Outrageous charges by agents take toll on tenants
Renting in Accra is gradually becoming stressful for some people especially because of tricks played by some agents to extort monies.
In an attempt to cash in on desperate individuals looking for accommodation, some of these agents charge GH¢100 for what they describe as “viewing fee” in addition to a fee for transportation in and out of locations where they claim to have rooms.
The “Viewing fee” is the payment done for inspecting rooms available for rent. Usually the agents allow viewing by appointment.
Some victims told The Mirror that these agents could go on for weeks, collecting viewing fees and taking their customers on a wild goose chase. Often times, they are very much aware that the houses they take their clients to see are either not available or does not meet their requirement.
The Mirror gathered that it is often too late when the victim realises that half of the actual money to be used to pay rent has gone into paying viewing fees.
Again some victims explained that some of the agents connive to pose as” landlords and agent” to defraud people on the pretext of renting a house.
The Mirror spoke to one such victim, a Communication Consultant at Sisters diary, Nana Ama Twumasi, who described the phenomenon in which those rent agents operated as an “unregulated system”.
She said her experience with these agents was one of the reasons why she relocated to her hometown, Osino, in the Eastern Region and commuted to work daily in Accra last year.
“The agent will call and tell you that he has gotten the kind of room you want. You go there and it a very small space far from the specifications you gave him. Agents don’t like to move around in trotro. They like taxis and that alone is an additional bill at your expense”, she said.
“Some of them too they have good rooms but they will first send you to the bad ones till they have taken enough money from you and then at the last minute, they take you to a good one. If you don’t take care, half of your money will be gone. It was so frustrating, I had to stop looking for accommodation in Accra”, she explained.
Ms Twumasi said her last experience with an agent was in May 2022 when she was almost defrauded.
She said “ l saw an advert with photos of some apartments and a contact number, and because l was in dire need of accommodation, l called the number and the person who picked up the call claimed to be an agent and confirmed he had put out those pictures of the apartments for rent with the intention of attracting prospective tenants”.
“I thought the apartments were decent. So I quickly expressed my interest and followed up. It was in the week l was making preparations to make payments that I had a call that the person the agent introduced to me as the landlord was not the actual landlord. Can you imagine?” She queried.
At Dome Pillar 2 in Accra, Madam Akosua Abronoma Nyarko explained that prior to her moving from Mataheko to her current place, she had already discussed with a rent agent the kind of room she wanted but somehow they ended up at a single room self-contained apartment in all the rounds she made with him.
She said, “I told him l wanted a chamber and hall so I was very annoyed when he kept taking me to a single room self-contained and still wanted to charge me.
“Eventually, l had to use four different agents before I got the room I liked. From my experience with the first one l made up my mind not to spend more than GH¢100 on an agent and so when I sense that you want to use me, I stop engaging you and move on to another,” she said.
Meanwhile, there are those who have never used agents to secure accommodation and would reject their services forthrightly.
An Engineer at the Ghana Water Company who was on transfer to Tema, Mr Dennis Oduro, said “some of my colleagues had already shared their experiences with me so before coming into Tema, I made up my mind not to use them and so when I am told there’s an apartment I quickly ask if there’s an agent. I tell them I don’t need an agent. I went into the communities dealing with the landlord themselves. I have never used an agent”.
However, some agents who spoke to The Mirror said they only concentrated on their 10 per cent commission and were not interested in extortion.
Some said “of course, once I move you must pay my transportation. The problem with people is that they don’t work within their budget”.
Viewing fee is compulsory
At Kotobaabi in Accra, an agent, Abdul Ganiyu, who has his office around the Ecobank branch and calls himself “your trusted agent”, said he had been doing business in Accra for over a decade.
Although he admitted that there were criminals posing as agents and causing all sorts of trouble in their industry, he insisted that viewing fee was compulsory.
And the only time viewing fee became a problem, he said, was when some people wanted to view too many places, adding that “some of the rent agents will take advantage to take money”.
He said there were agents who did not take extra monies and stuck to their 10 per cent commission.
For instance, he explained that when the rent per month was GH¢400 for a period of two years, the 10 per cent commission of that was GH¢940.
He said the system was not regulated hence they were doing their best to bring all activities under one umbrella.
“We have created a WhatsApp group where members are credible and doing diligent work and are not engaging in criminal activities. Whenever we notice that one of us is not doing good we put him on the spot and remove him. We also put him on social media platforms to warn people not to do business with him. A credible rent agent must operate from an office. How do you meet someone on the road or through connection and go ahead to do business with him?” he asked.
People who were mostly affected by this system were national service personnel and workers, especially those on transfer and newly married couples.
Getting the service of an agent in Accra seems an easy task. Aside from those who leave their details on various social media platforms, there are those who publicise their services on a medium-sized black board and usually position them at Ridge roundabout, Holy Spirit Cathedral area, Asylum down and sometimes in front of their homes.
Spotted at Adabraka, opposite One Ghana bar, one of these blackboards had a bold inscription: “Luxurious chamber and hall self-contain with spacious kitchen for rent. GH¢1500 per month for two years advance. Agent terms and conditions apply”.