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The chaos of the rental landscape

  • Published at 10:01 pm August 31st, 2020
The chaos of the rental landscape

Section 10 of the Premises Rent Control Act states that only one month’s rent can be acquired in advance by a landlord

The rental landscape of Bangladesh can be messy, unpredictable and difficult to grasp. It, sort of, has a mind of its own and can be the bane for its citizens. However, there are laws, ordinances and rules — chiefly the Premises Rent Control Act, 1991 — which replaced the outdated Premises Rent Control Ordinance, 1963, to prevent just that. Laws are present to ensure both the tenants’ and landlords’ stakes are protected —and to keep the rental scene from falling into chaos. Unfortunately, instances, when these regulations and laws are upheld,are very few and far between. A majority of people disregard these laws — leading to the concerning situations that many tenants and landlords endure.

To start off, tenants and landlords are supposed to have government-appointed officials to ease problems related to renting. According to Section 3 of the Premises Rent Control Act, the government appoints a controller and a deputy controller for each area who will take care of applications made by tenants and landlords, inspect homes, discharge any duty conferred and imposed upon them as per the act and, most importantly, fix the amount of standard rent.

In reality, the application of this Act is almost non-existent — not because the government does not appoint these “rent controllers,” rather, because people are hardly aware of who they are and what they do. Very few people know that there are officials to help tenants and landlords, and even then, bureaucratic and complex processes make it incredibly difficult to seek assistance.On top of that, enforcement of the Act in the field by these officials is also rare.

If proper enforcement of the Premises Rent Control Act was a reality, tenants would not have to continuously suffer unreasonable rent increases every year.Between 1991 and 2016 — 25 years of the act — rent in Dhaka increased by 388%, despite the fact that, according to the Section 15 of the act, the annual rent of a property should be equal to 15% of the value of the premises, and rent can only be increased by 10% every two years or if major renovations or alternations was undertaken on the property.

So, instead of a fixed rent increase, some landlords arbitrarily increase it by as much as 30-40%, and sometimes even annually.According to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), the average rent across various parts of Dhaka have risen by 9% in the last few years. As a result of these whimsical decisions, the cost of living continues to rise with each passing day.

To further escalate the woe of the tenants, some landlords charge absurd amounts of “advanced rent,” sometimes even equal to three to four months’ worth of rent which is in violation of Section 10 of the Premises Rent Control Act, which states that only one month’s rent can be acquired by a landlord for such instances. For any landlord to ask for more, they would have to get written consent from the controller of their area — which almost no one ever does.

Refusing to accept such a term means losing the chance to live in that home. Additionally, refusing to accept incessant rent increases by the landlord also oftentimes results in forced eviction for the tenant even though Section 18 of the act states that a tenant cannot be evicted if they pay rent in full and continue to meet the conditions as set by the original rental agreement.

Speaking of which, the rental agreement that is supposed to set the precedence for the forthcoming relationship between a tenant and a landlord is still an unfamiliar aspect. While tenants and landlords hailing from the upper echelon and/or highly educated backgrounds maintain such documentation, most do not. As a result, unreasonable landlords often have free reign to do whatever they please and constantly make living difficult for their residents.Many landlords also refuse to keep and provide rent receipts for tenants — a concept that dates back to the 1950s.  Both the rent receipt and the rental agreement are proof of tenant-landlord relationships and can be legally binding.

Another thing that most people are not aware of is that violating any of the regulations of the Premises Rent Control Act can subjugate that person to all sorts of penalties as stated in the act’s Section 23. For example, asking for more than one month’s rent in advance as security or anything can result in a fine which may extend to Tk2,000 for the first offense and Tk5,000 for each subsequent offense. Also, more importantly, a landlord may be penalized for taking rent that exceeds the fixed standard, which can be twice or thrice the amount recovered in excess of the standard rent. Unfortunately, none of these violations are ever accounted for — leaving tenants in dire situations.

The chaotic nature of the rental scene of Bangladesh is far from being set in order. As long as the enacted regulations are not properly enforced, the plight of the tenants will continue to increase tenfold with each passing moment. Organizations like the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB) and the Bharatia Parishad have been trying to elevate some of the more persistent problems of the people. But in a country where so many people rely on rental properties for residence, these problems should be at the centre stage for eradication.

This article is being published under special arrangement as part of a partnership with Bproperty.com.

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