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MBABANE – Some landlords have decided to ease the financial burden of their tenants by slashing rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trevor Manuel, a landlord who owns flats at Trelawney Park in Manzini, has become the latest to slash rentals for his tenants. Manuel, who predominantly resides in South Africa and has other business ventures in that country, said he had reduced the rent by 30 per cent.

The landlord disclosed that he only did that for tenants who paid their rent on time. Manuel stated that what motivated his decision was that, as a businessperson, he understood the harsh effects of the novel coronavirus and thought it was wise to meet his tenants halfway.  “As a businessman, who is well aware of the current situation and what it has done to the entire economy, I decided to appreciate my loyal tenants with the rent cut,” Manuel said.


Meanwhile, a tenant who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, appreciated the kind gesture by his landlord.
He stated that he had car wash businesses, which had been closed for a while. Car wash businesses were only allowed to start operating on Monday. The tenant highlighted that this was a relief as it eased the financial burden on him.
“I have always been able to pay my rent on time and ever since the partial lockdown and temporary closure of some businesses, paying it has been a challenge,” he said.

He further appreciated the decision by his landlord, whom he said was thoughtful during ‘these tough times’. In the same breath, Isaac Steenkamp, who owns a shoppingcomplex at Eteteni in Matsapha, confirmed a letter he addressed to his tenants informing them that they would have their rent cut from May until the end of July. 

In the letter, the tenants were informed that, with the ongoing challenge the country was facing, it was the landlord’s duty to look after his tenants’ well-being.
Consequently, the company that owns the complex had reduced rent for retail shops from May 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020 by 15 per cent.
“The rent will be cut during the above mentioned months so that tenants can prioritise spending with an eye to future expenses,” reads the letter in part.  However, it was emphasised that beginning from September, the normal amount of rent would be paid and there would be no exceptions or extensions. The landlord stipulated that the tenants would be sent reminders in August.

Similarly, Stanley Samuels, who owns residential flats in Malkerns disclosed that he intended to cut rent for his tenants. He said he was approached by some of his tenants who requested him to make some form of relief for them, especially during this period of lockdown.

Samuels clarified that this would be a rent reduction and not a deferment. He mentioned that his tenants were struggling during the nationwide partial lockdown that had negatively affected tenants’ businesses. He also revealed that some had even withheld rent as a result.

Another landlord who preferred anonymity said he had heard about what other landlords had done for their tenants and he was considering doing the same. “In fact, this is not new to some parts of the world such as the United States where landlords have deferred rent completely. I have a friend who resides in the UK who has called off rent for the duration of three months,” the landlord said.

He further mentioned that this was done by landlords who were building good and long-lasting relationships with their tenants. The landlord said this was a smart move which most landlords should adopt.

Sipho Khoza, who owns a block of flats at KaShali, Ngwane Park, said he had chosen not to carry out evictions for two or three months of tenants who had not settled outstanding rent, from April 30. However, he agreed that his new method had been used by some tenants as an excuse to simply withhold payment. Khoza mentioned that it was a tricky situation as there were some tenants who genuinely could not pay rent while others simply chose not to pay.  The landlord reiterated that he had longstanding relationships with many of his tenants and trusted that he would do what he could to support and ensure that both parties may continue to grow and thrive post the COVID-19 pandemic.


However, some landlords declared that they would not effect the reduction of rent nor its deferment.
“To cut rent unilaterally would require one to have no debts or expenses to take care of. I have a family to feed, school fees to pay for my children and a whole lot other responsibilities. I can never defer or reduce the payment of rent, well at least not anytime soon,” one landlord said.

Meanwhile, Facebook users expressed delight and excitement over what some landlords, who publicly declared that they were reducing their rent, were doing.

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