FOR over 70 years, ground tenants of eight shophouses in Sungai Siput have been paying a minimal fee to the landlord but with a new ownership, the rental increased up to a whopping 1,000%.
The tenants, who have been occupying the row of shophouses along Jalan Lintang since the time of their forefathers, two-months ago received notices from the owner telling them about the increase between RM400 and RM600 monthly from the current RM40.
To make matters worse, the representative of the landowner had placed for rent notices on the front door of the three out of the eight unoccupied shops.
Chong See Mooi, 77, who is one of the three ground tenants who closed her sundry shop five years ago, was left in a dilemma after she was informed about the matter.
She said her children were no longer interested in running the business, and therefore she had decided to close the shop.
“But we have invested so much to set up the shop, so how can the landowner just increase the rental, and without informing me put up the notice.
“Not only that, the person had also placed a padlock on the door. This is just too much,” she said.
M. Sugumar, 53, who runs a provision shop, said he was not aware of the increase in rental until his neighbours told him.
He said both his grandfather
and father had put up the building on the piece of land with great effort.
“In the earlier days, the rental used to be RM5 and gradually went up to RM40, but the news of the drastic increase in the rental has shocked all of us.
“We barely make any profits, so how are we supposed to pay such high rental,” he questioned.
Another ground tenant affected is the Jalong DAP branch office.
Its current chairman Choo Sung Choy, 65, said for the past six years he had been taking care of the office.
“The agent who approached us said the new rental will be RM600, but after some of us got angry, he said the rental can be brought down to RM400,” he added.
Two police reports have so far been lodged over the matter.
The disgruntled tenants then approached Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), as their negotiations with the representative reached a deadlock.
PSM Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj’s personal assistant Soh Sook Hwa said the ground tenants have been staying at the location for many years.
She believed that there was a new landlord who decided to increase the rental.
Soh said the landlord’s act of pasting “for rent” notices and installing padlocks at the unoccupied lots was not legal.
K.K. Leong, the director of Wang Seri Industries Sdn Bhd, which had acquired the land back in 2008 from the previous owner said from the time the company acquired the land until today, not a single sen was collected from the tenants.
However, he said only recently the shareholders of the company had held a meeting, and that the matter of no income coming in from the piece of land was discussed.
He said the company had to pay quit rent, maintain the area, service the bank loan and interest, and therefore he said it was only right to collect a reasonable rental from the tenants.
“Initially, when our representative went to meet them, we asked them for RM600 in rental, but they said it was high, and we then kept it within the RM350 and RM400 range.
“Two out of the eight tenants had signed a tenancy agreement but some of the other occupants do not want to pay at all,” he claimed.
On the three empty lots, Leong said when the company’s representative went to check the building, it was in a dilapidated condition, and for safety reasons the place was then locked up.
He said buildings without approval from the local authorities were deemed illegal, and that he he did not think the buildings put up on the land had any approval.
Leong said that the tenants were from the lower income group and therefore the company was not being harsh on them.
“We are willing to have a dialogue session with the tenants to reach a win-win situation,” he said.