The rent relief policy that stops landlords from evicting tenants who can't pay rent on time aims to give small-medium businesses breathing space amid the "suffocating" business environment said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po.
Chan on Wednesday tabled the Temporary Protection Measures for Business Tenants (Covid
-19 Pandemic) Bill in the Legislative Council for the first and second reading.
Speaking to lawmakers, the finance chief said the city now faces its most challenging moment in the fight against the coronavirus
and urges the council to pass the bill as soon as possible so as to offer protection to small-medium enterprises that are in financial crisis.
He believed the policy could provide an opportunity for the tenants and landlords to reach a mutual agreement on rent arrangements and make sure that businesses won't be forced to shutter over rent issues.
Apart from terminating the tenancy agreement, landlords are also prohibited from taking legal actions against tenants who cannot pay rents on time, the bill proposed.
Chan added that since he proposed the policy in Budget in late February, he has communicated with different sectors of the society and made changes to the bill, one of which is canceling the original three-month extension option.
That means the law will remain valid for three months at most.
The proposed measure also will not apply to any new tenancy agreement signed by both the landlord and tenant.
Authorities also offered to pay landlords who are dependent on rents an interest-free loan capped at HK$100,000, equivalent to three months' worth of rent.
Chan underlined that although desperate times call for desperate measures, these will last for only three months. Property owners' right to collect rents will not be violated, and tenants' responsibility to pay rents will not be dismissed, Chan continued.