Editorial: Tenants should be protected throughout the Covid-19 crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences on businesses, leading to mass unemployment.

The latest report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda shows that in February this year, before the first Covid-19 case was registered in Rwanda, the unemployment rate stood at 13.1 per cent and by May it soared to 22.1 per cent.

 

In addition, the incomes of some people who are still in employment dropped drastically, as most employers moved to readjust their operations in order to deal with the economic challenges of Covid-19. This is one of the signs of hard economic times for many households.

 

In the midst of all these challenges some residential property owners are now increasing rental fees. Thus, many people are now having to choose between paying landlords and putting food on the table.

 

In the commercial property business, landlords claim to have their peculiar problems, among them, bank loans and other costs related to insurance, maintenance and property taxes.

Yet, in the early days of the pandemic, commercial banks announced plans to provide relief, including on mortgages, to distressed borrowers. And in June the central bank announced that commercial banks had restructured loans worth Rwf647.3 billion in a bid to cushion Rwandans from making monthly payments.

Indeed, some landlords reacted by deferring, reducing or suspending rent payments for their clients during the months of March and April.

Now, commercial property owners are asking cash-strapped tenants to pay their arrear in addition to the current expenses, and in some circumstances some have raised rental fees within the crisis time.

Those who cannot afford have been asked by their landlords to vacate the premises.

While the government has eased some Covid-19 restrictions, allowing businesses activity to resume, businesses are still struggling. Full economic recovery is likely to take long, meaning the outlook for the job market remains quite very uncertain.

The government has been quick to provide support to the most affected members of society, including distributing food supplies. The private sector intervened and supported the initiative.

In the same regard, it is important to sustain one of the most basic Covid-19 safety nets – to give people the security of having a roof over their head by keeping rental fees low.

In addition, the cost of rent for commercial property must be contained in order to sustain business activity and avoid further job losses.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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