Phuentsholing landlords warn tenants to vacate

Landlord issues a warning letter forcing out tenants to vacate if failing to pay the rent on time amid a pandemic

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

“This (house) is not government property. You all (tenants) cannot do anything on my own property. If you can’t afford to pay your rent, move out. There is no reason to talk too much,” warns the landlord in a forceful speech, forcing tenants to vacate if they fail to pay the rent on time.

This bleak situation is in Phuentsholing amid the raging outbreak of omicron variant and even when tenants have lost their incomes following a strict lockdown. The situation is grim for many who may not be able to pay their monthly rentals on time and face the threat of eviction from the landlords.

A warning letter was issued by the landlord asking tenants – mostly who had set up their businesses and offices – in her building to vacate if they fail to pay the rent by the seventh day of every month or else Nu 100 daily penalty will be levied on the rental amounts.

A slew of voice messages sent in the tenants’ WhatsApp group reveal the landlord warning the tenants that they will be evicted from the building right after the lockdown is lifted.

“We have rented the house out for you all. Whether your business is doing well or not, feeling frustrated or whatever, this is not my problem. Your job is to pay the monthly rent,” the landlord yells at the tenants as an argument broke out in the group. It further warns, “You think we cannot do anything but wait and see what we will do.”

While some tenants did not respond to requests for interview fearing retaliation by their landlords if they complained, some say things only became worse and the pressure was so intense given many of them have been dealing with numerous financial crunches amid the pandemic.

A tenant, who declined to be named, said, as stressful as the pandemic situation is here for tenants. “We have been facing pressure from our landlords even during the recent longest lockdown,” the tenant said in a phone interview, adding the threat to evict them can be counted as harassment.

Tenants say none of them had asked for a rental waiver, thinking the landlord also depends on rental incomes despite the landlords enjoying loan interest waiver beneficiaries.

“We did not even expect the rental to be waived, but we had requested if our landlord could defer the rent payment until the full relaxation, or for a few months as we will still live in their building. Instead, our landlord got angry at us and wanted us to vacate right after the lockdown,” added the tenant.

The tenant, like others, had to make payments for the staff as they solely depend on the salary. “I am trying whatever I could do for my staff. I even borrowed money from others to make their payments. I have a lot of loan repayments including private moneylenders. It would be a disaster for me.”

Tenants, who have been living in the same building for years, however, believe that such a situation should be considered by the landlords, given that they have always been paying their full rental on time irrespective of the situations and have maintained their standards of decorum that a tenant is supposed to.

“I had some cash and wanted to pay rent. However, I couldn’t because I had to keep the money for other urgent needs as the relaxation is uncertain. Instead of understanding our situation, we are experiencing harassment from our landlord,” said another tenant who feels they are being harassed.

The tenant went on to say that they should be allowed to defer the rent payment by at least a month. “We are already having tough years of the pandemic here before things soured with the landlord. Our business income has gone down because of a decline in customers. Everyone is having very different years.”

And now, like many others in Phuentsholing, they are worried about whether their family can stay in their home after the lockdown. Some landlords verbally warn in their social media groups, others come in a torrent of phone calls and some go further knocking on the door, harassing tenants for rent payment.

“Unfortunately, tensions rose with the landlord during this lockdown. I have paid the rent on time. But I feel morally down after listening to the landlord’s harassment. Some cases have even been reported to the police,” one said.

“They have to give us the notice two months before they want us to move out with the reason for eviction. I feel this is against the laws without going through the legal process if they want us to leave,” another adds.

Meanwhile, the tenants feel the authorities should urge landlords, especially those who are Kidu beneficial on loan deferment and interest waivers, to provide rent relief to tenants wherever possible.