Wednesday, 26 January, 2022

Anarchy in House Rent: Part I

Tenants left to the mercy of landlords

  • Rajib Kanti Roy and Rashidul Hasan
  • 30 December, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

Renting a flat at Tk 18,000 per month, Ibne Sarwar, a chemistry teacher of Gulshan Model College, has been living in the capital’s Kala Chandpur area since July 2020.

His landlord suddenly informed him on November 20 last that the house rent would be increased by Tk 1,000 from the first month of 2022.

Sarwar asked him how he could raise the rent on such a short notice. He even requested the house owner to suspend the decision for a month as he would not be able to find a new house amid the Higher Secondary Certificate examinations.

Turning down his request, the landlord told the schoolteacher that he must vacate the house by December 31 if he could not afford the rent.

Sarwar has finally managed to rent a house to shift his family in the New Year but he has gone through a tremendous pressure.

“No one can imagine how helpless I felt since getting the notice. It was unjust and humiliating for me but I didn’t know where to go to get a solution,” he said.

The schoolteacher said his house owner had not signed any agreement with him though according to the Premises Rent Control Act, 1991, it is mandatory to sign an agreement between the landlord and a tenant.

He was forced to pay rent of two months to the house owner as advance but according to the section 10 (b) of the law, no house owner can ask the tenants to pay any security deposit.

Sarwar said he never got money receipt from his house owner though section 13 of the law makes it mandatory for the landlords to give forthwith to the renter a signed receipt for the rent.

The landlord shall also retain a counterpart of the receipt.

And the house owners have no way to increase the house rent suddenly as according to the section 16, landlords are not allowed to raise the rent of the premises for two years once the standard rent, fixed by the controller (who is supposed to be appointed by the government), takes effect. The standard rent can be re-fixed only after two years.

More sections and provisions of the law have been violated by the house owner of Ibne Sarwar.

And this is a common scenario in most of the rented houses in Dhaka and other major cities of the country.

The Premises Rent Control Act, 1991 was enacted 30 years back but it is hardly implemented, said legal experts.

According to them, most of the tenants are either unaware of the law or have no interest in seeking solution using the law while landlords are reluctant to operate their activities following the law so that they can increase rent at their will.

Talking to the Daily Sun about the Premises Rent Control Act, Abu Taher, a house owner at the capital’s Shankar area, said, “No tenant asks me to follow the law and I haven’t seen any landlord around my house renting flats as per the law.”

Despite anarchy in house rent and breach of law, respective governments in the last three decades took no step to ensure effective regulation that could bring balance in the sector, said stakeholders.

Asked about the implementation of the law, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) President Ghulam Rahman said the tenants are actually hostage to the house owners due to the loopholes in the law and lack of its implementation. “The government has never taken any position in favour of the tenants. The Premises Rent Control Act is no longer in force. The government should formulate a new law or update the existing one and then implement it to bring discipline in house rent,” he said.

After all these years of enacting the law, the government is yet to frame rules to implement it.

According to the 1991 act, the government was supposed to appoint a controller and an additional controller or a deputy controller to settle house rent-related issues but no such person was appointed in any area of the country.

The High Court issued rules at least two times in 2015 and 2019 to form a high-powered commission to scotch the loopholes in the law, fix standard house rent and appoint rent controllers but its directives are to be implemented.

Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), a rights body, filed a writ in this regard on April 25, 2010. When approached, petitioner’s lawyer Manzill Murshid said, “This is an outdated law. That’s why you’ll find that no aggrieved person is filing any complaint under this law. In response to our plea, the High Court had given several directives to the government to implement the existing law and update it.”

“But the government has shown no interest in implementing the HC directives,” the HRPB lawyer said, adding that landlords are taking the advantage of the situation and deceiving the tenants.