The rent of a 700 square feet flat at Sankar of Dhanmandi in the capital is Tk 15000 per month. Jakir Hossain, an employee of a non-government organisation lives in that flat. On December 4, the landlord informed him that the house rent would be increased by Tk 2000 from the month of January. The flat was comfortable for Jakir Hossain as his office and the school of his son were near the area. But he has no capacity to bear the pressure of Tk 2000 rent hike at a time. What will Jakir Hossain do now?
The House Rent Control Act of 1991 provides that rent con not be raised before two years. Jakir Hossain may go to the court seeking remedy for the rise in house rent. But he has not with him any house rent agreement, receipt of house rent and not even a proof that the land lord has asked him to pay Tk 2000 more from January. Because the landlords in Dhaka do not give these to the tenants. As a result, even if he goes to the court he will not be able to prove the allegation. Worse still, for going to the court the landlord will evict him from the flat any how.
Thus the tenants in Dhaka are helpless to the landlords. The rent is raised by one month notice, the tenant has to vacate the house on a months notice, and these depend totally on the sweet will of the landlord. How much the rent will be increased also depends not only on the tenants, but on the whims of the landlords. As the demand for house never declines, the landlords also can resort to ‘rent torture’ on the tenants recklessly. The tenants have nothing to do other than endure this torture silently or change the house every year. Again, where will they go?
Rent increases everywhere. To get a house at cheaper rent you will have to go far away.
According to the estimate of Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) the house rent has increased by 372 percent in last 24 years (1990-2013). Lately, rent rose by 9.73 percent in 2012 and 10-91 percent in 2013.
However, House Rent Control Act was there in Pakistan period and it is in force is Bangladesh also. The ordinance regarding house rent was promulgated first in 1963. House Rent Act was passed in 1991. But never any tenant has got any fruits of this law. The law provides for appointment of rent controller for different areas. Government has also appointed assistant judges as rent controller. If allegations are filed, then they dispose those of. But they can not play any role in rent control in the area, make the insuance of receipt mandatory or ensure the making of agreements.
The Awami League government in its last tenure has recast a number of laws and policies and made them time-befitting, but did not take any initiative to reform the House Rent Act which massively relates to public interest. There is no instance that Parliament Members from Dhaka have spoken in the parliament about this. So every year the house rent is increasing.
Consumer rights defenders think none of the governments took initiative to control the rope halters of jumping horse of skyrocketing house rent. The successive rulers always sided with the landlords who are 10 percent of the total population ignoring the interest of 90 percent tenants.
Advocate Humayun Kabir, general secretary of CAB, said the persons who are at the helm of enacting and enforcing law have several houses. They are landlords. “Nobody is concerned about our interest,” he regretted.
Statistics of CAB show the rent of a two-bedroom pucca (concrete) house was nearly Tk 15,395 in 2013, a tin-shed house of same space Tk 9,270 and an eight-seated mess Tk 15,785. That year, house rent increased by 14.55 percent. Rent of two-room house in Dhaka is as high as monthly salary of a first class officer. A class one officer draws gross salary around Tk 16,000 per month.
Masud Karim, an employee of private organisation, said he used to pay Tk 14,000 as house rent in 2013. It increased to Tk 18,000 in 2014. The landlord further hiked it by Tk 2,000 to be effective from January of the next year.
A private organisation named Nagorik Sanghoti conducted a survey on 300 tenants at Cantonment, Hazaribagh, Kolyanpur, Rampura and other areas in 2010. Findings of the survey show that 57 percent of low income group and middleclass people have to pay half of their income for the purpose of house rent.
Enamul Haque, owner of an eight flatted- house at Senpara in Mirpur, has rented out seven flats. As various schools including Scolastica and Herman Mainer are located at the area, rent of the house is high there. The above landlord now prefers new tenants for avarice to get Tk 3000/4000 more. He keeps on changing tenants for last three years. The rent was Tk 17,000. Now it has hiked to Tk 25,000.
Not only middle and low income groups but also marginal people and day labourers are hard hit by the rise in house rent.
Alkina, a maidservant, said she used to live in a house paying Tk 2,200 rent. She will have to count Tk 300 more if she wants to stay there. She searched for a new house which is cheaper but in vain. There is no such house of which rent is less than Tk 2,500/3,000.
Data available in National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT) shows that the population of Dhaka is 1.68 crore. There are 2.79 lakh holdings in two City Corporations. If every landlord has 5 family members, total number of population under their disposal are 14 lakh. In this equation, 90 percent of city dwellers are tenants. But CAB thinks tenants constitute 80 percent of the total population.
CAB leaders alleged that the political parties are doing vote politics. As such they are only protecting the interest of the landlords. They would like to keep the landlords happy with their policy. The mayoral candidates promise not to hike holding tax in their election pledge but they say nothing about keeping house rent minimal.
According to sources, the government is not implementing House Rent Control Act 1991 for its vote politics. The current FY budget introduced a system requiring the landlords to collect any amount of house rent exceeding Tk 25,000 through banks. It is yet to be effective. NBR chairman Ghulam Rahman at a press conference said if the rent is collected through banks, they will come to know about actual income of the landlords from this sector. Besides, the tenants will be able to take legal action against the landlords in the case of undue house rent hike using the bank payment receipt.
The influential house owners opposed the law since its enactment. The law has become effective from the first July of the current fiscal. But the influential quarters do not remain silent. Demanding cancellation of the law, the house owners formed an organization titled Bangladesh Home and Flat Owners Association. The leaders of the organization demanded cancellation of law by holding a press conference at National Press Club in the city. After 21 days of its enforcement, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) was forced to amend the law. The amendment of the law revealed that house owners will remain free without depositing rented money to the bank account if they desire. The NBR in this regard will not take any measures against them. At that time Finance Minister AMA Muhith replying to a question told journalists that most of the house owners are influential. So it was not possible to ensure deposit of house rent to the bank account by formulating law.
Analysing Bureau of Statistics and National Institute of Population Research and Training, it was found that a number of 1,418 population have been increasing in the capital everyday. For this reason about 500,000 people have been added to the total population in the capital. Every year the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipokkya (RAJUK) is giving approval for 2,50,000 layout plan for new buildings.
Md Khalilur Rahman, Executive Director of Voluntary Consumer Training and Awareness Society said, “Law of 1991 should be amended if the government desires to control house rent. House rent Control Authority should be formed for implementing the law. Local-based rent controller should be appointed instead of assistant judge.”
Veteran lawyer Barrister Rafiq-ul-Haque told this correspondent, “If some house owner who increases rent excessively can be brought under law and publicize the media widely then others will stop raising the house rent.