Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Changes coming to Rent Act - Equal responsibility on landlord and tenant

Published:Wednesday | July 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Chairman of the Rent Assessment Board, Rose Bennett-Cooper, says that modernising the Rent Restriction Act of 1983, making it more balanced with established standards of responsibility for both landlord and tenant, will redound to the benefit of a prosperous and contemporary Jamaica.

She told The Gleaner at yesterday's consultation briefing at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel that the wording of the act gave the impression that it served to place restrictions mainly on the landlord, while protecting tenants. She noted that equity was needed in the sector, which has the potential to aid Jamaica's development through structured and affordable housing.

"Protecting the rights of a tenant is paramount, but we seek to be fair and, thus, we seek amendments to the act that will serve to create that balance in protecting the rights of the landlord, as well as the tenant," Bennett-Cooper said.

The Rent Restriction Act was originally enacted in 1944 at a time when tenants were being significantly disenfranchised and was, therefore, skewed towards their protection.

The act has since been amended 11 times, the last being in 1983. Nevertheless, in its present state, the measure is outdated and does not adequately address the problems currently faced by landlords and tenants.

According to Bennett-Cooper, amending the act is aimed at fixing those and other issues.

"You cannot use as a reason for terminating a tenancy the fact that you want to sell, because under the law, the Rent Restriction Act sets out the grounds on which you may give a notice to quit to your tenant. Your intention to sell is not one of those grounds," Bennett-Cooper pointed out.

Among the main provisions affected in relation to the proposed amendments are the changing of the name of the act, to read 'The Rent Act.'

Additionally, the contentious issue of security deposit will also be looked at, with the amendments seeking to bring this matter under the ambit of the act, the standardisation of number of months' deposit to be charged, as well as the guidelines as to its use and refund to the tenant, among a raft of other changes to the policy.

The amendments are in keeping with the Vision 2030 National Development Plan and one of the recommendations of the draft national housing policy is to amend the act, so that we can have a viable rental industry as an option to access adequate, safe and legal housing solutions for all Jamaicans.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com