He said the practice, where landlords fixed rent prices without consulting the Rent Control Department was also illegal, not permissible and fraudulent.
“It is illegal for landlords to fix rents for a room. Rent is determined and approved by the rent control department, and therefore landlords have to apply to the department for assessment and ratings before they can give their facilities out for rent”. He emphasized.
He indicated that tenants were not under any obligation to pay rent advance beyond six months, because the rent control laws had not changed, and said some landlords took undue advantage of tenants’ ignorance, frustrations and urgency to demand long term rents, sometimes insisting on between one to 10 years advance payment.
Mr Kasim who disclosed this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Bolgatanga said reports of rent related issues over the years had overwhelmingly increased in the region and indicated that most of the cases were rent refund demanded by tenants, rent arrears owed landlords and threats by landlords to evict tenants.
He said Act 220 which replaced the Rent Ordinance Law was tactically enacted to take care of exigencies of potential tenants and tenants to ensure that Landlords did not put too much financial strains on tenants who requested to hire their properties.
The Regional Manager noted that most members of the public were unaware that his outfit existed to mediate or prosecute matters related to rent, and called on tenants and Landlords to report cases bordering on rent to the department for redress.
He said rent issues, whether residential or business, were critical and synonymous with the growing population and assuming importance in all spheres of life.
He added that, it was imperative to invite the media in the region, especially radio and print to support the Department by educating members of the public on some of the rent related issues confronting the members of the public.
Mr Karim noted that from 2001 to 2011 the Department received between 20-30 cases a year for arbitration and prosecution, and said however, that, the cases had increased to an average of 100 cases each year since 2012.
“Some cases are solved immediately and tenants do not need to file complaints while others are referred to the court. Rent refund cases far outweigh rent in arrears cases.”
The Manager emphasized that about 22 cases known as the ‘enforcement’ had been referred to the courts and said all the other cases were successfully arbitrated and explained that in terms of rent refunds, it was the reimbursement of unexhausted advance in which for some reasons the tenant would have to leave the premises.
“Those cases are more because of the illegalities landlords are engaged in. By the current law, Act 220, landlords cannot take rent in advance for more than six months. It should be on monthly bases”, He stressed.
He, however, advised tenants not to be intimidated by their landlord’s threats, and feel free to report such cases.
“Some tenants are afraid to file complaints because of fear that landlords may ask them to vacate the facility”.