NMI Landlord and tenant bill passes House
            The Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives on May 21 passed amended versions of two bills related to landlord-tenant relationships.

            HB 21-112 would authorize the NMI governor to issue a freeze on rent increases, evictions and foreclosures during a declared state of emergency or major disaster.           

            HB 21-79 would establish a landlord-tenant law in the NMI.

“I think it is fair to say that both bills have bipartisan support,” Rep. Christina-Marie E. “Tina” Sablan said. “In the case of the eviction bill, all the minority members plus two majority members are original cosponsors. In the case of the tenant-landlord act, one majority member’s name is on it as the author — Rep. Janet Maratita — but members on both the majority and minority sides have publicly expressed support for it. We will know how broad that support is when we actually act on the bills,” she told the Journal before the bills were heard.

            HB 21-79, the “CNMI Landlord and Tenant Act of 2019,” aims to rectify the lack of laws pertaining to landlord and tenant relationships to prevent abuse and victimization.

            “As things stand, neither landlords nor tenants have very many rights, so much so that the CNMI has been described by some real estate as a ‘Wild West,’” the bill states. “This can’t be allowed to persist.”

            The bill outlines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants as well as legal recourse to redress grievances. Prior to the bill, there had been no applicable law to address instances such as tenants abandoning or defacing a rental property, or landlords neglecting repair and maintenance of occupied rental properties.

            HB 21-112, “Freeze on Price Increases, Rent Increases, Evictions and Foreclosures,” echoes worldwide calls to freeze rent, mortgage payments and foreclosures due to the economic hardship imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

            “In a crisis such as this COVID-l9 pandemic, the ability to shelter in place can mean the difference between life and death,” the bill states. “During emergencies, and especially when public health and lives are at stake, there must be a moratorium on rent increases, evictions and foreclosures.”

            The bill does not preclude the continuation of rental payments for those who are still financially able to do so or the renegotiation of contract terms. It also does not permanently relieve or forgive payments, which must be resumed after a state of emergency has been ended. It also allows landlords to evict tenants who are making “living conditions unbearable.”

            Cities, states and countries around the world are debating various combinations of rent freezes and freezes on rent price increases. Los Angeles and Berlin are among the cities that have enacted rent freezes.


Bases can begin re-opening
            U.S. military bases can begin returning to normal status, according to a May 20 U.S. Department of Defense release. Relevant factors are local guidance and downward trends in positive cases.

            Patriot Express flights are also scheduled to begin again.


Guam senators and pig hunt
            The Guam Department of Agriculture will partner with senators Tina Muna Barnes, Pedo Terlaje and Clynt Ridgell for a COVID-19 Pig Hunting Derby on May 30 and 31, which will also be supported through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  

            The derby is an opportunity to provide food for families in need according to a May 22 release from the department. Derby organizers are also working with mayors to distribute meat in the villages.

            Further details are available on doag.guam.gov under Resources.

USDA makes loan guarantees available for working capital
            The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the department is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers that are not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program provisions included in the CARES Act.

            The department is developing guidelines and will hold webinars on May 27 and June 3, according to a May 22 release. For further details visit www.rd.usa.gov.


Unit wins award
            The 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base has been awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2019.


Bank reopens; extends hours

            Bank of Guam will re-open its Yigo branch on May 26. Extended branch hours have been announced for each branch, but BOG will remain closed on Saturdays.


Get ready notice to banks
            The Guam Department of Labor is suggesting banks prepare for pandemic unemployment payments to residents, by encouraging them to open bank accounts for payment by direct deposit, since some of the payments will be large, and it may be difficult to cash checks, according to a May 22 release.

            To date 1,038 employers have registered with DOL as furloughing employees, with 19,906 employees registered – about half of the 38,000 individuals DOL previously estimated were affected.


Department store opens
            Macy’s Guam advised the Journal May 22 that it has re-opened at Micronesia Mall.


Navy to move hospital tent
            Naval Base Gaum will move its “Expeditionary Medical Facility” from South Finegayan to the Santa Rita compound, it announced in a May 22 release, due to its being a more typhoon-proof site. The future purpose of the facility could include supporting Guam’s medical needs.