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My tenant is refusing to vacate his apartment
The Act provides punishment for anyone who contravenes any provision of the law.

My tenant is refusing to vacate his apartment

Dear Mirror Lawyer, About two years ago, I rented out my apartment in Accra. The duration of the tenancy was two years and the tenant agreed to pay all the rent in advance.

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About six months before the term expired, my son got admission into a university in Accra. He searched for accommodation around the school but found none.

I, therefore, decided to ask my son to move into the apartment I had rented out after the expiration of the two-year tenancy. I informed the tenant and served him with notice to vacate the premises at the expiration of the two years as agreed upon.

The tenant, however, refused to vacate the premises and boasted that the law protected him until he found a new place to stay. My son has been lodging in guest houses at great expense to me because of the tenant’s attitude. What can I do to solve this problem?

Rockson, Adenta.

 

Dear Rockson, the relationship between a landlord and tenant in Ghana is governed by the Rent Act, 1963 (Act 220). The Act provides that a landlord cannot forcefully evict a tenant from his premises unless by a court order or an order from the Rent Magistrate.

For the court to make such an order, the landlord must prove any of the following.

First, that the premises are reasonably required by the landlord for personal occupation as a dwelling house by himself, a member of his family or any person in his whole-time employment, such premises being constructed to be used as a dwelling house, so.

Second, greater hardship will be caused to the landlord if the order is not made to evict the tenant.

The Act further defines a member of a family as the father or mother, a wife, husband, child, brother or sister, or such other person as may be prescribed.

This means if the landlord relies on the claim of needing the premises for a member of his family, he must prove that the said person is either a spouse or his or her child or brother or sister or parent.

The court would then consider all the circumstances of the case to determine whether the landlord can provide alternative accommodation elsewhere for himself or the member of the family. The court will again consider whether hardship would be caused to either the landlord or the tenant if the order is granted.

The position of the law, again, is that the mere fact of the expiration of a tenancy will not automatically trigger the ejectment of the tenant.

The tenant, at the expiration of the tenancy, still has a right to remain in occupancy of the property because he has the protection of the law from being thrown out onto the streets by a landlord. This protection is known in law as a statutory tenant.

In the Ghanaian case of UTC v Karam [1975] 1 GLR 212, Abban J (as he then was) held at holding 3 that (3) having held over the premises after the expiration of the sub-lease the first defendant became a statutory tenant within the meaning of section 36 of Act 220 despite the written notices to quit and he was protected in his possession of the premises so long as he complied with the provisions of the Act and also observed (under section 2 9 (1) (a) the terms and conditions of the original tenancy which were consistent with the provisions of the Act. 

Such a statutory tenant could only not be evicted by a landlord except by an order of the court and only when any of the circumstances specified in section 17 of the Act had been established to the satisfaction of the court.

The Act provides punishment for anyone who contravenes any provision of the law. It states that a person shall be guilty of an offence and shall upon conviction by the court be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both fine and imprisonment.

This position of the law may seem harsh, especially to landlords and make nonsense the whole purpose of an agreement between two parties. But it was the wish of the Ghanaian Parliament at the time to protect tenants from being ejected from their rented premises.

With the Rent Act before Parliament for a review, the time has come for landlords to make representation to their representatives to change this provision and make it an obligation for a tenant of full age and understanding who signs an agreement to vacate a premises at a specified period to be bound by his or her undertaking and hand over the premises at the expiration of the agreed period.

In this case, from the information you have provided, you have satisfied the requirements needed to order the tenant to vacate your apartment. You cannot forcefully evict the tenant.

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