The Rent Control Department (RCD) is upbeat about its new law expected to be passed before the end of the 7th Parliament of the 4th Republic. The new Law, which is before the Works and Housing Committee of Parliament, will replace the current rent Law, Act 1963, which analysts consider archaic and quickly losing relevance.
One of the major changes that is likely to reflect in the new Law is that tenants will be required to pay only 12-months advance in rent. According to the Department, the move is to prevent the exploitation of tenants.
Currently, some landlords demand 2-3 years rent advance before awarding you their accommodation. In the instance of renting a shop, one is like to pay five-years advance. The new law is also likely to empower the RCD to set rent charges in some instances of dispute.
Revamp of its image
The Department is going through a massive renovation to get ready for implementation of its new Law. The head office is under renovation and will be fitted with modern gadgets to facilitate its operation.
“We have been given some new and modern equipment. Computers, printers, scanners and some other materials to help ease our work. The department is being transformed to meet modern needs,” a Principal Rent Officer, Gyasi Frimpong, told the B&FT.
The Department exists principally to promote easy access to adequate safe and affordable shelter through public education, arbitration and regulation of rental housing-related disputes.
Digitising its complaints unit
The RCD has revamped its website and will be configuring it to receive digital complaints. This is to offer more convenience for landlords and tenants who troop into their offices daily to lodge complaints.
“We are graduating toward receiving electronic complaints as well. When all is set, you will not need to drive all the way here to lodge a complaint. You can sit in the comfort of your home and do everything, and a date will be set for both parties to come for arbitration,” Mr. Frimpong added.
Many have questioned the Department’s relevance in current times, but Mr. Gyasi Frimpong told this paper that there would have been chaos among landlords and tenants if not for its existence. The Department, scattered across the country, hears about 100 cases a day and does well to resolve the issues and prevent escalation to the courts.
“The Department is seriously relevant in these times. There are always cases to be heard and we do well to bring peace. When you come here, about 60 percent of the cases we hear actually come from the landlord. There are a lot of issues and we try our best,” Mr. Frimpong added.
Making a case for more numbers
But the RCD says it can be more efficient if its numbers increase. The Department currently has no messenger to serve writs of summons, and relies on complainants to do so. This is worrying, as some complainants are physically and verbally abused when they serve the writ of summons to their adversaries.
The Department believes it can greatly contribute to economic development if given the needed attention. Rent control in Ghana helps to protect the public and prevent landlords from imposing exorbitant rent on tenants and the vulnerable. It has influence on housing investment either positively or negatively, depending on how it affects the local economy and public services.