Unlike other expenses that cease to be relevant in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, rent is unavoidable. Regardless of the state of the economy, residents are still expected to pay their rent to keep their homes and businesses.
Ajar, a Kuwaiti Fintech startup, stepped up to try to make the process a little easier. Sahar Abdulrasoul, Ajar’s Growth Manager tells WAYA, “Being in the rent payments space, we feel obliged to do everything we can to help our users navigate these difficult times. In fact, we’re trying to look at the glass half full and recognize the current economic circumstances as an opportunity to prove to the real estate industry how crucial PropTech is to its long term survival.”
The Kuwaiti FinTech startup is a cloud-based real estate service for rent collection and property management. The service allows tenants to pay their rent online via SMS and email.
Cashless Solutions Are Healthy Solutions
The majority of tenants in the UAE and Kuwait are still dependent on cheques or cash payments for their rent. Although, in the current coronavirus pandemic physically transmitted payments can also transmit the virus. Abdulrasoul tells WAYA, “While these outdated payment methods were simply inconvenient in the past, today they are blocking property owners’ stream of income and posing a health risk on tenants.” Due to the current global situation, the platform is now available for free.
Governments and central banks are warning against the use of physical payments (cash, cheque, POS). As a result, Ajar has taken measures to avoid the spread of the virus through payment. Abdulrasoul says “we’re covering the transaction fees for all tenants who need access to a safe solution to pay their rent online. This means that any tenant in Kuwait or the UAE can today sign up for Ajar and seamlessly pay their rent to their landlord online, without worrying about any credit or debit card fees. Landlords can also sign up for free to provide a safe payment solution to their tenants and guarantee their income stream.”
This online solution is crucial for a number of reasons. Firstly, the majority of banks are closed or operating on limited hours which limits tenants from making deposits or withdrawals. Secondly, many tenants are stuck in quarantine or are under a national curfew which makes it difficult to pay rent physically. Thirdly some tenants and landlords are stuck outside of their countries.
Helping Landlords Help Tenants
Commercial and investment tenants have been hit the hardest from the COVID-19 outbreak. The majority of beauty and retail businesses in the region are forced into complete shutdown. Abdulrasoul tells WAYA that commercial units make up approximately 30% of all rental units in Kuwait. Thus, 30% of tenants in Kuwait have been directly affected by the outbreak. The remaining 70% are mainly residential units. These have also been indirectly affected due to lay-offs and forced leaves caused by businesses shutting down.
Ajar saw a lot of their portfolio clients rise to support their tenants over the last few weeks. In response, the online platform launched the following features to allow their landlords to provide such support legally and seamlessly:
- Limited period discounted rent; landlords can choose to add a flat or percentage-based discount for their tenants
- Rent installment activation; landlords can split their rent into multiple smaller installments
- Collection date postponement; landlords can temporarily disable automatic lease blocking to give their tenants more leeway for paying
- Rent cancellation; landlords can cancel their rent invoices for this month or a specific period
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