Atta Akyea ‘Fights’ For Tenants

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Samuel Atta Akyea, Minister of Works and Housing

Mr. Samuel Atta Akyea, Minister of Works and Housing, has asked landlords and land ladies not to use the circumstances around COVID-19 as an excuse to evict their tenants.

The minister reminded all Ghanaians of the President’s show of utmost care and generosity to citizens in these trying moments, urging landlords to extend similar generosity to their tenants.

Speaking at the Ministry of Information Press briefing update on COVID-19, Mr Atta Akyea reminded all landlords and land ladies of the rent laws and observe as such.

He said President Akufo-Addo also wanted all Ghanaians, including landlords, to be law-abiding, especially when the world was overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

He said Section 19 of the Rent Act 1973, Act 220, as amended by Rent Control law 1986 PNDC Law 138, and Rent Control Amendment Law 1986, PNDC Law 163 gave a clear understanding of the behaviours that both tenant and their landlords should exhibit.

He said the law stated that when a tenant was in arrears of one month, he or she could be evicted by the landlord, also when a tenant becomes a nuisance or put up annoying conduct, he or she could be evicted, among other scenarios.

A rent advance exceeding six months could land a landlord or lady in a two-year jail term, the minister said, adding that in all those circumstances, “the law does not encourage self-help but one’s recourse was the district court or a court of competent jurisdiction”

Mr. Atta Akyea said as people were being admonished to stay at home, it would not augur well “if where you are supposed to stay is having challenges because of a bad behaviour of a landlord or landlady for that matter, it will be extremely not Ghanaian style.”

“How is it going to work in this COVID environment if landlords with commercial appetites start evicting tenants from these premises. That will be very unGhanaian.”

He, however, cautioned landlords to be wary of potential tenants from foreign countries and to insist on a COVID-19 negative clearance before renting a house to a foreigner.

“We all know is that this pandemic has been imported so be careful that in the name of dollars you are not going to bring in a foreigner who hasn’t got clearance that he is not infected by the disease to stay in your premise”.

He said the government is ready to consider bailout for people who are threatened with eviction from their homes over their inability to honour their rent obligations due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

He said his office would interrogate any report it received for such request and investigate to determine the level of support that could be offered.

“If someone should push that people who have no place to live as a direct result of the COVID-19 challenges should have their rent paid, we should be able to absorb it. We have the financial space,” Mr. Atta Akyea indicated when he took his turn at the regular minister’s media briefing on Ghana’s COVID-19 management.

Social intervention

Should the payment of rent become a reality, it will be the third social intervention from government to alleviate the situation of Ghanaians feeling the impact of the pandemic.

Already, government has absorbed the bill for water consumption for the months of April, May and June for all Ghanaians, also, low consumers have had their electricity bills taken up, while 50 per cent of the bills for businesses and other consumers will be borne for three months, starting from April to June.

Numbers

Mr. Atta Akyea, however, said his office was yet “to hear of the wholesale eviction of tenants,” but gave an assurance that if any report came to his attention, “we will get the feedback and handle it.”

“Let’s see if there are numbers. We shouldn’t just wave our hands and say we should pay the rent of people who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 numbers, but if we see the numbers, we will see what we can do,” he added.