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Tenants call for legal action against ‘exploitation’ by landlords during pandemic

By Maram Kayed - Jun 03,2020 - Last updated at Jun 03,2020

AMMAN — Amid the economic repercussions following weeks of a nationwide shutdown across most commercial sectors in Jordan, calls for rent reductions are finding a voice among residential tenants and owners of leased shops.

“We were closed for more than 40 days. Not only that, but we were obliged to pay our workers’ salaries, even if at a reduced rate. We also had to endure the losses of spoilt food that we were not able to use,” Mohammad Kharjan, a pastry shop owner in Amman’s Gardens area, told The Jordan Times.

Kharjan added, however, that the commercial complex’s owner was “kind enough to only ask for half of April’s rent from shops that were not allowed to open during the lockdown”.

“The landlord asked for full payments from the supermarket and pharmacy in the complex as they were allowed to operate and, in their own words, witnessed their businesses flourishing during the first few weeks of lockdown. As for my shop, a dry-cleaning shop, a library and other shops, we were pardoned of half the amount,” he said.

Not all landlords have taken this decision, however. Some have asked for full payments for March, April and May while others have exempted their tenants from paying one month of rent.

“I asked for half of March and pardoned April’s rent and half of May’s. As of June, I will start asking for full payments,” said Ali Abdullah, a landlord of several residential apartments in Amman’s Mugabalein area.

He told The Jordan Times over the phone that “given my tenants’ situation, with most of them being daily workers who have been badly affected by the lockdown, I decided to sync my decisions with the government’s”.

“Most sectors closed half of March, all of April, and partially reopened as of May, thus influencing my decision. As of June, however, the country is somewhat close to full operation, and thus the decision for full payment,” he said.

Other landlords have declined to reduce or completely pardon rent payments and have instead asked for full payments over the past three months.

“The rich are getting richer,” read a trending Twitter post, which related stories of landlords asking for full, and sometimes increased, payments.

These accounts, as told by tenants, shed light on some citizens’ demands to legally sue landlords who have been “exploiting” them during the pandemic.

“The landlord of the shop that my dad rents told him that he will increase the rent amount when the rent lease ends in July. He also asked for full payment even when my dad’s shop, a small supermarket, did not sell well during the lockdown because distributors gave my dad a hard time,” user Rana Mohsen said in the tweet thread.

Problems related to distributors “favouring selling to big shops rather than small ones” have meant that “not all shops that were allowed to operate did well”.

 

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