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House rent control law needs to be strictly enforced

WITH the new year just round the corner, as mentioned in a New Age report on Tuesday, many house owners in the capital Dhaka have served their tenants with rent increase notices. It is needless to point out that the beginning of a new year is not the only occasion when most of the house owners in the city increase rents. Many of them increase the rent again in the middle of a year. It suggests that there are many in the city who face rent hike two times a year although article 16 of the House Rent Control Act 1919 clearly stipulates that rent cannot be increased before two years into the signing of a rent agreement between owners and tenants. Reportedly, there has been about 15 per cent increase in house rent on an average over the past ten years or so. And the matter of house rent, particularly in the metropolitan areas, is an irritating issue that sometimes leaves the two parties, the landlord and the tenant, in an abrasive relationship. All this yet again betrays that the government is still in deep slumber when it comes to dealing with tenants’ concerns in particular.
Admittedly, the tenants are, more often than not, found victims of the landlords’ caprices. The unpalatable truth is that while the rise in prices of commodities has been frequent in recent years, the income of the tenants in general has not increased in keeping with the rise in either commodity prices or house rent. Worse still, allegations have it that many house owners even resort to coercive measures, including stopping supply of power, water and other services, to have their tenants agree to their conditions, knowing full well that most tenants are unaware of the House Rent Control Act. This situation can be averted, to a large extent, if enforcement of the Premises Rent Control Act 1991 is ensured properly by the government. But, it is not clear if there is at all any authority designated by the government to oversee the issue. As the report quoted Dhaka additional deputy commissioner (revenue) as saying, the government issued an order to appoint some assistant judges under the district judge court as rent controllers but the order has never been carried out. Indeed there is a need for the authorities to see that the relevant laws in this regard are fully implemented, and that no party can ride roughshod over the other, either by bending the rules or disregarding them. And while none should be allowed to arbitrarily increase or fix the rent of a property, there is perhaps ground to rethink the mode of fixing the rent.
As to the act in question, it is a fairly comprehensive law; and not only is there a need for implementing it, to start with, the government should also appoint rent controllers, whose existence, if at all, is not known to many, but which is provided for in the act of 1991. This will not only offer the parties an avenue of seeking arbitration without having to go to court, but will also take less time to resolve a dispute.

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