The Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, has hinted that a new rent law will soon be passed. Ghana’s Rent Act 1963 (Act 220) was passed some 58 years ago. There is no doubt that with the passage of time and increase in population, the Act has outlived its relevance. A law passed to manage a population of approximately six million people would obviously be found wanting if it is made to deal with a population of over 30 million.
Ghana’s housing deficit was projected around two million in 2020 by the Ghana Statistical Service. The Ghana Real Estates Developers Association (GREDA), around the same time, also projected that the total housing shortage in the country was around 5.7 million. If the figures from GREDA was anything to go by, it meant the housing deficit in the country, as at last year, was close to the total number of Ghana’s population around the time that Ghana’s Rent Act was passed.
It is therefore not surprising that the Minister in charge of housing in the country would emphatically state that Act 220 “has outlived its purpose.”
Housing challenges have grown from being a mere disagreement between two contracting parties to sometimes becoming bloody.
A visit to the Rent Control Department will show that a lot of reported cases to the Department are made by tenants who are forced to live according to killer terms proposed by landlords.
As the Minister observed recently, when he visited the Rent Control Department, “one of the underlying challenges of rent in this country is that we do not have a lot of housing opportunities for Ghanaians, and, as such, we have challenges at the supply side, so many of the terms in our rents arrangements are dictated by landlords, and we are caught up in the situation of take it or leave it, and it doesn’t help at all.”
Due to the huge housing deficit in the country and the number of people chasing a particular room at a time, landlords tend to behave like their names suggest: ‘Lords’ over their tenants.
Killer prices, arbitrary increase of rent, long-term advance payment, unfavourable tenancy agreement, among others, have become the other of the day.
Dealing with the issues
That is why we believe the decision to enact a new law to regulate rent in the country is in the right direction. We cannot live in a country where the strong has the liberty to prey on the weak at his will without consequences. That is obviously the style of the jungle, and we are not in a jungle.
The new rent Act should therefore focus, among other things, on standardised tenancy agreement, regulated market where rent is not left at the whims of landlords, controlled advance payment, among others. It cannot be right that young graduates are forced to cough out huge sums of money just be able to have a near but not-too-decent accommodation.
While considering that, it is the belief of the Daily Statesman, as it is the belief of the minister, that the demand driven nature of the housing market is mainly the cause of the troubles in the sector. Government should therefore quicken its plans of providing affordable housing to boost competition at the supply side of the chain.
The new Rent Act should really be new from the status quo.