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19.04.2007 General News

Rent Act under review

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The Law Reform Commission is holding a symposium to solicit for input from the general public for the review of the current Rent Act 220 of 1963.

Mrs. Justice Vida Akoto Bamfo, an Appeal Court Judge, said the review would help address some of the limitations and other exigencies of current issues that confronted the real estate market in the country.

She said it would also ensure an update of the Law to be abreast with and reflect current situations such that rents for properties were not artificially over suppressed to discourage others from investing in the industry and also enable Landlords to rehabilitate and maintain their existing properties.

Justice Bamfo, who is also the Chairperson of the Rent Review Committee stated that Act 220, which was enacted 43 years ago had been overtaken by demands of present day developments and was therefore fast loosing its power of regulating affairs between Landlords, tenants and related parties.

She explained that the Act came at a period when the economy was not liberalised as it was presently, with individual participants deeply involved in the estate and rental housing industry and that most of its provisions were aimed at protecting the tenant.

"Subsequent ancillary legislative intervention such as the Rent Control Law (1986) PNDC 138, as amended by Law 163; all seem to tilt in favour of the tenant," she said.

According to Justice Akoto Bamfo, the current liberalized economic system suggested that any review of the current Rent Act that would seem over protective of one side, "would leave us swimming against the tide."

She said: “The Commission is of the view that the relationship between a Landlord and a tenant most often put the former in a stronger bargaining position. This is because as is the case now in the country, demand for accommodation now exceeds the supply. A completely unregulated system which leaves the tenant at the mercy of market forces would also present us with a very chaotic situation in the Estate/Property and Rental Housing Industry."

The forum reviewed provisions under the Act 220, which provided for the position of a Rent Commissioner, Officers of the Rent Commission, as well as the functions of the Rent Officer and the Rent Magistrate, who were the major mediators in rent control disputes.

It was proposed that an arbitrary committee be set up within the Board, as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to resolve disputes between Landlords and their tenants.

It was also requested that Rent Officers must have the requisite qualification pertaining to their job specifications so as to ensure proper interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Act.

Participants also called for a review of the section on rent advance, which currently stood at six months to at least a year to suit the tenant and also meet the economic demands of the Landlord.

Participants blamed Estate Agents for the high prices of accommodation charged and suggested that they should be roped-in into the Act to make their activities legal and also help eliminate high commission charges.

Source: GNA