They have yet to rebound from the previous coronavirus wave, and they are already worried about what the next will bring. From July onwards, tenants of commercial premises on the metro have to pay 100 percent of the rent again, although earlier – due to the pandemic – they had been reduced to 20 percent. – Where should we get the money, since the revenues are still minimal? – they ask. They cannot break contracts either, because then they will have to pay back the arrears from the entire pandemic period.
Ms. Renata is renting a flat from the Warsaw Metro at the Ratusz Arsenał station. He has been running the business there almost from the beginning, for 17 years. For a square meter he pays PLN 776, which for a 10.5-meter apartment gives a total of PLN 8148 gross. She wrote about her problem on Kontakt 24.
In March last year, when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Metro – wanting to help tenants – issued a decision to defer payments. From then on, they only paid 20 percent of the rates. But in the opinion of the municipal company, the situation is good enough to withdraw from the aid. Since July, tenants not only have to pay one hundred percent of the rent, but also have to pay back what has been deferred.
All because the government has abolished passenger limits on public transport. It’s just that the traffic at the stations is not as it was before the pandemic. Some passengers still work from home, others have changed their habits – they have moved to cars or bicycles. There are also no pupils and students, because it is the middle of summer holidays. As Ms Renata says, after 1 p.m. the station is empty. – Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has not been a single day for me to have 50 percent. pre-covid revenue. I close at 1pm, not at 9pm, because no one comes after that hour – wringes her hands.
This is not the first time that metro tenants have asked for help. As we described, six months after the decision to defer the fees, they alarmed that the metro was demanding payment of arrearsalthough they still have nowhere to get the money. They were then promised that the temporary suspension would be extended until the end of June this year, and it did. However, they did not know what would happen next, and in the meantime they got more letters stating that in the event of termination, they would have to pay for each month, which for some would mean a return of several dozen thousand zlotys.
The metro redeems 30 percent
– A week ago we received information that 30 percent of those suspended for the previous year will be canceled – says Ms Renata. However, they will have to pay the rest. – This is bankruptcy for me. I have a profit margin of 25 percent. There is no decision on what it will look like in this year, it may turn out that in December they will order me to pay the arrears and will drag me into further debts. We are all in a stalemate, he continues.
She has already sent two letters to the President of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, asking for help. – I’m in total disarray. I don’t know what to do – he complains. – It’s unfair. They promised to treat us individually. Meanwhile, at our station they canceled 30 percent of those 80 percent, other tenants 40 or even 50 percent – he argues.
She also tells that not only she has a difficult situation. Almost all tenants are devastated. They are getting ready to terminate the contract, but it means paying off the arrears. Ms Renata regrets that she did not know about the metro’s decisions a year earlier. – I would then have half a year of overdue rent to pay. They held me for 16 months and after that they give me an unfavorable decision. If I quit now, I would have to pay 100,000 zlotys!
– They made us bankrupt with huge debts. It is almost August, and they have yet to make a decision for this year. I suspect that – since most of us the contract ends in December – they will hold us until then and – if we extend it – maybe they will cancel something. And if not, they order you to pay. I don’t know who makes these decisions. Most people have been there for over 20 years, since the station’s inception. Treat us like this? – regrets.
Tenants are considering organizing a “Black Monday”. They want to close all the premises in protest. – Will it do anything? I do not know, but as they say “a drowning man grabs the razor”. We are trying and we are wondering whether to do it – summarizes Ms Renata.
Metro: There is no reason to continue the suspension
We described the situation to the spokeswoman for the Warsaw Metro, Anna Bartoń, and asked for an explanation. We asked why it was decided to charge the full amount for the rental. – The announcement by the government on June 2 and 10 of the information about the satisfactory pandemic situation and the decision to lift further restrictions means that there are no grounds for continuing the suspension of payments – justified the decision. As argued, for the period of temporary suspension, 80 percent. the rent, the management bore “the full costs of maintaining the metro infrastructure – including commercial and service premises”. She also indicated that the decision in July to write off some of the outstanding debts was made depending on the economic situation of the tenant.
– From March 2020 to December 2021, the redemption amount is a total of PLN 3 million – she reserved.
Metro Warszawskie also ensures that it was in touch with tenants all the time – they got, among others, questionnaires in which they indicated their turnover and how much money they obtained from anti-crisis shields. – Thanks to this, we were able to individually consider the financial condition of each of the entrepreneurs, and then decide to redeem some of the suspended invoices for 2020 – Bartoń said. – Outstanding rent payments will be divided into installments – she added.
She also indicated that tenants would be able to pay them off for two or three years.
They have to return money from the anti-crisis shield
When asked about low traffic at stations, resulting in low turnover during the holiday season, the spokeswoman replied: – During the holiday season, the number of passengers always decreases, however, tenants have never applied for rent remission during the holidays.
However, she did not answer the question whether, in terms of traffic, this was an ordinary holiday, similar to the ones from before the pandemic.
We also asked about the situation of Mrs. Renata and indicated the amounts to be repaid. Ms Renata sublets the premises from one of the companies which at the Ratusz Arsenał station has a contract with the Metro for several other premises. – We have full documentation, which clearly shows that the company (which sublets the premises to Ms. Renata – ed.) And sub-tenants received almost PLN 500 thousand in 2020. PLN government support as part of anti-crisis shields, as well as over 250 thousand. zlotys of support from Metro Warszawski for the canceled rent – Bartoń pointed out.
– I don’t know exactly how much money the company received. As part of the shield, I received just PLN 50,000, of which 25 percent was written off. I have to pay the rest from July. Anyway, Metro’s management should not be interested in what subsidies we received. They did not take into account the decline in revenue we reported, but how much money we got from the government. It is a mockery for me – says Mrs. Renata.
Main photo source: PAP / Andrzej Lange