One-third flats now vacant
Staff Correspondent: The capital city has changed its look with ‘to-let’ notices. Walls, pillars, gates, buses, rickshaws….everywhere lots of ‘to-let’ notices are witnessing by the city dwellers, as one-third flats of most of the buildings are now vacant. The corona pandemic has forced to leave city of the low and mid income people to village or lower quality shanties.
When a curious mind now looks at such posters, he or she can notice that the message remains the same: “To-let; 2 bedrooms –
one with an attached bath; one dining-cum drawing-room; one kitchen and a balcony; address… contact.”
Engr Sanwar Ali, a landlord owning six apartments at Royerbazar in the city, said, “My three apartments have remained vacant since April. The previous tenants had shifted to cheaper places, and no new renter has come yet.”
The rent for a single apartment Sanwar owns is Tk 25,000, excluding service charges. The landlord has never gone through such a crisis of renters.
As the corona pandemic is racing around with no sign of stopping anytime soon and new localities go under lockdowns, searching for new accommodation or shifting houses has become very difficult. The internal cause is that many tenants under the specter of losing employment can’t afford to rent costly accommodation anymore.
Mahfuja Khanam, a landlady who manages 12 apartments at Hazaribagh, said four of her apartments had remained vacant for the last three months. And some of the current renters in the remaining apartments had informed her that they would move elsewhere in July. Some others are delaying rent payments.
“One of the renters left my apartment in May after he failed to run his micro business. He has no income during last four months. Moreover his brother every month sends him money from America but his brother is also in bad shape in US,” Mahfuja said.
The landlady told that she owed Tk 30 lakh as part of a bank loan and had to pay Tk 90,000 as an installment every month. Mahfuja is now worried about paying back the loan as she has been losing renters and rents.
Several landlords in Rayerbazar, Khilgaon and Jhigatola told that they had been walloped by the coronavirus. Some of them are entirely dependent on house rents, while others are worried about the repayment of bank loans.
They all demanded that the government support them in getting out of the difficult situation.
Economists said at the moment, landlords are not among the most vulnerable ones owing to the three-month shutdown.
A faculty member of the department of economics and social sciences at Brac University said usually a landlord took two months’ house rents in advance from tenants. “In the pandemic-induced humanitarian crisis, solvent people should not calculate instant benefits or losses. We should be concerned about the renters suffering from an acute economic crisis,” he added.
Preferring to be unnamed, a tenant at a Mohammadpur-based Chandrima Udyan building, complained that his landlord had sent the caretaker several times to harass him and his family members for three months’ due rents.
The tenant used to work at a consultancy firm and pay his house rent regularly.
“Since April, when the firm was closed for an indefinite period, I have lost my earnings,” he said.
Despite being pressed continuously for paying the due, the 30-year-old man cannot move to any cheaper accommodation.
“My elderly parents, wife and younger brother live with me. All of a sudden, I have lost my job. I can’t arrange advance rent for a new house. There is also uncertainty about my future employment. So, I can’t shift to another place,” he said, adding that if there had been an option, the family would go to their village home. Most of his neighbouring tenants have already shifted to other places, he added.
“There are still five or six families who can’t pay their house rents. The landlord has said the tenants will have to pay all the unpaid house rents and utility bills someday.” He said there should be an option for paying the dues in installments.
Research institutes have painted the picture of a bleak economy coming in the near future. While the plight of the vulnerable groups is evident, it will take time to calculate the actual losses of the landlords.
He requested that both landlords and renters maintain a good understanding among them to deal with the ongoing crisis.
The online-based apartment rental business goes on without many difficulties due to the corona pandemic.
Bproperty’s marketing and public relations manager Mahzabin Chowdhury said, “Everyone needs a place to stay – be it for themselves or their businesses. Bproperty is still busy dealing with customers looking for new homes.”
Bproperty, the country’s single largest online-based real estate and rental property business operator, is currently managing over 30,000 apartment rental projects – both residential and commercial housing, mostly in Dhaka.
Mahzabin said the countrywide shutdown had hardly had any negative impact on Bproperty.