Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo)

MANILA – There is currently no rent freeze for residential tenants struggling financially amid the prevailing pandemic, Malacañang said Thursday.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that lessors are still mandated to comply with the 30-day grace period for commercial rents under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

Wala pong freeze in rental. Ang napaloob sa Bayanihan 1 or 2 ang meron lang po reprieve sa pagbabayad ng upa (There’s no freeze in rental. What Bayanihan 1 or 2 provide is a reprieve in the payment of rent),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

He also pointed out that there are current laws such as Republic Act 9653 or the Rent Control Act of 2009 which protects poor and middle-class tenants from unreasonable rent increases.

“Meron naman po tayong ongoing na rental law na yung mga maliliit na renta ay talagang hindi pupuwedeng gaano magtaas ng singil (We have the ongoing rental which limits increases on rent),” he said.

RA 9653 states that the lessor is not allowed to increase the rent by more than 7 percent annually if the unit is occupied by the same tenant. The lessor is only allowed to change the rate for new tenants once the unit becomes vacant.

Lessors whose units are dormitories, bed spaces, or boarding houses that are rented to students are only allowed to increase the rent once a year.

Violators of the Rent Control Law face a fine of PHP25,000 to PHP50,000, or imprisonment of one month and a day up to six months, or both.

Roque, meanwhile, appealed to lessors and landlords not to implement unreasonable rent increases or evict anyone for failing to pay rent.

“Pero nakikiusap po ang Presidente, at sinabi naman po niya ito, hindi lang isa, kundi dalawang beses na, e mag bayanihan naman po tayo sa panahon ng pandemya (The President has appealed, not just once, but twice, let’s help each this time of pandemic),” he said.

He sought understanding, especially since it is a difficult time for many who have lost their jobs or source of livelihood.

Sana maging maunawain ang nagpapa-upa. Wala po sana silang i-eject at magtulungan po tayo sa panahon ng krisis gaya nito (Let’s be understanding in rent collections. I hope nobody gets ejected and let’s help each other in a crisis like this),” he added.

In several speeches, Duterte has called on lessors and landlords not to "force" people to pay rent.

Reports showed that some small businesses affected by the pandemic have reportedly sought additional assistance from the government like utility subsidies and lower rental fees.

Several loan programs are currently available for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to help them cope with the Covid-19 crisis. (PNA)