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LANDLORDS URGED TO SHOW LENIENCY TOWARDS TENANTS DURING CRISIS

KUWAIT CITY, May 3: According to real estate experts, amending the tenancy law in the manner proposed by a number of MPs to stop the eviction of tenants who are unable to pay and to reschedule the payment on installment basis is good but it is not enough.

They said the proposal did not take into account the fact that the country is going through a crisis and compelling circumstances that are beyond the control of everyone including the tenants.

The experts explained that the proposal preserves the right of tenants not to get evacuated, and takes into account the status of the landlords by obtaining the delayed rents in installments.

However, this constitutes an additional burden for the tenants for reasons beyond their control and renders them to get into large debts and consequently, the continuation of legal suits for long period of time. They stressed that it is a matter of solidarity that both parties bear the losses of this crisis fairly.

The experts said all parties should share the pain of this crisis, as most of the tenants in the investment sector have been subjected to salary cuts or layoffs, and are therefore affected, despite the benefit of the property they are living in. In return, the landlords have to bear part of this loss with them by exempting rent for certain months or at least reducing the rent.

“This is not in terms of being fair, but rather because we are living in the humanitarian country, they said.”

In this regard, Deputy Head of the Real Estate Brokers Union Emad Haydar warned that landlords’ inflexibility in not taking any step to exempt or reduce rents will reflect negatively on them in the near future, as they will witness vacant apartments especially in the investment residential sector.

He highlighted that tenants will search for other accommodation if their landlords do not stand with them in times of crises, adding that there will be many options for tenants in light of the vacant apartments reaching up to 40 percent in the investment sector especially since large number of expatriates are leaving the country.

Haydar indicated that the state should take incentive steps for landlords to reduce their rents or provide exemptions such as by reducing the rents of buildings owned through the General Secretariat of Awqaf and the Zakat House, as well as exempting electricity and water bills for six months to set an example for real estate owners in the private sector.

He said, “The amendment of the tenancy law is good, but it is not sufficient, as it did not take into account the crisis that the country is going through which is beyond the control of everyone including the tenants.”

Haydar quoted Article 25 of the Kuwait Constitution which stipulates that “State shall guarantee the solidarity of the society in bearing burdens arising from catastrophes and public calamities”.

He stressed that the entire economic sector in the country is affected, and landlords should sacrifice for the sake of humanity and the national sense that necessitates solidarity with members of the society in light of the crises, especially since the Central Bank of Kuwait has postponed the payment of loan installments for the affected landlords.

Haydar explained that members of the National Assembly should legislate a law to deal with rents during disasters, which is not included in the current law, as everyone must be exempted from the obligations – the tenant from paying the rent and the landlord from paying loan installments – as well as exemption from paying electricity and water bills in order to avoid lawsuits and ease the burden on the courts during such crises.

He affirmed that the exemption or reduction of rents will be in the interest of landlords as it helps in maintaining their tenants at a time when vacant apartment in the investment sector will reach 40 percent and the tenants will have variety of options in this regard.

Furthermore, real estate expert Abdulaziz Al-Dughaishem said landlords are required to look at the tenants with an eye of humanity and kindness, not with an eye of law and justice. He indicated that tenants, even if they benefited from the rent, still suffer from reduction in salary or dismissal from work, adding that the accumulation of rents would cause them to default and prompt filing of lawsuits that would go on for years.

Al-Dughaishem stated that the real estate market will soon witness large number of tenants vacating apartments if their landlords were reluctant in take steps to cushion their tenants’ financial struggles amid the current crisis. He affirmed that the coming period will be difficult for the investment real estate sector with the departure of large numbers of expatriates, adding, “A smart landlord will be the one who maintains his tenants as we will soon witness longterm vacancies and even entire buildings vacant.”

Al-Dughaishem stressed that the owners of mortgaged real estate will be the most affected, “Hence, why not favor the tenants at this moment?” He emphasized that the landlords must study the cases of the tenants separately, highlighting that there are landlords who have exempted their tenants from paying rents for three months, and there are companies that have reduced rents by 50 percent.

In addition, a source from the real-estate union said, “Such proposals must be studied carefully. We do not want lame laws that might fix the issue but could introduce a lot of legal suits in the future.”

He stressed that the government, since the beginning of the economic lockdown which affected the salaries of many private sector employees, should have put in place a law governing the relationship between landlords and tenants, highlighting that some European countries have suspended the rent law for the months of March, April, and May, and urged tenants and landlords to agree on how to pay the rents after the crisis without leaving matters loose.

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