28 November 2012

Gambia: 'No Landlord Should Charge Rent, Without Rent Tribunal' - Says the Manager KMC Rent Tribunal

Tenants in Manjai, Kotu, Bakoteh and Dippa Kunda have challenged the rent tribunal to venture into mass campaign to scrutinize the said vicinities within their jurisdiction, on the following claims: The arbitrary increment of rent, six months advance payment of rent, issuing notices to tenants with the pretext of renovating the house, among others.

Mr. Babucarr Barry, a tenant asserted that landlords contracting with tenants to pay six (6) months rent in advance is at variance with the law; adding that landlords owning properties in these areas enslave tenants by asking them to pay six months rent in advance before they are allowed to occupy their dwellings.

Based on the above concerns raised by the tenants, the Kanifing Municipality (KMC) rent tribunal was visited.

The Manager, KMC rent tribunal, Mr. Omar Sey, responded quickly to claims by the tenants. He asserted that all compounds under rent should be registered with the rent tribunal before the determination of the rent. He said after one builds his or her compound, the would-be landlord should be registered with the rent tribunal upon which the tribunal will come and inspect the house and fix the rent depending on the nature of the house or apartment or facilities available.

He further said no landlord should fix or increase the rent without applying through the rent tribunal. He warned: "If any land lord unilaterally increases or fixes his own rent without such an application, she/he has committed an offence". He noted that the penalty for such an offence is five thousand dalasi (D5000) or two (2) years imprisonment or both, and any offence committed by the land lord contrary to the provisions of the rent act is liable to a payment of a fine of D5000 or 2 years imprisonment or both.

Mr. Sey stressed that no land lord should ask for an advance payment (if any) for more than one month. He clarifies that based on the provisions of the Rent Act, nobody should ask for more than one month's advanced payment as a condition to occupy a house.

He also responded to the question of landlords sending their tenants out, with the pretext that they would be renovating the building. Mr. Sey asserted that if such is reported of any land lord, she/he would be taking to court immediately and the tenant would be compensated adequately; noting that, that particular land lord would be charged for illegal eviction meaning he/she has given false information to the court that he was to renovate his/her house compelling the court to order the tenant to move, when in actual fact he/she is trying to use a strategy to send the tenant out in order to increase the rent. He urged all to report any such matter and the tribunal would handle it according to the Act.

For the issue of charging a huge amount for a very small room, for instance charging a single room the size of 4 metres by 4 metres, one bulb and a socket for one thousand dalasi, Mr. Sey said the practice is unlawful. He called on all to be vigilant and inform the tribunal. Mr. Sey called on all landlords to register their compounds, if not, the law would deal with them when they are caught. He also called on all tenants to report any act done to them by their landlord contrary to the Rent Control Act.

Sey finally said KMC rent tribunal is functioning with a skeletal staff, meaning they have shortage of human resources. According to him, if they have enough human resources, they would be able to visit all locations within their jurisdiction, noting that they are doing all they can to ensure that landlord/tenant disputes are minimized.

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