Legislative changes coming for rental of premises
THE Rent Restriction Act is to be amended to address a number of controversial issues, including the charging of a security deposit by landlords.
Addressing the recent launch of the North Coast Chapter of the Realtors Association of Jamaica in Montego Bay, chairman of the Rent Board Marvalyn Taylor-Wright said "a security deposit is quite legal if it is a genuine security deposit". But she pointed to the need for a clearly defined structure surrounding the payments and collection of such a deposit. "The intention is that the industry standards will be modified to reflect a two-month security deposit for the rental of furnished premises and a one-month deposit for the rental of unfurnished premises."
Taylor-Wright also addressed the issue of possession by a landlord, another matter which has caused disputes between landlords and tenants. "There is absolute prohibition against a landlord taking the law into his own hand and evicting a tenant in a subjective way," said the Rent Board chairman.
It is being proposed, she said, that "the matter of recovery of possession should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Rent Assessment Board and the courts to assist in speedier resolutions".
Regarding increases and assessment of premises, Taylor-Wright said it is being proposed that the base date used for the purpose of determining the standard rent be moved forward from August 31,1980 and that rental values be subject to review every five years, from the existing two years.
Under the Rent Restriction (Percentage of Assessed Value) Order 1983, the standard rent for an unfurnished dwelling house is 17 per cent of the assessed value and for a furnished premises 27 per cent.
Taylor-Wright said the intention is to introduce a panel of valuators to determine the market value of the premises, while making allowance for both the landlord and the tenant to get their own valuation in arriving at the acceptable value upon which to determine the rent.
Taylor-Wright noted that while the proposals for change may not satisfy everyone, "it is felt that they will strike a fairer balance between the securing of a reasonable return on the investment of the owner and affordable rental values".
Taylor-Wright said, too, that it is a widely held view that the Rent Restriction Act protects the tenant against the landlord and so it is proposed that the Act be renamed "The Rent Act" to remove the perception of bias in favour of one party over the other.
At the same time, it is proposed to remove rent control from commercial premises.
She said deregulation of this segment of commercial premises was informed by statistics, which suggested that the problem of demand outweighing supply in the residential rental market was not much of an issue for commercial premises.
Taylor-Wright said no amendment
was being contemplated to make collection of rent in United States currency illegal, but
she hinted that legislation requiring mandatory registration of all rented premises would be strengthened.
The Rent Board chairman, meanwhile, said "an inspector may at any reasonable time enter any controlled premises and require the landlord to furnish, in respect of
those premises, such information as the landlord or tenant possesses and he may institute proceedings for breaches of the provisions of the Act."
All premises in the country are regarded as "controlled premises except where an exemption has been granted" by the relevant minister, she pointed out.