Short-sighted of landlords not to pass on tax rebates: Chan

Enterprise S'pore helping to arbitrate over issues raised by tenants on sharing of savings

Trade And Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, on the relationship between landlord and tenant being a long-term one.

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 yesterday.

The Government is aware "there are some issues between retailers and landlords", and that Enterprise Singapore is helping to arbitrate, he told Parliament during the debate on his ministry's budget.

His remarks came a day after the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) issued a statement saying some landlords have been dragging their feet over giving promised rental rebates to struggling food and beverage (F&B) operators.

The F&B sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak, and RAS said some restaurants expect revenues to plunge by as much as 80 per cent in the coming months.

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

Mr Chan said that after the 15 per cent property tax rebate for qualifying commercial properties was announced two weeks ago as part of relief measures for businesses, there have been a range of responses.

"On the positive side, we have seen landlords who 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 who 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, Mr Chan added.

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

"Singapore is not that big an economy. 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.

Some mall landlords such as Lendlease and City Developments (CDL) told The Straits Times yesterday 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 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, which can be used to offset rental payments.

"If the situation worsens, we will consider rolling out additional support such as rental relief," 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 into rebates of up to half a month for select tenants, it added.

CapitaLand said rental rebates of 20 per cent 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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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2020, with the headline Short-sighted of landlords not to pass on tax rebates: Chan. Subscribe