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We welcome the new Rent Tribunal Bill

Aug 28, 2014, 10:15 AM

We understand that the new Rent Tribunal Bill passed by the National Assembly meeting in Banjul this week was “designed to introduce a new legal regime for the regulation of rent matters in The Gambia.”

From the reports we have read, this new bill will enable the government to kill two birds with one stone.

First, it will ensure that the government is able to get house owners to charge a “reasonable” rent, as originally intended in the Rent Control Decree.

Second, house owners will now not be able to dodge paying the requisite rates to the municipal/area council, and taxes to the Gambia Revenue Authority from the income they receive.

Indeed, this was a well-thought-out approach!

“This new bill is very innovative in its drafting”, we learned the Justice minister announced when it was presented to deputies.

Under the new law, each rent tribunal would have a registrar keeping an up-to-date register of all rented property within its jurisdiction, as well as the personal details of landlords/landladies.

A landlord/landlady is required to register rented properties using a form prescribed for that purpose. Failure to do so is an offence.

This will also address the twin issues of non-enforcement of the law and non-compliance with the law – which as we stated recently in this column are two national ailments crying for a panacea.

Seeing the contents of the new Rent Tribunal Bill, we are convinced that it provides the required medicine to ensure “sanity in rent matters”, as put in this week’s newspaper headline announcing the news.

It would be recalled that ensuring that rent charged is reasonable has been the goal under the Rent Control Decree.

We believe it must remain a goal pursued by the rent tribunals to be established throughout the country.

We caution the relevant authorities to watch out for those who will be working to abuse the new system for personal gain. This had made the old system ineffective.

We understand that a similar law is being enforced in Senegal, where rented properties are subjected to a valuation mechanism put in place by the national authorities responsible for housing.

This mechanism helps them to determine the rent chargeable. Landlords/landladies are then required by regulation to let out their rentable properties based on a specified stipulated rent.

This again will have two beneficial results.

It will enable the house owners to let out their properties to tenants based on an officially-approved rental fee. Potential tenants are also able to access and to occupy affordable housing.

This will help eliminate the usual arguments and quarrels, between owners and tenants over “the rent being charged for this type of house.” Both parties will live with peace of mind.

Indeed, this is a much-needed social protection mechanism, particularly in countries like ours where because of increasing urbanization and “development” survival now is not easy.

It is our view that this measure should not in any way dampen private investment in providing housing, which is essential for improving people’s standard of living in The Gambia.

What it would definitely achieve is to ensure a manageable cost of living for Gambians – which is a one important responsibility of the government.

We want to suggest that the government also turns its attention to the Education sector, where schools will be re-opening in the next few weeks.

We want to call attention to the trend of increasing charges/fees and costs in education, which have run riot, as witnessed by all of us in recent times, especially with the proliferation of private schools – which are now operated as money-making machines - one of whose consequences will be increasing inequality in this country! Food for thought, eh?

“This will help eliminate the usual arguments and quarrels, between owners and tenants over ‘the rent being charged for this type of house.’ Both parties will live with peace of mind”.

The Point