Draft Rent Bill under scrutiny

Windhoek-Government has announced that the draft Rent Bill is undergoing constitutional scrutiny at the Office of the Attorney-General and shall thereafter be forwarded to various stakeholders for input and comments.

This was revealed last Friday by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Tjekero Tweya, on the establishment of the Rent Control Board to replace an old law with new legislation to be known as the Rent Act.

Tweya noted that once the review process is completed and the Bill is passed into law, members of the rent boards shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Rent Act and the general public shall be informed of such appointments and the establishment of the rent boards.

The aim of the Rent Bill is to unify, consolidate and amend the law relating to rent and eviction of lessees and occupiers of residential dwellings and protect lessees against exploitation by the lessors due to high demand and limited supply of housing.

It also aims to regulate the relationship between lessors and lessees, particularly the circumstances under which unfair practices are committed by the lessors and lessees.

"Notwithstanding the ongoing efforts and programmes of the government on land reform, the government shall ensure that all systems and processes pertaining to introducing measures aimed at preventing the exploitation of tenants by landlords are in place and they are supported by legislation, which is 21st century-compatible and complies with our constitution," the minister explained.

He said during the 2012 National Land Policy Conference, 89 resolutions were adopted aimed at establishing an effective land reform process.

One of the resolutions, namely Resolution 61, was adopted by the Special Cabinet Committee on Land Related Matters with a directive for government to introduce measures aimed at regulating the rental market in order to prevent the exploitation of tenants by landlords.

In order to implement Resolution 61, Tweya said government through the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development identified the Rent Ordinance, 1977 (Ordinance No. 13 of 1977), as appropriate legislation to effectively regulate rent control.

The industrialisation ministry drew up guidelines for the establishment of the rent boards by drafting a Rent Bill, which would take into account the Namibian Constitution and the current economic status of an independent Namibia among other scope of work.

According to him, the outcome of this work was that the ordinance is an obsolete legislation, which, if applied in its current form, would render the work of the rent boards ineffective.

Further, he said other current challenges include Section 2 that refers to the executive committee comprising of the administrator, adding that Article 140 (5) of the Namibian Constitution states that any reference to administrator shall be deemed to be a reference to a corresponding minister of the government of Namibia.

"Before independence, it made sense for an executive committee to preside over matters pertaining to the ordinance due to the control, divide and rule policy of the apartheid regime but in an independent Namibia, there are systems and processes in place, which are equally capable to administer and implement the ordinance. Thus, Section 2 has to be amended to vest the executive power to establish rent boards in an existing and legally recognised functioning of the executive arm of the state," Tweya noted.

Moreover, he said, Section 3 - which refers to the board composition comprising of a local magistrate and four members - also needs to be amended because it does not specify the expertise of the other members.

He also explained the definition of what constitutes "reasonable rent" may need to be amended, specifically when one reviews the 7.5 percent, which is considered as interest which the building societies may charge on mortgage bond loans.

"The prescribed interests may have been overtaken by events and thus may need to be amended taking into consideration the various stakeholders," he said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia