Council Welcomes Rent Freeze Order Extension

13/04/2017 15:46

Council Welcomes Rent Freeze Order Extension

04 January 2017

The State’s decision to extend Rent Freeze Order on residential property for another year (ending on 31 December 2017) is indeed good news for the tenants in Fiji.

The Consumer Council of Fiji is pleased with the extension, as this initiative will only assist tenants to get affordable housing. It is a well-known fact that many consumers are already facing difficulty in finding decent houses and/or flats to rent.

Extension of the Rent Freeze Order should avoid landlords from unreasonably increasing rents. As such, many consumers are at ease with such a policy in place. They do not have to dig deep into their pockets for extra money to pay their rents.

While this is high time for flat hunting for some families and individuals, some tenants will be renewing their tenancy agreements at the beginning of the year or within the year.

As per the Commerce Commission (Rent Increase Restriction on Residential and Ground Rent) Order 2016, “Between the period of 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017, a person must not charge a rent in respect of the letting or continued letting of any premises under residential tenancy including ground rentals to which the Act applies which exceeds the rent applicable to those premises as at 31 December 2016.

This simply means that property owners of residential dwellings who have let out their premises for rent to their tenants cannot increase the rent above the level that was applicable to the same premises as at 31 December 2016.

Complaints relating to Landlord and Tenancy ranked second on the Council’s list with a total of 199 complaints for last year alone. Issues brought to the Council under this category range from non-refund of bond money, landlords not issuing rental receipts to tenants despite several requests, landlords not giving a month’s written notice to vacate, illegal increase in rent despite the residential rent freeze and poor housing conditions.

The Council has recorded a total of 3,745 complaints related to landlord and tenancy in the last five years. This includes complaints against landlords who increased the rents despite the Rental Freeze Order.

Although some landlords were not aware of the increases in rent being illegal, some unscrupulous landlords were completely ignorant of the law.

Landlords should refrain from increasing rent on their residential properties unless approved by the Fiji Commerce Commission (FCC) and failing to comply will lead to prosecution by the FCC.Property owners are at liberty to establish initial rent but any increase in rent after that must be endorsed by FCC.

The Council notes that it is now mandatory for landlords to provide tenancy agreements and issue receipts to their tenants by virtue of the said Order.

Although rental freeze has been a short term solution to control and ensure fair treatment of tenants, the Council is positive that this initiative will assist curb the sky- rocketing complaints received every year by the Council on landlord and tenancy issues.

A Penalty Spot Fine of up to $2,000 will be a wakeup call for landlords to be ethical and to practice good businesses.

In addition, the Council is hopeful for the implementation of the Residential Tenancy Act. It is high time Fiji had a specific legislation that deals with all landlord and tenancy issues.

All residential tenants are encouraged to seek advice from FCC or the Consumer Council of Fiji on residential rental issues. They can also lodge complaints against landlords who fail to comply with the Rental Freeze Order that is now in place.