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Courts take aim at rent cases linked to outbreak

By CAO YIN and CUI JIA | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-05-20 09:08
A man wearing a mask walks on an overpass in Beijing's central business district on Feb 16. [Photo/Agencies]

Chinese courts won't back landlords ending leases when tenants who work in service industries can't pay rent on time after their business was affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a Supreme People's Court directive on disputes related to the epidemic.

The directive applies "when tenants are unable to pay the rent in full or on time after their revenues were affected by epidemic control measures", said Liu Guixiang, a member of the top court's Adjudication Committee.

The epidemic is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event, so the courts encourage landlords to cut rents or extend deadlines instead of terminating leases, Liu said at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Tuesday.

Rent issues have been a major public concern, including among small and micro business owners after many service companies including catering were forced to remain closed. Even for those still functioning, revenues have dropped significantly due to the decrease in customers.

The directive also says courts will support guardians if they want to recover payments made by their children to online game sites or hosts of livestreaming platforms after courts nationwide have found many juveniles, especially in the 8-18 age group, have been overly generous when surfing the internet during the outbreak.

"Some children used their parents' online payment tools or online credit cards to pay for online games or give tips to online hosts, and the amount sometimes was large, such as a few thousand yuan, which didn't match their civil capacity, obviously," he said.

"In this circumstance, if the children's parents initiate a lawsuit to ask the internet companies to return the online payments, courts should be in favor of them."

Disputes relating to educational or training institutes also emerged because some contracts with trainees or members were difficult to carry out due to the epidemic, the directive said.

If a trainee goes to court to terminate a contract and wants fees returned, he said the solution will depend on the specific case. If training or classes offered online work well, courts will not support the plaintiff, "but if the contract cannot be implemented effectively online", the court would "consider asking the institute to pay back training fees", Liu said.

Courts will try their best to solve epidemic-related disputes to prevent people's work and daily lives from being affected, he said.

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