Government renews calls for Covid rent concessions

The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, has urged property developers to offer rent concessions to tenants that have been forced to close because of social gathering restrictions.

The mandatory closure of these premises, which include gyms, beauty parlours, and hair salons, will be in place until at least April 20.

In a social media post, the CE said the government’s anti-epidemic fund alone could not make up for their losses, and landlords should do their bit by waiving rents.

She added that the catering sector should receive financial assistance as well. While restaurants are allowed to open, Lam said, they had seen a plunge in business due to social distancing rules.

The Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, echoed the Chief Executive’s plea on his blog, calling on property developers and big landlords to shoulder their corporate social responsibility by offering rent concessions to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The financial chief also said he was pushing for a new law that would allow rent payments to be delayed by up to six months, after receiving, what he said was, an unsatisfactory response from landlords over rent relief.

In his budget on Wednesday, Chan proposed introducing a limited moratorium on rent enforcement to temporarily ban landlords from evicting, or starting legal proceedings against, struggling businesses that fall behind on their rent during the current Covid situation.

He said the measure would prevent smaller businesses folding like dominoes.

Additional calls for developers to provide financial assistance to struggling tenants came after one of Hong Kong’s biggest retail landlords, Swire Properties, announced on Friday that it would waive rents for affected tenants in the company’s wholly-owned shopping malls – Pacific Place and Cityplaza.

Other major developers, including CK Assets Holdings, New World Development, and Sun Hung Kai Properties, had earlier pledged to offer hotel rooms and commercial space as isolation facilities to house Covid patients.