Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Amendment No. 2) Bill (Bill No. /2020)
Sir, I stand in support of the Bill.
I thank the Ministry for the rental relief afforded to many tenants and sub-tenants under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020. It has indeed been a lifeline for many SMEs in these difficult economic times.
I just have a few quick clarifications to seek.
Ensuring tenants and sub-tenants get rental relief
On my recent market walkabouts, I found that some sub-tenants, especially coffeeshop stallholders, are not benefitting from the rental relief framework.
They are not aware of the laws that have been passed and the rental relief they can get.
It is good that eligible tenants and sub-tenants do not need to do anything and instead the landlords are obliged to notify their tenants of the rental relief.
However, I understand that some landlords are not notifying their tenants. Some tenants are also not notifying their sub-tenants.
In addition, some coffeeshop stallholders in Nee Soon East are aware of the rental relief but did not know that it was for four months. Some only got one month of relief. They also did not know where to seek recourse.
Not requiring eligible tenants and sub-tenants to take any further steps to obtain rental relief is a well-intentioned measure.
However, it may be a double-edged sword if not accompanied by proactive communication and enforcement of the relief measures to tenants and sub-tenants.
We need to take a more proactive approach to ensure that the rental relief is reaching those who need this lifeline the most.
Sir, I have four clarifications.
First, can Minister share how many complaints the Ministry has received with regard to landlords or tenants not providing the 2 months of rental relief supported by the government, to the tenants and sub-tenants respectively?
Second, what percentage of these complaints are resolved with the rental relief being subsequently provided to the tenants and sub-tenants respectively?
Third, as some tenants and sub-tenants especially coffeeshop stall holder still appear to be unaware of their rental relief rights under the framework, can Minister share if a more comprehensive communication mechanism could be put in place to urgently inform eligible tenants and sub-tenants of such reliefs?
If not, can landlords and tenants be made responsible to show evidence that they have informed their tenants or sub-tenants respectively of their rental relief.
Fourth, given the additional rights of the assessor to vary the relief amounts pursuant to this new Bill, can Minister share what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that tenants and sub-tenants have sufficient clarity from the outset on the relief amounts that they should be entitled to?
Similar to my earlier point, how will MinLaw be communicating this to the tenants and sub-tenants?
Sir, notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
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