Some officials of the Rent Control Department in Accra, near the Tema Station have been fingered for conniving with some landlords in the city to unduly eject tenants from their residences, our investigations have revealed.
Some officials of the department, it was discovered, have forgone their core duties under the Rent Act, 1963 (act 220) and the Rent Control Act 1986 (PNDCL 138) by establishing a system of lawlessness that gives room to bribery and corruption to pursue their agenda.
The Rent Control Department is a government organization with the primary responsibility of resolving disputes between landlords and tenants in the country.
Ghana is currently battling with its housing deficit which stands at 1.6 million and the actions of the officials at the Rent Control Department are rather aggravating the situation.
The officials were found to be taking fees from landlords without issuing out official receipts.
Meanwhile, another official of the Department Mr. Fred Tawiah, a Principal Rent Officer, gave a contrary view of what goes on at the Department regarding fees. He said the Department currently does not charge complainants any fees, adding that the Department has only now made presentations to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to give it the mandate to charge fees for its services.
He indicated that the Department receives about 50 cases daily and complainants are given complaint forms to fill without paying any fees.
They, in most cases, also receive money from landlords who would want to eject tenants on flimsy reasons, to speed up their illegal actions.
Mr. Benjamin Sarpong, a victim, told his sad story. According to him, his landlord connived with some rent control officials to eject him from his residence while he had travelled out of town.
In the event of ejection, a tenant is normally given a reasonable time to find other accommodation , but in Mr. Sarpong’s case, neither did The Rent Control Department serve him with a notice letter nor engage him in a private discussion as to when to move out from the room that he was occupying.
“Another tenant paid some money to my landlord as part payment for a rent. But the landlord turned around to say that the tenant had not paid any money to him. When the matter got to the Rent Control Department in Accra, I was invited to be a witness and I did,” he said.
Enquiries at the Rent Control Office revealed that complainants are required to pay a fee of GH¢10.00 and an additional GH¢1.00 for typing a complaint. And before a case is called for adjudication, some of the officials ask complainants to pay an additional unjustifiable fee of GH¢5.00 Our investigation also found that some of the officials demand undisclosed sums of money from complainants before their cases are heard.
They also demand additional fees for misplaced receipts from complainants without caring to look for duplicates, our investigations found.
When the Acting Chief Rent Officer for Ghana, Mr. Addo Soi Dombo was contacted, he admitted in an interview that he was aware of the bribery and corruption at the department, but noted that the department “is a human organization and such acts are unavoidable.”
According to him, those that come to his notice are investigated, adding that sometimes complainants are not able to bring proof of bribery and therefore, they go and never return. He said, “Both the giver and taker in bribery cases are all criminals and perpetrators will be punished when caught in the act.”
He disclosed that in a day about 50 per cent of the tenants are evicted from their homes and also cases that come to them are mostly evictions.
Meanwhile, a landlord, Mallam Bala, told this reporter in an interview that he has been to the Rent Control Office before, and that he bribed a Rent Control Officer before achieving his aim.
According to him, he was informed that there were some documents they needed to work on but if he wanted to fast-track his case he should ‘do something’ about it which he obliged because he wanted his case dealt with speedily.
“They ruled in my favour after I gave them the money,” he said without mentioning the exact amount he paid and to which specific official.
Madam Amina, a tenant at Bubuashie in Accra who lodged a complaint against her landlord for unlawfully trying to evict her shared the ordeal she suffered at the Rent Control Department.
According to her, after unsuccessful multiple visits to the Rent Control Department, she eventually gave up. “I went there several times and waited several hours. I stopped going there because I was wasting money and time at the place,” she says.
Efforts to speak to the Deputy Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Dr. Mustapha Ahmed were unsuccessful, despite our having booked an appointment with him. Additionally, several phone calls and text messages sent to him were unattended to. The Rent Control Department is under the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing.
The Rent Act was passed to protect tenants from arbitrary increases in rent and frequent evictions by their landlords, especially when the former are not able to cope with rent increases. Under this law, a tenant is usually given reasonable time, usually three months to six months, to find a suitable place to relocate before being asked to leave. He can only be ordered by the court to vacate the premises if the landlord has demonstrated that the property is required for his or his immediate family’s personal use or that he wants to remodel and renovate or upon failure by the tenant to meet his fundamental obligation as a tenant, that is to pay rent when due. But even then, the tenant would normally be given reasonable time to find a suitable place. Clearly, the massive deficit in housing especially in the cities explains why the provisions of the Rent Act and Rent Control Act hardly work in practice to protect tenants.
This investigation was made possible with a grant from PAIR.