Covid-19: Comprehensive law for tenants, homeowners and banks needed, say Opposition lawmakers

Anwar predicted that the real economic struggle will start to hit Malaysia in the next year or two. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Anwar predicted that the real economic struggle will start to hit Malaysia in the next year or two. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) lawmakers want a more comprehensive law governing the financial relationship between renters, landlords and banks in light of the economic upheaval that has occurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a Facebook Live video today, Opposition chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that a moratorium for tenants will have a direct financial impact on landlords who are still paying off their housing loans to banks.

Looking at the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) latest numbers and its unemployment prediction, Anwar pointed out that this situation will happen as more Malaysians are laid off due to the economic uncertainty.

“DOSM’s Malaysian Economic Review Survey (MERS) reported on unemployment. Right now, it is already nearing 3.5 per cent and this is only the beginning of Covid-19. By year end, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research estimates that number will hit 9.2 per cent.

“The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) prediction is even graver — 13 per cent. Translated, this would mean around 500,000 to one million people will be jobless.

“Once that happens, they won’t be able to pay rent, education will be affected and the economy will not grow,” said Anwar, pointing out that this issue will not just hit income earners, but also their families — leading to around 500,000 to one million families being adversely hit.

The Port Dickson MP added that the current stimulus packages and the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) are not enough and many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are complaining that they cannot sustain their businesses during this tough time.

He said Putrajaya needs to have a broader discussion to come up with an economic framework guideline to resolve this problem by mobilising the economy at a limited stage early on to lower the burden on the public without compromising their safety when it comes to the disease’s outbreak.

Anwar further predicted that the real economic struggle will start to hit Malaysia in the next year or two.

Similarly, Kebun Bunga (Penang) Assemblyman Jason Ong said that the government needs to come up with a comprehensive solution that is dynamic enough to be able to take into consideration the needs of tenants, landlords and the banks providing housing loans.

He said by granting the tenants a moratorium on their rents, it will not be fair to the landlord as they will either lose a source of income, if they have already paid off their housing loans, or will put them in financial trouble if they have not paid off their debts.

“We have found that many tenants living in medium- or low-cost homes have been affected because they have been retrenched. They have problems paying their rents. In this context, we need a rational law that not only helps the renters but also the landlords.

“Even though there should be a moratorium, for maybe three to six months for the tenants, this will create problems with the landlords. In this context, the landlords will also need assistance from the government through a stimulus package,” said Ong.

He added that even after the six-month period is over, it might not be enough for the occupants if they are still jobless and are unable to pay rent.

Even if they manage to find a job, Ong predicted that they might not be earning the same amount as before, which will still cause issues with their landlords.

The assemblyman said the law must be dynamic, flexible, inclusive and comprehensive while being able to work with government agencies such as the Welfare Department as the issue is not just on rents — these individuals have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic.


 

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