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Amendments to rent restriction act to ensure equity for tenants and landlords

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

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ST JAMES, Jamaica — Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr says that Government is updating the Rent Restriction Act in order to create a viable rental industry and provide equity for tenants and landlords.

He said that the Act must protect both parties, ensuring that renters can have access to adequate, safe and legal housing solutions, while, at the same time, encouraging property owners to rent their premises.

“If the Rent Restriction Act does not afford for protection in an equitable way, then you are going to have less persons wanting to be landlords,” he argued.

“We want to be able, as we create this enabling environment, to look at all of the specific and unique challenges and create the solutions, so that we have a framework that is equitable and that is stimulating the kind of growth in a sustainable way that we need in Jamaica,” he added.

Charles Jr was addressing the Realtors Association of Jamaica (RAJ) symposium at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on Friday.

He said that among the proposed amendments is a change of name to the Rent Act and to bring the matter of security deposits under the ambit of the Act, in order to standardise the number of months for which deposits are to be charged, including guidelines for use and refund to the tenant.

“We want to expand the powers of the Rent Assessment Board by bringing the recovery of possessions under its portfolio, as well as to limit the number of extensions to length of stay,” he noted further.

The amendments will also outline the minimum standard for rental premises including that the building must be structurally sound, walls and flooring intact and the roofs free of leaks.

“We want to also deal with permissible rent, which is severely outdated. I think it is now based on a date from 1980, so we hope to move that forward to within five years of the market value,” Charles Jr said.

“We want to include specific definitions of terms in the Act, treat with notice to quit, where the owner can use his or her intention to sell the property as a valid reason for issuing a notice,” he added, noting that fines and penalties for breaches will also be updated.

He informed that the legislation is with the Chief Parliamentary Council, “so we hope that it will be moved through quickly”.

The Rent Restriction Act was enacted in 1944 and was last amended in 1983. It was developed at a time when tenants were being seriously disenfranchised and was focused towards their protection.

The RAJ symposium, held under the theme ‘Real Estate Investment 2019: A Road Map’, included presentations on property rights and unregistered lands; investing in the Airbnb product; improving home ownership opportunities; and the Rent Restriction Act. The event concluded with a panel discussion.

—JIS


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