Gov’t urged to act as covid-19 inflicts havoc on tenants

Nov 8, 2021, 1:37 PM | Article By: Adama Tine

Finding a suitable or affordable apartment especially in The Gambia’s metropolis these days is very challenging especially in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic.

The issue of house rent has become very difficult for many in The Gambia nowadays. Many landlords are hell-bent in charging high rentals or inflating rent prices.

 What makes it even worrying is the corresponding strict rules attached with some of these apartments for let. A room and a parlor that used to be priced at D1500 now double the initial price. While those going out for D3000 are now twice the initial price.

Ansu Manneh, a tenant, detailed how securing a house in the country becomes a nightmare especially during this trying time of the pandemic. He explained that the recent situation of the houses in the Gambia is getting out of control because double-room-and-parlor is very expensive.

 “I spoke to more than 10 agents during this Covid-19 period but the lowest amount they ask for is D28, 000 for six months deposit before one can get a room, which is different from the D1500 that you are paying to the agent. How can an ordinary Gambian whose salary is less than D2500 have a room in Kombo during this trying times of Covid-19,” he queried.

 He urged government to do something on this by taking a proactive role to solve this issue as it is part of things affecting Gambians on a daily basis, while urging KMC to also address the situation.

 Ridwan Othman, a registrar at the Kanifing Magistrates Court, said during the Covid-19, people have been going through a lot of financial constraints due to the lockdown period. “Around that time we received lots of cases mainly from the landlords because of rent arrears.”

 According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a hard time for tenants most especially during the lockdown period when most of them could not go out for their daily activities, noting that at the end of the month they could not add up to their rent fees which sometimes are too high.

 Mr. Ridwan added that the Covid-19 pandemic has been very tough and difficult on tenants and within that time they had received the highest number of cases on tenants due to lack of payment of rents by tenants with some landlords not being able to accommodate most of the tenants because of such constraints.

 “Within a short period of time we had registered too many cases on tenants and within a month, we receive around 30 cases. Most of the cases are either tenants are not paying on time or they are not paying at all which is as a result of the lockdown,” he explained.

 Some tenants, he said, would owe landlords up to around three, four months due to the lockdown and most of them when brought to court, would say the pandemic has affected their source of income and also that they had family burdens on their heads which include feeding and payment of school fees, among others.

National Assembly Member for Kiang Central, Hon. Bakary Camara, stressed that there is no control in terms of the way people conduct themselves due to the 2014 Rent Act.

 He added that landlords are not allowed to increase rent without consulting the councils especially now that the world is suffering from the pandemic.

 Hon. Camara urged landlords to be more understanding and consider the fact that we are all Gambians and that the Covid-19 has drastically affected people’s source of income and has collapsed businesses.

 Lamin Yabou, a tenant called on the Kanifing Municipal Council to help stop agents from intruding in rental issues especially during the Covid-19 period as they are making life unbearable for tenants.

 “The Covid-19 has really affected us tenants but landlords and agents polarised that only rich people can have rooms or apartments in this country. We are low income earners so we are finding it very difficult to rent even a single room because of their exorbitant charges,” he said.

 However, Sheikh Joof, a house agent countered that: “This is our work and sometimes the reason why we charge high is because, the job is so hard. The Covid-19 has affected all of us but the main problem comes from the landlords because they give us the sole responsibility to manage their houses and we operate based on their directives,” he explained.

 “I pity tenants that are desperately looking for houses due to the fact that they were evicted by their former landlords because of payment issues during the Covid-19 period. I’m also a tenant and I know how it feels to be in such a situation. But some of my fellow agents are greedy for money that they don’t negotiate with the landlord to be patient with the tenants,” he concluded.

The Gambia’s Ministry of Health confirmed the country’s first case of coronavirus on Tuesday March 17, 2020.

As a precautionary measure, Gambian President Adama Barrow on the same day announced that all schools, including universities will be closed from Wednesday 18 March 2020 for 21 days.

Additionally, all public gatherings, including open markets were suspended immediately for three weeks. All overseas travel by public officials was also cancelled to prevent further spread of the virus.

As of 5 November 2021, The Gambia had officially registered 9, 965 Coronavirus cases, 340 deaths and 9, 611 recoveries.

 This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilising Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Mai-Media and The Point.

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