Retailers Association to help them work through issues with landlords, he said.

"I must thank Enterprise Singapore's officers, who have been working very hard over the last one week, day and night, trying to urge both sides to come to terms with each other."

The minister urged all the major landlords to do their part in helping their tenants and to work together with them to get through the current challenges.

Mr Chan noted that the relationship between landlord and tenant is a long-term one, and said it would be short-sighted of property owners to "try to stinge and save a bit here and there instead of passing on some of the benefits to the tenants".

"I think every one of us will have long memories of who are those who have come forward to do their part for their business partners in this difficult moment, and who are those that have taken a very short-term perspective to this," he said.

As not all tenants have been affected equally by the downturn caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, he suggested that more help should be given to those hit more severely.

"We are all in this together. The whole Singapore economy depends on businesses, the landlords, the retailers, everyone working together," said Mr Chan.

Some mall landlords such as Lendlease and CDL told The Straits Times on Tuesday that they are still waiting for details on which of their properties qualify for the property tax rebates.

Lendlease said it intends to pass on savings to tenants, but has not indicated whether this will take the form of rental rebates.

Many malls have rolled out support measures such as allowing tenants to have shorter operating hours and offering complimentary parking to lure shoppers.

But restaurants have said that rental relief is what they need the most.

CDL said it has already provided rental rebates to some tenants as well as flexibility in rental payments to alleviate cash flow issues.

Frasers Property Retail said it will be issuing credit notes for the property tax rebate to qualifying tenants from Friday (March 6), which can be used to offset rental payments.

"If the situation worsens, we will consider rolling out additional support such as rental reliefs," a spokesman said.

Mapletree Commercial Trust said the main component of its $11 million support programme for retailers is rental rebates for its tenants at VivoCity. The amount is four times more than the property tax rebates it will be receiving, and will translate to rebates of up to half a month for select tenants, it added.

CapitaLand said rental rebates of 20 to 30 per cent have been granted over two months to eligible tenants in its downtown malls, which have been affected to a greater degree. Rental relief will be disbursed in a targeted manner as different malls and trade categories have been impacted to varying degrees, it said.

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