6 major retail and all govt landlords in S'pore accept code of conduct on lease negotiations

SINGAPORE – Six major retail landlords from the private sector and all government landlords have committed to abide by a new code of conduct on the leasing of retail premises in Singapore.

The code is aimed at making lease negotiations between landlords and retail tenants fairer and balanced.

With effect from Tuesday (June 1), CapitaLand, City Developments (CDL), Frasers Property Retail, Mercatus Co-operative, UOL Group and SPH Reit, as well as all government landlords such as JTC Corporation and the Housing Board, will abide by the code of conduct, which sets out fair guidelines for lease negotiations in 11 areas.

These include rental structure, third-party fees, pre-termination by landlords or tenants, and data sharing.

The code also sets out a process for resolving disputes after lease agreements have been signed.

Business leaders representing the major retail landlords and tenants in Singapore have been appointed as members of the Fair Tenancy Industry Committee (FTIC), which will act as custodian of the code of conduct. Mr Max Loh, managing partner of Ernst & Young Singapore and Brunei, has been appointed chairman of the 13-member committee.

Mr Low Chee Wah, chief executive of Frasers Property Retail, said: “From June 1, we will be adopting the code of conduct-compliant lease agreements for new leases in our retail portfolio, and we have started working closely with our tenants on this front.

“The adoption of the code of conduct by all stakeholders will be instrumental in forging a stronger landlord-tenant relationship.”

Mr Andrew Kwan, president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore and chief executive of Commonwealth Capital, said: “The impending legislation of the code of conduct is a watershed for tenants and landlords alike. The early adoption by several key operators and enterprises, ahead of legislation, is the true test of enlightened thinking and support.

“The tenants’ group has conducted initial briefings to its constituent members and shall continue to roll out engagements in the months ahead.”

The committee will conduct regular outreach to industry players to keep them updated on industry developments, monitor the industry’s compliance with the code of conduct, and provide the Government with feedback and recommendations to enhance it.

Mr Loh said he is “honoured to play a role in charting the future of retail leasing practices in Singapore”.

At the inaugural FTIC meeting on May 19, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling affirmed the Government’s commitment to making the code of conduct mandatory via legislation to ensure compliance.

“This milestone pledge to adopt the code of conduct by landlords and tenants demonstrates their spirit of cooperation and joint determination to thrive above the current crisis,” she said.

“All government landlords will lead by example and adopt the code from June 1. Furthermore, we will consider the interests of all stakeholders as we take a holistic and balanced approach in drafting the legislation that will make the code mandatory for all retail tenancies in Singapore.”

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Ms Low added: “This code for fair and balanced lease negotiations provides businesses with greater stability and flexibility to weather disruptions, and the critical ability to work out possible solutions and navigate the crisis together.”

On Tuesday, the Singapore Business Federation launched the FTIC website, which will allow businesses to provide feedback on the code of conduct and matters related to retail tenancies. Landlords and tenants will also be able to file for mutually agreed upon deviations that are permitted under the code.

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