By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: The effects of the global pandemic were certainly unthinkable for many expatriates and citizens in Kuwait and around the world. Little did we know COVID-19 could cripple the economy, take thousands of lives and that millions of others would suffer. In Kuwait alone, many expats were terminated from their jobs and companies closed down. Many of those without work or pay ultimately succumbed to fear and death brought about by the deadly virus.
Expatriate families have also suffered greatly because many breadwinners were unable to send money home as they were unable to work, and therefore received no salary during the months of lockdowns and curfews. Some got a reprieve after landlords waived or reduced rent. Other tenants said despite their appeals, owners required them to pay the full rent every month.
“How can we pay if we have no work and no pay?” asked Elvie, who resides in a furnished apartment in Salmiya. “Maybe the building owner was struck by his conscience, and so he came back to us the following week – not to spare payment or give a discount – but to announce he will accept delayed payment. Maybe he realized that tenants will not be able to pay any longer. But we are still required to pay the whole amount,” she noted.
Another tenant said her building owner told him to pay the full amount mentioned in the contract. “We were informed to pay in full every month because our mode of payment is through the bank. We were specifically advised to pay regularly, because they told us in case the government waives the rent, they would comply with government rules, and that if they are required to return the money, the company would do so,” he said.
But there are some lucky tenants too. “For the months of March, April and May, we were given a 50 percent discount; for June and July, we were told to pay 60 percent only, and from August to December, we were given a 25 percent discount,” an elated tenant told Kuwait Times. “Our landlord has a heart of gold. He knew we are unable to pay, so he offered discounts generously,” he added.
“We got a discount of KD 100 on our KD 350 rent for the months of April and May. But I don’t know why they have not given us a receipt – maybe the haris is hiding something, but I care less as long as I have a discount,” another tenant said.
Some of those whose rents were waived helped others. “The discounts I got from my landlord were shared with my fellow Filipinos who badly need help, especially food,” a tenant said. “We help others so they can also survive the crisis. My building gave us two months of free stay – April and May – during the lockdowns and curfew. But from June, they told us to pay the full rent; it’s okay – at least we were able to help others,” he said.
So far, there’s no law in Kuwait obliging building owners to provide discounts or any reprieve in consideration for the loss of jobs or income during the pandemic, despite recommendations from Kuwaiti citizens, lawyers and MPs to do so on humanitarian grounds.