POST TIME: 7 April, 2020 08:26:47 PM
Low-income people seek house rent waiver
Experts suggest various measures to assuage their sufferings
Independent Online/UNB

Low-income people seek house rent waiver

As coronavirus crisis upended their livelihoods, tens of thousands of poor people and day-labourers in the capital are now worried about maintaining a roof over their heads as they are unable to pay house rents.

Many small landlords who are fully dependent on the income from their tinny houses are also in trouble to manage their family expenses since their tenants are seeking either a rent break or waiver considering their financial hardship.

Some people have taken to the Facebook to voice concern over house-rent payment while some others spread fake news and rumour that the government has waived house rents and postponed utility bills for a month, forcing the Prime Minister’s Office to issue a statement on Thursday trashing it.


Urban experts and economists suggest some ways, including giving a grant by the government for the low-income people, introducing food rationing for them and waiving holding tax and income tax of the landlords who waive partially or fully rent of their tenants, to give the tenants a relief from the burden of rent payment at this critical time.

Nurul Alam, a street vendor, lives in a tin-shed house with his family in the city’s Rampur area with a monthly rent of Tk 4,000.

“I used to earn Tk 300-400 every day by selling various cosmetic items in front of Anarkoli Market at Mouchak. But I’ve no income for nearly 10 days. I find it difficult to support my family. But my landlord is mounting pressure on me to pay his rent. I’m in a fix as to how I’ll pay the rent and buy food for my family,” he told UNB.

Tea seller Selim Mia in the city’s Shantibagh area is even in a more grievous situation than Alam as he’ll have to pay the rent of both his house and stall. “Law enforcers don’t allow me to open my tea stall, putting an end to my earning. But I’ve to pay my house owner Tk 5,000 and the tea stall owner Tk 4,000. But I don’t have money. My family will starve if the current situation prolongs.”

Rickshaw-van puller Ismail who lives in a slum with his mother and four other family members near Malibagh Rail Gate is also going through a serious ordeal for lack of earning. “Whatever money I saved earlier have run out. My landlord has asked me to pay the rent of Tk 4,000 by this week by any means or leave the house. I don’t know how I’ll will manage it.”

Abul Kashme, a small landlord of a tin-shed house in the city’s Khilgaon area, said he gets around Tk 20,000 every month from his tenants as rent which is the only source of his income. “My tenants are requesting me to waive the rent or take it when the situation gets normal. But how I’ll survive with my family if I don’t get the rent.”

Similar problem is facing by many rickshaw-pullers, transport workers, day-labourers, hawkers, the employees of hotels, restaurants and different shops, markets, construction workers and other low-income people as they have become jobless due to the coronavirus shutdown.

Meanwhile, Bharatia Parisahd, a platform of tenants, in a statement on Thursday demanded the waiver of three months’ house rent as the income sources of around 50 lakh low-income people in the capital have disappeared due to the suspension of economic activity.

Contacted, former caretaker government finance adviser Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam said the urban poor are facing a serious problem over paying house rent since they have no income. “But there’s a problem that our government has no scheme for the urban poor to help overcome this problem.”

He said the government can provide a grant for the extreme urban poor and day-labourers so that they can pay their house rent, at least partially, and buy food for their families.

Azizul said many landlords are solvent and they can voluntarily waive or hold off the rent of their helpless tenants until normalcy restores. “But many house owners also don’t have the ability to waive the rent as it’s the main source of their income.”

Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said nearly four million poor people in the city have lost opportunities for earnings. “It’s now difficult for them to manage food for their families, let alone paying the house rent.”

He said the government can introduce food rationing for them. “But giving any grant for them is probably not possible for the government as it is under serious pressure due to the overall situation of the country.”

Mustafiz said the NBR can announce that it will waive some income tax for the house owners who will relive their poor tenants from the burden of rent. Besides, the city authorities can waive the holding tax.     

Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Syeed Khokan said their city corporation has only one option to waive the holding tax for the house owners if they exempt their tenant from their house rent. “But it’s still too early to take such a measure.”

“We need to wait for a few days more and observe the situation. We also need to see what steps the government takes in this regard,” he said.

Urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam said the middle-class people will somehow manage the house rent, but it is very difficult for the low-income ones.

“Usually, poor people pay a small amount of money and it is not more than 5,000. So, an announcement can be given that those who pay rent up to 5,000 will get support from the government under a bailout package like that of RMG workers,” he said.