Saudi Arabia: The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered rents owed by businesses affected by COVID-19 be waived
The General Assembly of the Saudi Supreme Court has ordered rents owed by businesses affected by COVID-19 be waived. A review of such contracts between tenants and landlords has also been ordered. However, the authorities have also set conditions which must apply before a case can be eligible for review under the new regulations. If a contract was concluded before the anti-COVID-19 measures started, the impact on the affected party will have need to have been direct and unavoidable. In addition, in these cases, an affected party must not have been compensated or reached a deal to mitigate the effects of the crisis. In such cases a review will be possible and the new regulations will come into effect. A competent court will then issue their verdict based on the facts and circumstantial evidence. They may order the contract be amended. These new provisions will apply to tenancy contracts and movable properties affected by COVID 19. The regulations also cover other types of contract such as construction and supply contracts, which have been affected by the crisis. If a contract obliges one of the parties to carry out something, which cannot be completed on time because of COVID 19, the court can temporarily suspend implementation of the obligation. If the other party fears unusual damage because of the suspension, they may request termination of the contract. The court has stressed the need for damages to be carefully assessed on a case-by case basis. This should be done by one or more experts and when assessing damages, it should be clear which losses were incurred directly because of COVID 19 and had nothing do to with seasonal changes in activities. The Supreme Court has explained that courts are bound, when considering cases arising from contracts and obligations impacted by COVID 19, not to apply penalty clauses or fines totally or partially, depending on the case. Where a contract includes an exemption of liability clause for one of the contracting parties when an emergency or force majeure event occurs, the condition has no effect and the party which breached the obligations must provide evidence COVID 19 caused the breach. Affected contracts which are not covered by this principle will be subject to standard legal and statutory litigation principles.