Yeshey Lhadon

It’s the end of the month and tenants are wondering how to pay their rent, especially during lockdown.

Cheten Norbu runs a small tailoring shop in Dagapela town. However, his shop has remained closed for the last two months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He was going through financial stress because he still paid his rent and salary to one of his employees.

A few days ago, Cheten received a call from Dema Lhamo, his landlady. He learnt that he was exempted from paying rent for the August month. He said: “It was a great relief. I didn’t know what would happen if lockdown extended. I don’t have savings.”

Dema Lhamo said that she understood her tenant’s financial hardships during such an unprecedented situation. “I’ll consider my tenants’ situation if lockdown extends,” she said.

The Gup of Tsandagang gewog, Bal Bahadur Rana, convinced 22 landlords of Dagapela town to completely waive the rent for a month. He started by waiving off his tenant’s rent to set an example. “It wasn’t compulsory, but I’m glad that house owners were willing to ease people’s hardships.”

He said: “It would be helpful for the people even if it’s just for a month because the businesses have stopped now.”

It is not the first time for some landlords in Dagapela waived the rent. Subash Biswas’ tenants didn’t have to pay a single penny for three months, for April, May, and June.

Subash lives in Thimphu and he too lost his business during lockdown. He pays Nu 60,000 rent for his apartment and shop in Thimphu.

He said: “I’m also financially down but, being a businessman, I understand the challenges.”

Ishore Biswa is a hotelier and one of Subash’s tenants.  He would have paid Nu 35,000  monthly rent if his landlord asked.

He said: “I have incurred a huge loss. The hotel business is down after lockdown.”

Baharat Tamang runs a snooker room. He too didn’t have to pay rent for three months. He said: “I’m very grateful that my landlord waived off 100 percent rent for the fourth time by now.”

His landlord not only waived the rent for snooker room and apartment.

Landlords who are dependent on rent are facing challenges too. Dhan Maya Rai agreed to waive the rent for her tenant. She said, “We also want to extend our helping hand just like the rest of the landlords in Dagapela. Everyone is going through a rough time.”

Meanwhile, in Mongar, an owner of a four-storey building in town waived the rent for August. 

“The return from my business is zero for this month and I was worried about the rent payment. The waver means a lot,” one of the tenants said.

Landlord Choki Wangmo said her family decided to give the waiver considering the current difficult situation. 

“Although I have been paying housing loan continuously, this is truly a difficult situation that the tenants, who are mostly operating businesses, are undergoing,” shed said.

She added that she would decide whether or not to collect rent from the tenants in the following months considering the gravity of the situation.

Except for some identified grocers, who were allowed to operate to cater to residents during the lockdown, almost all businesses and private sector employees were affected in Mongar.