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No reported breaches of leasing negotiation guidelines since roll-out in June: Industry committee

SINGAPORE: There have been no reported breaches of a code of conduct on fair lease negotiations since such guidelines came into effect more than a month ago, according to the industry committee overseeing the code.

Instead, enquiries received from landlords and tenants have been focused on specific ways that they can comply with the code, chairman of the Fair Tenancy Industry Committee (FTIC) told CNA on Monday (Jul 19).

“This is a positive signal that both parties are taking active steps towards fair and balanced lease negotiations,” said Mr Max Loh of the FTIC, which was set up to monitor industry compliance and update the guidelines if needed.

READ: Committee with landlords, tenants formed to develop framework for tenancy issues

The code of conduct for lease negotiations in retail premises came into effect on Jun 1, following months of discussions between industry stakeholders.

It aimed to iron out long-standing issues around the practice, which came to the fore last year amid tussles between landlords and tenants for rental relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the 11 areas covered by the guidelines are topics such as rental structure and pre-termination clauses.

Mr Loh stressed that the code of conduct aims to foster a “collaborative landlord-tenant ecosystem in the long term” to make Singapore’s retail scene more vibrant and competitive.

“The (code) promotes a balanced framework and is neither biased towards tenants nor focused on penalising landlords,” he told CNA.

READ: Government looking to legislate new rules on lease agreements for retail spaces

Though adherence to the code is currently voluntary, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling had said in March that the Government would be working to legislate it.

“In fact, the Government will be a lead adopter of this code of conduct and all government landlords will lead by complying with this code of conduct, unless there are other statutory obligations that we need to abide by,” she said.

ONE MORE LANDLORD ONBOARD

​​​​​​​Government landlords on board with the code include JTC Corporation and the Housing & Development Board. 

From the private sector, there are currently seven major commercial landlords who have agreed to adhere to the guidelines.These include CapitaLand, City Developments (CDL) and Frasers Property Retail.

One of the latest to join their ranks is APM Property Management, which committed to abide by the code on Jul 16, Mr Loh told CNA.

The landlord manages five properties with retail premises in Singapore, such as Capital Square, Robinson Centre, and Suntec City.

Mr Ivan Koh, CEO of APM Singapore, said: “In times of uncertainty, the new code provides greater clarity which in turn will build trust and forge a stronger relationship between landlords and tenants.”

“I believe that the code will bring the retail sector together to better navigate this crisis and emerge stronger from these challenging times.”

In the meantime, the FTIC's Mr Loh urged more landlords to come forward to adopt the code of conduct.

He added that since the committee’s formation on May 3, five outreach sessions have been held with stakeholders, such as landlords, tenants, lawyers and property agents, to help prepare them to make necessary adjustments to comply with the code.

Source: CNA/cl(rw)

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