Rental help for SME tenants in commercial properties

The MOF said on July 23, 2021, local retailers will receive grant support to get on local e-commerce platforms. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Eligible tenants of commercial properties will get additional help with rent payments, as Singapore tightens restrictions to curb Covid-19 infections in the community.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and eligible non-profit organisations with an annual revenue not exceeding $100 million qualify for this rental relief, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said on Friday (July 23).

Qualifying tenants on government-owned commercial properties will get a four-week rental waiver.

At the same time, qualifying tenant-occupiers and owner-occupiers of privately owned commercial properties will receive a two-week rental relief cash payout under the Rental Support Scheme.

These measures will offset rent for the full duration of the heightened alert phase from Thursday to Aug 18 for tenants on government-owned properties, and half of the period for those on privately owned properties.

The rental relief for tenants is part of a $1.1 billion support package to cushion the impact of tightened safe management measures on workers and businesses.

Similar support for rent payments was earlier granted to qualifying tenants during phase two (heightened alert) from May 16 to June 13.

In its statement, MOF noted that many tenants have provided feedback that not all landlords were forthcoming despite the Government encouraging landlords of commercial properties to provide rental support to affected businesses during the last heightened alert phase.

"To ensure fair burden sharing, the Government is looking to require sharing of rental obligations between the Government, landlords and qualifying tenants," it said.

"We recognise that there will be landlords who may face genuine hardship, and will take these landlords' circumstances into consideration."

More details will be announced by the Ministry of Law, MOF said.

On Wednesday, business associations representing retailers, SMEs and food and beverage (F&B) establishments called for landlords to take on a "fair share" of the burden and to provide timely rental rebates when stricter Covid-19 measures are in place.

Their plea came as many retailers and F&B operators have exhausted their reserves, after a 16-month struggle in the face of Covid-19 restrictions.

During the heightened alert phase in May to last month, some landlords provided relief through means such as rent restructuring, rent waivers and flexible payments, although many tenants have lamented that such actions have been taken by only a minority of landlords.

On Friday, MOF also announced that local retailers will receive grant support to get on local e-commerce platforms through the E-commerce Booster Package.

Retailers will receive a one-off 80 per cent support on qualifying costs for service fees charged by the platforms, capped at $8,000.

Participating e-commerce platforms are Lazada, Shopee, Qoo10, Mummys Market and Zalora.

The package was reintroduced by government agency Enterprise Singapore on May 16, and is available till Nov 16.

Solutions offered by the e-commerce platforms include content development, fulfilment of orders and training workshops to enhance e-commerce capabilities.

Responding to the rental relief measures, Restaurant Association of Singapore president Andrew Kwan said that the rental waiver and rebates for qualifying tenants are timely and critical for the survival of many F&B operators.

"We are also encouraged by the announcement that MOF is looking at how to require rental obligations to be shared fairly between the Government, landlords and qualifying tenants, and we look forward to more details to follow," he said.

"On behalf of F&B tenants, we once again call on landlords to meaningfully assist tenants in these times of extreme hardship."

A spokesman for the Singapore Retailers Association said the support package was a welcome relief for retailers.

It is hoping that landlords will be required to extend a minimum of 50 per cent of rent support for retailers during this heightened alert phase, the spokesman added.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.