COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and forced many of us to adapt to the evolving situation. Some of us simply changed the way we live and work. However, business owners might be having a much harder time adapting, given the constant disruptions to their business, brought about by the overwhelming restrictions.
Hence, the Singapore government has rolled out measures to support businesses during this tough period. One such measure is the COVID-19 Rental Waiver Framework.
This article will discuss the following:
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What is the Rental Waiver Framework?
The Rental Waiver Framework (RWF) is a scheme that provides eligible tenants in Singapore with 2 weeks’ worth of rental waivers. It was introduced to help Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and specified Non-Profit Organisations (NPO) cope with the impact on their rental obligations caused by the restrictions during Phase 2 Heightened Alert [P2(HA)].
Commenced on 5 October 2021, the RWF is in addition to the other measures that were rolled out during P2(HA). For instance, the Rental Support Scheme (RSS) provided cash relief to qualifying tenants in privately owned commercial properties. Collectively, the RSS and RWF provide 1.5 months’ worth of rental support.
However, RWF is different from the RSS and another scheme known as the Rental Relief Framework (RRF).
- The type of relief given – Under RSS, the government gives out cash grants to eligible tenants directly. Conversely, RWF does not give out any form of cash payments. Instead, it simply reduces the rent payable by tenants by 2 weeks. Lastly, under RRF, rental relief is provided in the form of either rental waiver or monetary payments.
- Amount of relief – Under the RSS, the cash pay-out is equivalent to 0.5 months’ worth of either gross rent or the property’s annual value. On the other hand, the RRF offers a total of 4 months’ worth of rental relief for qualifying commercial properties and 2 months’ worth of rental relief for other non-residential properties. Lastly, the RWF provides 2 weeks’ worth of rental waiver.
- Period of scheme – Both the RWF and RSS are effective during the two periods of P2(HA) from 16 May 2021 to 18 August 2021. Conversely, the RRF was effective between 1 April and 31 July 2020.
What Are the Eligibility Criteria for the Rental Waiver Framework?
It is important to note that the RWF does not apply to government-owned properties. An SME or NPO tenant-occupier (including subtenants and licensees) of a qualifying commercial property must fulfil the eligibility criteria listed below to qualify for the RWF:
- Its annual revenue does not exceed $100 million in FY2019;
- Its lease or licence must be:
- Entered into or renewed before 20 July 2021;
- In force for the entire period from 5 August to 18 August 2021 (both dates inclusive); and
- Its lease or licence must have been stamped on or before 2 August 2021. (An SME or NPO tenant-occupier who meets all eligibility criteria but has an unstamped lease or licence may make a manual application for rental waiver. Such cases will be assessed by a rental waiver assessor. More information on this is available below);
- It must have suffered at least a 20% drop in average monthly revenue during both P2(HA) periods (16 May 2021 to 13 June 2021 and 22 July 2021 to 18 August 2021, all dates inclusive), as compared to the Phase 3 period (28 December 2020 to 7 May 2021, both dates inclusive); and
- If it is part of a Singapore group of entities, the group’s annual revenue must not exceed $100 million in FY2019. (This does not apply to SMEs that are not part of any group of companies, or NPOs.)
If You’re Eligible, Do You Need to Apply for the Rental Waiver?
Yes, you do. If you qualified for the second pay-out under the RSS, you will receive a Notice of Rental Waiver from the Ministry of Law from 6 October 2021 onwards. However, this notice does not automatically entitle you to the rental waiver.
Once you receive the notice, you need to determine if you meet all the eligibility requirements stated above. Following which, you must:
- Complete the Declaration Form that accompanies the Notice; and
- Send via email or registered post, the following documents to your immediate landlord within 28 calendar days from the date of the Notice:
- A copy of the Notice;
- A copy of the completed Declaration Form; and
- Copies of the supporting documents listed in Annex A.
On the other hand, if you’ve rented a part of property, mixed property and/or are a licensee, you may not receive the second RSS payout and Notice.
If you believe that you are eligible for the rental waiver under the RWF but have not received the second RSS pay-out and the Notice by 15 October 2021, you should apply for the second RSS pay-out at this page by 12 November 2021. If your application is successful, you will receive the Notice and can then complete the steps above to obtain the rental waiver.
The rental waiver will take effect once you have sent all the documents to your landlord. It will waive the rent payable, including any interests or charges, for the period of 5 to 18 August 2021 first. If you have already paid the rent for the said period, your rent for the next most immediate month will be reduced by 2 weeks’ worth of rent.
If your landlord had already voluntarily provided you with a rental waiver, they may choose to offset any monies, or rental waivers they have given you, from the 2 weeks’ waiver. In this situation, you will not be able to claim both your landlord’s voluntary rental waivers and the full 2 weeks’ waiver under the RWF.
What Can You Do if You and Your Landlord Have a Rental Waiver-Related Dispute?
As you try to claim a rental waiver from your landlord under the RWF, your landlord may decide that they are not required to grant it. Alternatively, your landlord may dispute the amount of waiver to be granted on the ground of financial hardship.
In such events, either you or your landlord may apply to an independent rental waiver assessor for a determination within 14 calendar days of your landlord receiving the Notice of Rental Waiver and supporting documents from you. There are no fees for applying for the determination.
During the determination, the assessor will review both parties’ cases and make a decision on the matter. Possible outcomes would include the assessor deciding that you are eligible for rental waiver, or the landlord is exempted from providing the rental waiver due to financial hardship on his part. Alternatively, the assessor could reverse or reduce the rental waiver depending on the circumstances of the case.
The assessor’s determination is not appealable.
The RWF is an additional measure to support business owners affected by the P2(HA) measures in Singapore. To obtain the rental waiver, however, you must meet the eligibility criteria and take the required action.
Nevertheless, it is important that you honour your contractual obligations in the rental agreement, such as paying rent on time, until you receive the Notice of Rental Waiver.
We strongly encourage you to speak with a landlord-tenant disputes lawyer for legal advice on claiming the rental waiver from your landlord, or if you are facing some other rental-related dispute. The lawyer could help you to assess if you are eligible for the waiver. They could also advise you on the legal steps you can take to resolve any rental-related disputes with your landlord.