Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., says that the amended Rent Restriction Act will address common and new issues tenants and landlords face.
“The amendments to the Act will align with the current realities we face in Jamaica with property rental. Also, what is being proposed in the Bill are very practical amendments that are going to deal with long-standing issues that landlords and tenants have faced, such as arrears in rent and utility bills, damage to properties, harassment, illegal increases in rent and failure to provide notice,” he told JIS News.
Minister Charles noted that clearer definitions of terms such as ‘tenant’ and what is considered a habitable property will also be provided under the updated law.
“After robust consultation with stakeholders, the Bill we are proposing and advancing will provide for some very important changes in the law. For instance, the issue of the security deposit, a contentious issue which is not now dealt with within the current Rent Restriction Act.
The amendments will now provide certainty in the definition of a security deposit as well as the process to collect and request a security deposit,” he indicated.
The Minister further informed that under the amendments, landlords seeking to sell their properties will now be able to serve a notice to quit with evidence of the property sale.
“Another big ticket item on the Bill is the matter of recovery of possession. Many persons have experienced an inordinate delay in the courts trying to recover their possessions. The Bill proposes an alternative means of dealing with this by giving the Rent Assessment Board the authority to treat with these matters, and we project that this will lead to greater efficiencies,” he said.
Senior Director in the Housing Policy Research and Monitoring Branch in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Paula Parkes, emphasised that the amended Act will seek to provide an equitable balance between the issues faced by landlords and tenants.
“The provisions of the Rent Restriction Act include the establishment of the Rent Assessment Board, the termination of standard rent, the determination of maximum permissible rent, the manner in which increases in rent may be allowed or restricted, the exemption of any class of premises as decided by the Minister of Housing, the manner in which tenancy can be terminated along with landlord and tenant covenants,” Ms. Parkes told JIS News.
She expressed that after hearing the public outcries about the security deposit, one of the recommendations proposed under the Bill is that unfurnished properties should only require a one-month security deposit while furnished properties should require two months.
“The minimum standard for rental premises will also be addressed under the amended Act. A lot of persons rent premises where you have leaky roofs and the doors are falling off and the landlord takes forever to fix these issues.
“There are covenants in the Act, which states that the landlord should ensure that the property being rented is habitable and suitable for rental. However, we sought to clarify what that means by including conditions which would deem a place inhabitable, such as a leaky roof, absent or broken doors and windows etc.,” Ms. Parkes outlined.
She said that short-term property rentals will also be addressed under the amended Rent Restriction Act.