Reforms in Jamaican Property Renting Laws in the Offing

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The government is updating the country’s Rent Restriction Act to align it with the times. The law, originally enacted in 1944, was last amended in 1983- 36 years ago.

Property Rentals Part of Growing Economy

The proposed amendments to the Act are said to be presently with the Chief Parliamentary Council, according to Pearnel Charles Jr., Senator and a Minister without Portfolio. The expectation is that the Rent Restriction Act, when amended, will provide a level playing field for both the tenants and the landlords. The government would want all citizens to own their own homes – a goal that may be difficult to achieve. Besides, there is always a section of moving population that creates the market for properties on rent.

The situation prevailing is that the current laws favour either the tenant or the landlord – but never in balance. It has to be made equitable. Only when the landlords feel their rights are protected, will they attempt to build more properties with the purpose of renting them out. It results in the overall growth of the nation’s economy.

Tenant’s Rights Equally Important

While law protects the rights of the property owners, those renting the properties would want their interests to be taken care of too. The Rent Restriction Act is meant to regulate some aspects like the security deposit the landlords demand. This is a key feature missing in the Act as it exists today. Here again, an equitable approach is necessary. The landlord would want to exploit the opportunity and demand deposit worth a few months’ rent, while the tenant would want to pay a minimum.

More importantly, there are cases of the deposits not being fully refunded to the tenants when the property is vacated. These are issues that the Rent Restriction Act must necessarily address and make provisions to control. Pearnel Charles Jr. is confident the amendments under consideration of the government, will indeed offer solutions. He indicated that provisions to ascertain the structural soundness of the property, before being rented out, would be considered within the Act. He also added that suitable provisions will be introduced to ensure the tenants are not taken for a ride with the properties they rent.

Implementation Equally Critical

The Jamaican Parliament may succeed in deliberating and successfully passing the amendments to the Rent Restriction Act soon. However, the real challenge will be in the effective implementation of law on the ground. The powers assigned to a body like the Rent Assessment Board may have to be expanded, to give the law power.

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