The vice-president of the Republic, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has assured the citizens of Ghana that rent and housing challenges in the country will be addressed by the government to minimise the financial difficulties people go through to secure a place to lay their heads.
He gave this assurance when he paid an unannounced visit to the offices of the Rent Control Department in Accra to familiarise himself with its operations.
During his visit the vice-president toured all the Rent Control offices and was taken through the steps that people with rent problems take when they visit to look for resolution of their challenges.
Addressing the media after his tour, Vice-President Bawumia said the mistrust between landlords and tenants generally in Ghana and the lack of low-income housing facilities in the country is to blame for the high rent charges which are so common in Ghana. He said the government has initiated processes, including the consideration of a new Rent Bill to replace the existing Rent Act 1963, to deal with the problem.
“We are looking very seriously at the issue of rent advance. Why are landlords continuously insisting on two years’ advance even though the law says six months? What is clear is that there is ‘a market failure’, what economists call a ‘market failure’.
“Tenants, on the one hand, know if they are going to be able to pay the rent or not. Landlords, on the other hand, don’t know if these tenants can pay the rent or not, so, to protect themselves, they usually want a large advance so that they can be assured that the rent is paid,” Dr Bawumia said.
How do we address this market failure? the vice-president asked. Answering his own question, Dr Bawumia said the housing stock must increase, and especially the stock of low-income accommodation.
“We are not just talking about the so-called affordable housing, which is not affordable for a lot of people. We are talking about low-income housing,” the vice-president said.
He said further that the government, in order to deal with the asymmetry of information between landlords and tenants, will come in to provide a bridge so that, through insurance and guarantees, landlords can be a little more confident that tenants will pay them their due.
“We are going to address this issue and we have some proposals which we will announce soon,” Dr Bawumia said.
Digitisation of rent control operations
Of the need to transform the operations of the Rent Control Department, the vice-president observed that the long queues of people at the office as he visited were unacceptable.
He said that the digitisation of the office is a top priority for the government, and was almost certain that, with the introduction of technology in the affairs of the rent office, queues and delays will be eliminated completely.
“What we want to do is to improve the operations of the Rent Control office. As I have gone round and observed, it is very clear that so many of these queues that we see here can be avoided through digitisation of the operations of the Rent Control office.
“There is really no need for everybody to queue here to lodge a complaint. You could do it online,” the vice-president said.
Chief rent control manager
The chief rent control manager of the Rent Control Department, Twum Ampofo, in an interview with journalists after the vice-president’s visit, said he is hopeful that with the passage of the new Rent Bill, the operations of the Rent Control office will greatly improve.
He also expressed gratitude to the vice-president for his assurance that the government will resource the office with vehicles for its operations.
He lamented the lack of office space and beseeched the government to support the department’s efforts to secure a permanent office facility.
Rent Control Department
The Rent Control Department is one of the departments of the Ministry of Works and Housing. It was established in 1963 by an Act of Parliament, the Rent Control Act 1963 (Act 220), or LI 369/64.
The department provides administrative and professional services to the public and works in collaboration with landlords and tenants to promote optimum peaceful coexistence through education, reconciliation and economic development in the country.
Rent control in Ghana helps to protect the public and prevent landlords from imposing exorbitant rent on tenants and the vulnerable. It has influence on housing investment either positively or negatively, depending on how it affects the local economy and public services.
The department was established as an ombudsman in mediating rental disputes arising from the relationship between landlords and tenants. The department exists principally to promote easy access to adequate, safe and affordable shelter through public education, arbitration and regulation of rental housing-related disputes.