Landlords can still recover rent owed last year: FS

Financial Secretary Paul Chan said while he plans to temporarily ban landlords from taking legal action against or evicting businesses falling behind on their rent during the latest Covid outbreak, they should still be able to try to recover any rent owed by their tenants last year.

Chan was responding to some landlords who called into a radio programme on Thursday, who complained that their tenants had been lagging behind on their rent even before the current wave of infections hit.

“They have been lagging behind on the rent for more than a year. Even though [they paid] a deposit amounting to three months of rent, that would not be enough to cover the outstanding amount of rent,” one landlord said.

In response, the finance minister said authorities plan to allow property owners to handle these situations according to their contracts.

“Our preliminary idea is to draw a line on January 1, when the Covid outbreak began. [We hope] landlords will go easy on tenants falling behind on their rent [since this date], and talk with them [about the arrangement]. This wave of outbreak came too rapidly… Can they try to find a way out together? The amount of outstanding rent before, meanwhile, can be handled according to the contract,” he explained.

The finance chief also reassured landlords who are worried about being unable to repay their mortgage on time, saying the Monetary Authority will remind banks to be flexible when dealing with these cases.

The proposed eviction ban, announced in the Budget on Wednesday, would last three months, and be extended by another three months if necessary.

The protection for tenants will cover selected businesses, including those affected by anti-pandemic measures and the retail sector.

Chan said the administration will seek the approval of the Executive Council and Legislative Council for the measure to take effect as soon as possible.

While Election Committee lawmaker Nelson Lam said he agrees with the financial chief’s proposed measure, he told an RTHK programme that property developers should do more to help struggling businesses.

“[With this measure], the government is simply hoping to take the lead and bring out the message that everyone should ride out the storm and fight the coronavirus together. With smaller businesses that are affected forced to close as part of the fight against Covid, shouldn’t big or even medium landlords do something too and not chase rents so frequently?” he questioned.

“Personally, I hope landlords, especially big landlords, to do more. It’s not about simply about offering up parcels of land to build makeshift hospitals – something to be done with the help of central authorities. On the other hand, they should consider offering rent concessions.”
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Last updated: 2022-02-24 HKT 12:17