To help businesses deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Singapore government has announced that eligible tenants will be able to receive monetary payments or reductions in rental. These benefits are to be passed on from the property tax rebates that the government has given to landlords (i.e owners) of commercial property.
If there are any disputes between you, the tenant, and the landlord of the property as to whether the benefit must be passed on to you, you may apply for the dispute to be heard and determined by the Valuation Review Panel (VRP).
This article will discuss the eligibility requirements of landlords to receive the property tax rebate for the purposes of passing it on to the tenants, as well as the process for applying to the VRP for a property tax rebate dispute in Singapore.
Eligibility of Landlords for Property Tax Rebates
Landlords of the following types of property (“prescribed property”) will receive the following rebates from the government:
- Restaurants, hotels, retail shops and the Singapore Zoo: 100% rebate;
- Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa: 60% rebate; and
- Factories, offices and warehouses: 30% rebate.
They will have been notified by the Comptroller of Property Tax via the myTax portal if they are eligible for the rebates.
Under section 29(2) of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act, landlords are then required to unconditionally pass on property tax rebates to qualifying tenants by paying them a tax refund or reducing their rent by an equivalent amount.
The rebate must be passed on by 31 July 2020 for rebates given for January to June 2020, and passed on by 31 December 2020 for rebates given for July to December 2020.
Eligibility to Apply to the Valuation Review Panel
Disputes between you and your landlord may arise regarding issues such as the amount of tax rebate that should be passed on to you, and the deadline by which this must be done.
If so, you can apply to the VRP to help you resolve the dispute.
The VRP is a panel set up to hear disputes relating to the passing on of COVID-19 property tax rebates from landlords to their tenants. The panel is made up of one to three members of the Valuation Review Board who are appointed by the Chairman of the Board.
To determine your eligibility to apply to the VRP, you will need to check:
- Whether you are eligible for the property tax rebates, and
- Whether your dispute is one that the VRP will hear.
Is your landlord required to pass on the property tax rebates to you?
In order to be eligible for property tax rebates, you must have been an occupant of your premises on or after 3 April 2020. Additionally, you must have leased the prescribed property, or licensed the prescribed property with an initial licence period of at least 1 year.
Is your dispute one of the disputes that the VRP will hear?
If you are eligible for property tax rebates, you also have to consider whether your dispute is one that the VRP will hear. The VRP hears disputes between landlords and tenants concerning issues regarding:
- Whether the landlord must pass on the property tax rebate to the tenant;
- The correct amount of property tax rebate that the landlord must pass on to the tenant;
- Whether the landlord passed on the property tax rebate to the tenant within the deadline for doing so; and
- Whether the landlord passed on the rebate in the required manner of either a monetary payment or rent deduction.
The VRP will not hear disputes over rent payments such as the suspension or non-payment of rent. Neither will it hear issues about the amount of property tax rebates that a landlord should get for his property from the government.
Before Applying to the Valuation Review Panel
Negotiating with the landlord with whom the dispute arises
Before applying to resolve your dispute before the VRP, you should first try to negotiate with your landlord for a mutually acceptable solution.
For example, where the dispute concerns the landlord not passing on the property tax rebate to you in a timely manner, you can discuss with the landlord his reasons for not doing so, and negotiate for the rebate to be passed on to you over an extended period of time.
This will be a faster and more efficient way to resolve your dispute as you do not need to apply for the matter to be heard by the VRP, where the matter may take a few months to resolve.
How to Apply to the Valuation Review Panel
1. Prepare the necessary information and supporting documents
If negotiation is not successful and you wish to apply to resolve your dispute before the VRP, you should first prepare the necessary information and supporting documents for your application.
As a tenant, you should prepare the following documents:
- Lease or licence agreement you entered into with your landlord;
- Documents showing the amount of property tax rebate you received from your landlord;
- Other correspondence with your landlord concerning the passing on of the property tax, such as emails and documents you have obtained from him.
2. Submit the application form
The application should be made by 31 December 2021, or 8 months after the date of notice if the Comptroller of Property Tax issues a notice of the rebate amount for the property in 2021.
The application should include:
- Your name, address and email address;
- The name and address of your landlord;
- The grounds on which the dispute is based and the arguments on which you intend to rely to support each ground;
- Your desired outcome for the dispute and any supporting evidence for it; and
- Other particulars to inform your landlord of the grounds on which your dispute is based.
Upon submission of the application form, you should receive an auto-generated copy of your submitted application by email. If you do not receive this within 1 working day, you should contact the secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Pay the application fee
After the submission of your application form, you will need to pay an application fee of $60 through PayNow (UEN T08GA0013EM01).
What Happens After You Submit Your Valuation Review Panel Application
Serve your application on your landlord
Within 5 working days of lodging the application, you must serve the complete application and all supporting documents on your landlord. This can be done through:
- Personal delivery to the address of his usual or last-known place of residence or business;
- Ordinary or pre-paid registered post to the address of his last-known or usual place of residence or business; or
- In such manner as may be agreed with your landlord.
If you fail to serve your application in time, your application will be treated as not lodged.
Within 2 working days of serving the application and documents, you will then have to submit a Declaration of Service form.
After being served with your VRP application, your landlord will have 14 working days to lodge a response. The response will include items like the arguments that he intends to rely on in responding to your grounds of application.
Your landlord’s response will be forwarded to the email address provided in your application within 5 working days of the response being lodged.
Lodging a reply (optional)
You may wish to lodge a reply to the response within 7 working days of receiving the response if your landlord has raised new facts or made counterclaims against you. This must be done through an online form, either as an individual or corporate entity.
Complying with directions from the VRP
A VRP will consider the documents and evidence submitted by both parties, and give both of you directions on how the matter should proceed. You are expected to comply with the VRP’s directions.
Attending a hearing (if necessary)
If necessary, the VRP may conduct a virtual or physical hearing. If so, you and your landlord must attend the hearing. If you fail to attend the hearing, your application will be taken to have been withdrawn.
As the applicant for the dispute, you are required to pay hearing fees of $75 for the first day of hearing, and $150 for any subsequent day(s). If your application is successful, the VRP may order your landlord to pay costs (which may include the application and hearing fees) to you.
Receiving the VRP’s determination
The VRP will notify parties of its determination in writing after considering the documents and evidence submitted by the parties (or after the hearing, if a hearing is conducted).
If you are not satisfied with the VRP’s decision, can you appeal?
If you are not satisfied with the VRP’s decision, you can appeal to the High Court within 21 days after the date of determination.
Can you Hire a Lawyer for Your Valuation Review Panel Application?
You may hire a lawyer to represent you before the VRP Panel. Hiring a lawyer is optional, but can help ensure that your documents are filled in accurately and filed on time.
Additionally, a lawyer will be able to help you put forward the strongest possible case to help you get the property tax rebate benefits that you seek from a VRP application.