I was so tired from walking but he kept saying we are almost there, yet we were never getting there. This has been his statement for a while now as we walked wearily from one house to another searching for accommodation. We have been on this search for over three weeks now and it has not been fruitful. Searching for accommodation in the city can be so stressful and frustrating. Luckily for me, I met a very good agent who was more than willing to help me. He was not just interested in making money, he wanted me to have a very comfortable place. Trust me, some agents will ask you to pay the agents’ fee before they even show you round and they will take this fee any time you embark on a search with them. They will also ask you to provide them with food if they spend the whole day with you. I met some agents who were rude and impatient and intolerant before I met this kind-hearted agent. When I began searching for the accommodation I did not know that I had to pass through an agent, so I started asking around and when I get to any place where they have vacant rooms for rent, the landlord/landlady would say I have to contact the agent first. This was new to me because where I come from, we just find accommodation by telling our friends and family to check their locations if there is vacancy, this agent thing was new to me.
Being a post – graduate student, I had no chance of living in any of the University hostels so I had to find accommodation outside of campus and that was our mission that day. As much as I was tired and stressed from walking up and down every day for a while now, I was keen on finding a place where I would be comfortable living and with regards to campus, move to and fro with ease. And so far, all the places we found missed the mark. For example, in one place with spacious rooms, you have to share the bathroom and toilet with other tenants, or in another, which had rooms furnished with a personal bathroom and toilet, the landlord wanted at least two years rent to be paid in advance, and when we finally found a place where the landlord was willing to take a year’s rent, we found out the next day that after a rainfall, the road leading to the place becomes swamp – like. So the search continued, we were usually on foot, sometimes we relied heavily on “trotros”, taxis and occasionally, on Uber. I was getting worried that transportation alone would take all the money I had budgeted for my rent. We finally found a place that was not too far from campus, I did not have to share bathroom and toilet with others, the road was in good condition and as a bonus, it had no reported incidents of theft.
Aside the search being stressful, landlords and landladies can also set conditions that are not favourable for tenants. For instance, the landlord might ask you to pay for two years’ rent in advance but the question is if I have to stay for six months in a place, why do I have to pay for two years rent in advance and find somebody to occupy the place so I can get my returns? Some landlords may ask of your marital status before they let their rooms out because they do not want to rent their rooms to single people. The worst of it is the high cost of renting a room. Maybe they are practicing the saying that he who lives by the river does not wash his hands with saliva. Well it is their building and they want to make some profit, but does that make them forget we are human? Sometimes, a graduate is posted to a new place to start National Service or start a new job and boom! landlords are charging so much money in return for a place to stay, but if I am now starting work, where am I going to get that kind of money to pay for such a place? Landlords and landladies, please be considerate and give us fair rates when we come searching for accommodation. We all can’t put up houses, and even if we could, we cannot carry them to wherever we are posted to school or work.
I sometimes wonder if rent control is really functioning. Most landlords and tenants have never read about the rent control declarations in their country, as a result, laws are being broken and wrong information, circulated. While it can be daunting to put up a building, it is equally trying going around searching for accommodation, and paying outrageously different amounts yearly for the same place. The Courts have ruled that rent control laws are passed to allow landlords to receive fair profits from their investment. What this means is that landlords should be allowed to increase their rents reasonably in order to receive some profit annually. Rent in rural areas is very much different from rent in urban areas in terms of building structure, space, charges and so on so when we from the rural areas find ourselves in an urban area, we find it difficult to raise so much money to pay for rent. I remember when I told my mother what it would cost to rent a place in the city, she joked that I should bring the money so that we use it to buy a plot of land in our hometown.
One reason why landlords may increase rent is an increase in property tax by the local government. Sometimes landlords need to do some renovation and/or maintenance on the property or apartments. Some of these activities are costly and that is why your rent might increase. There are other factors such as the age of the property, location of the property, quality of construction, amenities available in the property, and accessibility of other services to the property that would cause rent to increase. The rate of increase in rent is usually decided by the landlord and the tenant, and though the landlord is not supposed to increase the rent in an unreasonable manner, this is however not the case as most landlords determine the rate of increase of rent without consulting the tenants.
Some landlords have ambiguous terms on their tenancy agreements, for instance, a landlord says in the agreement that there should be no misconduct from the tenants but what exactly amounts to misconduct? Is it any behaviour that is not accepted in his culture or is contrary to his/her religious beliefs? If tenancy agreements are not spelled out clearly, then it can lead to conflict between landlords/ladies and tenants. Or a landlord may say tenants should get to the house early from their daily activities, early here is relative and may create confusion between tenants and house owners. As a landlord, you have to ensure that the tenancy agreement you give to tenants is in line with the laws of the country (tenants should also check and ensure this before signing any agreement). If you do not understand anything on the agreement, ask and seek clarifications before you sign anything.
Apps like Tonaton.com, Jiji, rent a room online, Ghana property.com and others have made it easier to find accommodation online at a preferred location. Searching for accommodation also comes with its advantages and disadvantages, you get to search from your comfort zone, place a call when you find your preferred place and location. That notwithstanding, sometimes the photos you see online are nothing compared to the actual building on the ground. And even with the apps you still have to contact an agent to take you to see the places. Agents may post very nice places as a way to catch your attention, but when you call them, they tell you the place has been taken and take you to a different place, you can guess the rest.
A lot of people, including me, do not even know that there is anything like the Rent Control Act (let us try and read it). Until I started doing research to write about this post, I did not know the details of the Act, all I knew was that there is legislation on rent. What this legislation talks about, I had no idea. I encourage everyone to read the rent control regulations in their country to avoid cheating, loss of money, property, and other fraudulent activities by parties. I will also encourage that we who are tenants to try and keep any property as if it were for us. Remember that if you have any issues or misunderstandings with your landlord, it is always best to talk to the Rent Control Department. They will be in a better position to help you resolve issues. CHEERS!!!