PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday signed into law the deferment of payment of rentals and mortgages during lockdown to assist people that have lost income in honouring these obligations.
Statutory Instrument (SI) 96 of 2020 Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Deferral of Rent and Mortgage Payments During National Lockdown) Regulations, 2020 promulgated yesterday, comes a day after Cabinet’s recommendation to give relief to tenants and landlords during the lockdown.
“Whereas on account of the national lockdown many persons are on forced leave from employment and therefore unable to earn the income necessary to pay for, among other things, rental for residential accommodation and mortgage repayments; now, therefore His Excellency the President, in terms of Section 2 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act [Chapter 10:20], hereby makes the following regulations…” reads the decree.
The SI 96 of 2020 defers payment of rentals and mortgages without the risk of being evicted, disposed from land or sued from May until the end of the lockdown.
The new law allows tenants and those with mortgage debts to pay their landlords and creditors in a staggered manner.
Tenants and mortgagors are allowed to pay rentals, without interest staggered in equal instalments over three months for each month under lockdown. Due to the national lockdown, most residents have not generated income to enable them to pay May rentals that are due as from tomorrow.
The lockdown period began on March 30 and is set to end on Sunday.
Residents said the Cabinet’s resolution was realistic considering the economic impact caused by Covid-19 on the country and individuals.
Tenants who spoke to the news crew yesterday said unpaid rentals have become a source of conflict in their lodgings.
Mrs Sikhathazile Nyathi from Mzilikazi said if the moratorium is declared, it would protect her family from being tormented by a landlord.
“It is something that we hope could be implemented because already I’m facing challenges with my landlord. I live in one room with my husband and children. But because we had not cleared April rentals, the landlord in protest is now sleeping in our room, on our sofa. He is saying he will only vacate the room once we pay up the R300 rent but we don’t have the money. He is threatening us with evictions,” said Mrs Nyathi.
She said she was a vendor who operated at Renkini Bus Terminus but due to lockdown, she has been grounded struggling to even put food on the table.
Mrs Nyathi said she was even contemplating deserting city life after lockdown and relocate to rural areas where they are no demands for monthly rentals.
Another resident, Ms Sukoluhle Dube from Nkulumane suburb said the Cabinet’s decision was very noble as most people have not generated any income this month.
Ms Dube said moral suasion between landlords and tenants would be more effective than Government’s decrees.
“I had already come to an agreement with my landlord over payment of rentals. Due to the lockdown that saw me not working all along, my landlord said once the lockdown has ended, I can pay the rental in instalments. I think such decision largely depends on the existing relations between the landlords and their tenants. I have a very good relationship with my landlord. I have stayed in the house for seven years,” said Ms Dube.
Another tenant, Mr Celestine Mafuka, said delayed payments of rentals have both positive and negative impacts.
“Imagine we agree with the landlord that I will pay rentals when I get the money after lockdown. But I stay in a house of an elderly person largely depending on rentals payments for livelihood. In case I buy groceries do you think the landlord would be comfortable with me seemingly eating lavishly in their house when they won’t be having anything while I claim that I do not have money to pay rentals. We should aim to strike a balance,” said Mr Mafuka.
Landlords who spoke to the news crew said most of them depended on rental money for survival.
They argued that while Government proposes a moratorium on rental payments, local authorities still demand payment of rates.
Others said while the idea is good, most tenants cannot be trusted.
Mr Bernard Sibanda from Nkulumane suburb said some tenants may decide to leave their rented homes to evade paying delayed rentals.
“What will happen then when the tenant decides to run away. But as a parent with a child who is also a tenant somewhere, I believe bringing relief to lodgers will be good but if they also commit to being honest. We live with them they have not being working so their realities are very clear to us. Government in coming up with the law, should create a legal framework that will make it punishable if a lodger escapes from lodgings,” said Mr Sibanda.
A landlord who only identified herself as Mrs Moyo said tenants should find ways of paying rentals even during lockdown.
“The same way council expects us to pay rates, is the same way we want our tenants to pay rent. Some of us have been depending on these monthly rental payments for over 20 years. That is how we feed our families,” said Mrs Moyo.