Landlords increase rents in Thimphu despite the pandemic

There are a handful of landlords who have been giving rent waivers to their tenants during the pandemic. But a majority of the landlords have not been so considerate, even when receiving deferrals and the extension of loan term for an additional ten years.

Instead, there are reports of landlords in Thimphu increasing the house rents, which is especially hitting the daily wage earners who had no means of working from home, but still have to pay a hefty rent and worry about feeding the family.

The social media is flooded with genuine grievances of those left wondering how they are supposed to sustain their livelihood when the exorbitant house rent eats up more than 50 percent of their wages.

“Our house rent has been increased by Nu 1,000 in January of this year. My friends and I have been living in the 1 BHK apartment for two years now, and we paid Nu 8,000 every month. We were notified of the rent increase and now we have to pay Nu 9,000. Our landlord told us that it has been a while since she increased the rent, and she has to pay her own loans so she said she wasn’t breaking any law when she increased the rent since the land owners can increase 10 percent of their rent every two or three years,” said Tshewang, a hospital health worker who resides in Changzamtog.

The landlord, justified that it has been a few years since she last increased the house rent, and that even government house rents are being increased.

“I issued the notice by the end of December, revising the rent by Nu 1,000. Since the lockdown was implemented around mid January, I could not waive off the rent, but around February month, I waived off about 15 percent of rent for the private employees and not the government employees.  I also have rent to pay. Although there was loan deferment, similar to the Kidu initiative, if I manage to deposit the loan earlier, I will make more profit. On the other hand, if we stop collecting rents just because we have loan deferral, in the end it’s the house owners who will run losses. The loan deferment is nothing more than a time extension, only the time we have to pay our loans is extended, and not the principal amount/interest that is waived off,” said the landlord.

The landlord further said she wasn’t taking advantage of the lockdown, but rather she has been generous enough to let the newcomers shift into her building at the same rate as before the revisal.

“There has been no change of plans. I have been paying the same amount of stipulated loan before or after the COVID-19,” the landlord added.

Similarly, there are reports of increase in rents from all over Thimphu including in the Norzin Lam area.

A businessman said that not only did his landlord, a successful businessman, not waive off any rent but his rent was increased by 10% from January and in addition to that he was asked to deposit and additional equivalent security deposit fee of 10% more.

He said this is despite the two lockdowns. With his savings all over he has been forced to break into his children’s education fund to pay for the rent.

Elsewhere there are also reports of tenants being asked to move out for not being able to pay the hefty hike in rents.

An official from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement said that there are no government regulations, as such, that rent owners should waive off the rent during the pandemic times, and it is fully in the hands of the landlords whether they wanted to increase, decrease or waive off the rent altogether. 

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