Freezing rent

March 26, 2020

Moratorium or suspension on payments to credit-card debt, bank loans, mandatory contributions to government financial institutions, and even tax payments have been granted to citizens to lighten the burden of their inability to work or ply their trade because of the community quarantine to fight the 2019 coronavirus pandemic.

Combined, the freeze in the payment of these bills and dues eased geh anxieties of consumers unable to pursue productive economic activities during the month-long lockdown period.

But how about the biggest fixed monthly expense of households – rent?

This should never have been left out on the freeze list; in fact, it should have been on top of fhe list for being the single biggest monthly household cost item.

Quite fortunately, a very discerning lady lawmaker has come to their rescue.      

Residential tenants struggling financially amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other parts of the country can soon find relief with the signing of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Sen. Grace Poe said Wednesday.

"Many renters live paycheck to paycheck, but during these extraordinary times when they suddenly need to work or not at all, they might not have enough to pay for their rent and may even face the possibility of eviction," Poe said in a statement.

“The rent freeze will ensure that tenants, especially low-wage earners, will be in the safety and comfort of their homes for the duration of the public health crisis,” she said, even as she acknowledged that some homeowners and landlords have already done so on their own accord.

The freeze on all home rents due within the period of the enhanced quarantine, which the government enforced to curb the rapid spread of Covid-19, was among the key provisions that Poe had pushed for inclusion in the bill when the Senate tackled it during a special session on Monday.

The provision also states that interests, penalties, fees and other charges “shall not be imposed on tenants following the 30-day moratorium on their rental payments”.

"In pushing for this provision in the bill, we hope to ease the growing financial burden of the pandemic particularly on millions of poor Filipino households," Poe said.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was signed into law by President Duterte on Wednesday.

The measure authorizes Duterte to adopt and implement measures to prevent the further transmission of Covid-19.

“We urge our countrymen to act and move as one nation to slay this scourge of a dragon that imperils our very existence,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Quoting Duterte’s televised speech on Tuesday night, Panelo said: "Let us set aside our differences and work in solidarity to overcome this pandemic. We only have one common enemy and that is Covid-19."

Duterte would  exercise the powers strictly in accordance with the Constitution, he said.

He also thanked both chambers of the Congress for granting the special powers, and health care workers who put their lives on the line to treat patients afflicted with Covid-19.

Currently, there are a total of 552 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines and 35 fatalities.