Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said government is undertaking policy initiatives towards digitising and modernising the operations of the Rent Control Department to enhance the adjudication of rent related cases.
In that regard, the Minister of Works and Housing, Samuel Atta-Akyea has presented a new Rent Bill before Cabinet for consideration, which will be forwarded to Parliament for consideration and subsequent approval.
This is to allow the Rent Control Department to operate effectively and efficiently within the scheme of changing economic environment.
Currently, rent issues in the country is regulated by the Rent Act 1963 (Act 220), which is outmoded and fails to deal effectively with disputes and conflicts between landlords and tenants.
Vice President Bawumia, who announced this when he paid an unannounced visit to the Rent Control Department Offices, in Accra, on Wednesday, expressed government’s readiness to support the Department with the requisite resources to operate effectively.
Dr Bawumia was accompanied by the sector Minister, Samuel Atta-Akyea, Deputy Minister Barbara Asher Ayisi, and some officials at the Office of the Vice President, and were taken round the various adjudicating rooms by Mr Twum Ampofo, the Chief Rent Manager, to familiarise himself with the Department’s operations and how cases between landlords and tenants are adjudicated.
The Vice President was of the conviction that digitisation of the Department’s operations would greatly minimize the long queues witnessed at its Offices across the country.
“In this case anyone can easily lodge a complaint online without having to trek long distances to the Rent Office, and also reduce the long queues we’re seeing here,” Dr Bawumia added.
The Vice President observed that at the heart of rent disputes was inadequate housing units in the country and exorbitant rent advances demanded by landlords.
In that regard, Government was instituting plans and programmes for low income housing units that would be within the means of low income earners and the ordinary Ghanaian.
He added that government would soon come out with a proposal to enable it provide insurance and guarantee system to deal with challenges associated with rent advances.
For his part, Mr Twum Ampofo, the Chief Rent Manager at the Department, bemoaned lack of logistics as one major constraints hindering its operations.
He, said, for instance, that the Department had only one Pick-up vehicle, which makes it difficult for the Organization to conduct effective assessment of property and attend to other constitutional duties.
He said the headquarters of the Department was currently accommodated in a temporary structure within the premises of the Ghana Highways Authority, while its administrative block is under construction.
Mr Ampofo welcomed government’s plans to enact a new Rent law to regulate and improve its activities.
He, however, appealed to government to urgently adjust upwards its fees and charges so that it could increase its internally-generated funds.
“We have proposed that government should increase the complaint fees from GHC9.00 to GHC50.00 because the current amount is insignificant.
“More so, the penalty for flouting the rent law is not punitive enough and so some landlords flout it with impunity because he or she can easily pay the fine if someone takes him or her to court, and I believe this should be addressed by the new Rent Bill if it is finally passed into law,” Mr Ampofo stated.
He said currently, the Department had rented accommodation for its regional and district offices and even owed some landlords.
He said the Department’s annual allocation from the budget delayed unduly, which put a lot of constrain on its operations including purchasing of stationery, printing of documents and payment of waste collectors.
On cases that are often reported to the Department for adjudication, Mr Ampofo mentioned inducement of tenants to quit, recovery of possession, rent arrears, ejection and tenants absconding from a rented facility.
This year alone, he said, it had received 4,092 cases and settled about 3,000 of them, while the rest would be resolved before the end of the year.