ARANI: Arani Municipality is in a bind as it has racked up rent arrears of over Rs 8 crore for 110 shops, which have been sealed for various reasons, at the local body’s shopping complexes in different parts of the town .
The traders, who spoke to DT Next, said: “The local body has unilaterally increased the amount of rent by more than 100% without regard to a trader’s ability to pay, which in turn is tied to the volume of business in a specific area. Shops that paid around Rs 1,530 in 2017 were asked to pay Rs 9,990 for the same location, which was unfair.
Shops have been built by the local body in places like Gandhi Market, Periyar Maaligai and near the Mother and Child Center in a bid to raise additional revenue for the municipality. However, things turned sour when the local body increased the amount of rent without considering whether traders would be able to afford the increased rate, as business in a specific area would continue to be the same. But, it was a blow due to the lockdown.
A trader preferring anonymity said: ‘Once traders realized they were in a win-win situation as they didn’t have to pay rent to open stores due to COVID, they continued to staying in shops, which has resulted in the local body now being stuck with rent arrears of Rs 8 crore. Although 110 of the 445 stores remain closed due to non-payment of rent, the amount going to landlords is increasing every month, officials have revealed.
Commissioner P Tamilzhselvi said, “We are waiting for the PWD to complete an assessment of the physical condition of the closed stores before making a decision on their reopening.” Regarding the rent arrears of Rs 8 crore, she said, “the matter will be brought to the Council, who will discuss it and come up with a solution.”