Is there a need to review the Rent Act?

The Rent Control Act 1963, Act 220 under Section 255 states that no landlord has the right to take rent advance for more than three months and six months for residential and commercial areas. The Rent Control Department was created to ensure a favourable rent environment.

Unfortunately, due to demand outstripping supply, landlords charge in excess and sometimes demand up to three years rent advance.

Another important aspect of the law that both tenants and landlords should know is that rental increments can only be made after three years of the initial rent charge. However, all these regulations have been either ignored, or side-stepped for more expedient methods that come about because of the huge housing deficit that exists in the country.

In fact, it has basically been reduced to the forces of demand and supply – that is, the ability to pay. A cursory view of land prices in the capital city of Accra gives an indication. The average cost for a plot of land (100 X 80 feet) in prime areas like Cantonments is GH¢1.08million, East Legon-GH¢1.0million, and Spintex sells a plot for GH¢708,000 on average.

Lands at Kasoa go for around GH¢125,000 while lands at Pokuase and Oyarifa sell at GH¢27,000 and GH¢52,000 respectively. Thus, land acquisition for housing purposes has now become some sort of a ‘gold rush’; and if a prospective home owner doesn’t have thousands of Ghana cedis to part with, then he/she is subjected to the excessive rent demands of landlords who are making use of every opportunity to maximise their returns.

In all of this, one really wonders what role the Ministry of Works and Housing plays, and its relevance in an area that is solely left to the forces of demand and supply. Because of the fragility of the national currency, which is subject to fluctuations, home owners are now pricing their properties in foreign currencies like the dollar – and this leads to prices that are far above the average workers’ ability to pay.

People can argue this is a symptom of present economic realities, but the worry is that without any form of regulation it puts the average Ghanaian in a precarious situation which needs to be properly addressed by officialdom.

Is Act 220 still operative or it has outlived its existence? What is the point of having laws in our statute books that are outmoded and inoperative?