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Shenanigans of landlords, but can we complain?

BY: Salifu B.B. Moro
The value of houses appreciate with time
The value of houses appreciate with time

I have always held the view that a house is more valuable than a car, regardless of whether the house is a one-single block, wooden or metal structure, and the car a Range Rover or a Toyota Land Cruiser.

These are my reasons: a house appreciates in value, while a car depreciates in value over time.

Second, when a house is razed down by fire, the land will still be available for future use and even appreciate in value as well, but when a car is burnt down or involved in an accident, you lose everything, and no amount of mechanical works, in Ghana, can return the car to its former condition.

For this reason, I have vowed to either buy or build a house first, before thinking about buying a car.

Because for me, one of the most essential properties that any human being needs, regardless of the person's mental, physical, psychological or financial status, is a place to lay the head after all the hustling and bustling of a tough day.

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And it doesn't matter if it is a wooden, metal or a brick structure, insofar as it has a roof or it is accommodative enough for the weary and sleepy soul. And so, all human beings strive to at least get some sort of a structure they can call a home, hence the high demand for accommodation in the urban areas across the country, especially in Accra.

And with the law of demand ingrained in their minds, landlords and their agents have taken advantage of the situation and are unrepentantly milking innocent accommodation seekers of their last pesewa.

Accommodation blues

In a quest for this essential need (accommodation), many people have fallen prey to the greed of landlords and their agents. Some have had to cough up from GH¢350 to GH¢500 a month (two years’ advance) just to rent a single room self-contained in places such as Osu, Labone, Achimota, East Legon, Airport residential, Cantonments all in Accra.

For instance, a few months ago, a friend from Techiman who had been posted to do her National Service in Accra was cheated by one landlord at Tse Addo, a suburb of Labadi.

This lady rented a single room self-contained from this man and made a full payment of GH¢3000 for a period of 12 months.

The man asked her to give him a week to enable him to paint the room, fix the lights and the sink in the kitchen.

Instead, my friend gave him two weeks to enable her to travel back home to see her parents, only for her to return to the news that her room had been rented out to another tenant.

My friend eventually got her money back and another room in the same vicinity after roaming the entire area for more than eight hours in search of a room.

But the landlord walked freely without anyone questioning him for his actions and when I asked my friend why she didn't take any action against him, her response was, "Oh, don't mind him.

This one when I talk right now, he will say I don't respect and blah-blah."

Challenge

With the country’s housing deficit around 1.7 million, the issue of accommodation and its accompanying exorbitant rent charges continue to remain a serious challenge for many people in the urban areas, especially students and national service personnel who mostly need a place to stay for a short period.

And there appears to be little or no effort from duty-bearers to enforce the rent laws in the country to make life easy for accommodation seekers across the country.

Ghana is blessed with many fantastic laws and policies governing and guiding all facets of its socio-economic life, but the problem has been the enforcement.

For instance, there is a Rent Control Department which is under the Ministry of Works and Housing.

The department is equipped by the Rent Act, 1963 (act 220) and the Rent Control Act, 1986 (PNDCL 138) to regularise and resolve rent and accommodation issues in the country, but this under-resourced essential public office is not able to effectively execute its duties as far as rent control is concern.

I once engaged one of the personnel at the Rent Control Department to find out why they are not able to prosecute some of the landlords who flout the rent laws and extort from innocent and desperate room seekers.

He gave me the "hmm" sigh and then posed the rhetorical question, "But can you complain?" He went further to harangue me on how the lack of adequate resources at the office is badly affecting their work.

This "can you complain?" rhetorical question is ingrained of the old-age Ghanaian cultural maxim that says that the elderly is always right and as a result bars people from questioning and holding their leaders accountable for their conduct and stewardship.

Many people, for this fear, have kept their mouths shut, endured brazen acts of disrespect and allow people who ought to know and do better trample over their rights but the question I keep asking (in the voice of Bob Marley) is: how long shall these landlords and their assignees continue to extort from innocent room seekers, while we stand aside and look?

The writer is a National Service person with the Graphic Communications Group Limited.