In the battle against COVID-19, Thailand has thus far done very well in its effort to flatten the curve. Thanks to the country’s effective healthcare system, the number of new cases continues to drop, and everyday life is slowly getting back to the way it used to be. Even so, the economic impacts of this pandemic might continue for months or even a few years.
Given the current uncertainties in the Thai economy, many lessees are seeking rent concessions from their lessors. Though help of this kind would be gratefully received in this time of financial hardship, it may also cause legal complications if lessees fail to properly account for all the concessions they are granted.
Last month, The Thailand Federation of Accounting Professions (TFAC) announced accounting practices that lessees can follow if they are granted concessions by their lessors during the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures will be valid until the end of 2020 or until further changes are made.
Know the rules
Under normal circumstances, rent concessions are required to consider whether they are lease modifications as per the accounting standards. But since concessions are currently being granted as a form of pandemic practical expedient, many of these changes to lease payment are not considered as lease modifications.
According to the TFRS 16, the main thing that should be taken into account is whether the rent concessions affect the overall value of the contract or not. Simply put, if the lessor will be receiving a lesser sum than expected in the contract and total considerations are changed as a result of concessions/deferrals, it will be considered a lease modification.
On the other hand, if the rent concessions do not affect or alter the value of the initial contract, it will not be considered a modified lease.
If the concession is based on an enforceable right, and no other terms of the lease are changed, then the concession is generally not accounted for as a lease modification. This applies to rent deferrals, for example, as they only change the timing, and not the amounts of payments.
Currently, the TFAC’s temporary relief measures exempt lessees from having to consider most COVID 19 related rent concessions and the lessee is permitted to account for as if the change is not a lease modification.
Leases and COVID-19
Under normal circumstances, concessions in lease contracts may include: a free month of rent, rent discounts, help with relocation costs, goods (free television, furniture), services, etc. If these concessions already exist in the initial lease and there are no changes made, the lease will not be considered to be modified.
To avoid the complications that arise from modified leases, lessors should now only grant concessions that are related to COVID-19. Moreover, those concessions must not substantially change the lessee’s rights or the lessor’s obligations under the contract.
Lessors should be applauded for helping those in need during the crisis. But lessees must ensure that they are performing the appropriate accounting for any financial help they receive. Proper record keeping, consistent accounting practices, and responsible reporting will help ensure that this kind of support ends well for all involved.