POST TIME: 10 January, 2019 12:24:39 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 10 January, 2019 12:48:33 PM
Tenants reel from high rent in capital
Muhammad Yeasin, Dhaka

Tenants reel from high rent in capital

House owners in Dhaka raise the rents of their properties at the beginning of every New Year, triggering immense suffering for the tenants. A large number of tenants allege that many house owners raise their rents from January without showing any valid reason. Such irrational rent hikes at the beginning of a New Year put the tenants in a financial quandary.

House owners continue this practice thanks to the absence of government monitoring and lack of proper implementation of the House Rent Act. Although the High Court (HC) has delivered a verdict to implement the House Rent Act to prevent house owners from raising rents as per their will, the copy of the verdict cannot be released due to legal complexities.

It has been learnt that the copy of the verdict could not be written following the death of the senior judge of the HC bench that delivered the verdict. As a result, the Chief Justice sent the matter to another HC bench for further hearing on the public interest litigation (PIL) petition.

The petitioner’s counsel, Advocate Manzill Murshid, told The Independent that they have taken initiatives to start hearing on the petition. “We've taken initiatives to start hearing on the case. The HC will start hearing very soon as the matter is on top of its cause list,” he said.

In response to a query, Manzil Murshid said that the judge who delivered the verdict had died before writing the copy of the verdict. Taking its advantage, house owners have been raising rents without considering the affordability of their tenants, he added.

On June 30, 2015, the HC directed the government to form a high-power commission tasked with recommending maximum and minimum standard house rents for different areas in the capital city.

The commission, to be formed by the cabinet secretary, was to identify the existing problems by holding discussions with both house owners and tenants. It was also supposed to put through recommendations for updating the House Rent Control Act 1991.

The HC also asked the police to take steps regarding house rent-related complaints in all the cities including Dhaka. The HC came up with the orders in response to a writ petition filed by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh in April 2010. The petition had sought the court’s directives for strict enforcement of the 1991 law to prevent house owners in Dhaka from whimsically increasing rents and realising advance rent from tenants.

In May that year, the court issued a rule asking the government to explain why it should not be directed to enforce the law properly. In its verdict, the HC bench also asked the government to appoint a house rent controller at every ward across the country for hearing and settling issues and allegations until the commission is formed.

According to the Premises Rent Control Act 1991, a property’s annual rent should be equal to 15pc of its market value. Ironically, most house owners undervalue their assets in property papers to reduce tax, but charge rents in proportion to the actual market value. The law also prohibits landlords from claiming or receiving any premium, salami, security or any other sum in addition to monthly rents unless consented by a rent controller. But in reality, it is hard to find a house in Dhaka where the owner does not charge advance rents from tenants as security deposit.

The law also stipulates that a landlord should give the tenants signed receipts for rent in “forms determined by law” and retain a counterfoil.

In 2007, the undivided Dhaka City Corporation issued a house rent chart to be followed by house owners in 775 areas in the capital. The houses were classified into three categories—kutcha, semi pucca and pucca.  The corporation-fixed rents varied greatly, depending on the types of house, its distance from the main road, and importance of the locality.

However, there has been no enforcement and monitoring of the charts issued by the city corporation. So, house owners are free to hike rents any time as per their own wish.

Asked about the city corporation’s responsibility to regulate house rent, Khan Mohammad Bilal, chief executive officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, said the city corporation has nothing to do in this regard. He also said the housing and public works ministry is likely to deal with the house rent issue.

Rejecting the claim, Md Baharine Sultan Bahar, president of the Rental Council, said: “A copy of the house rent chart earlier issued by undivided Dhaka City Corporation is still in my possession. The city corporations cannot avoid its responsibility in this regard.”