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The House Rent Control Act, 1991: How far implementation

Mahdy Hassan

Ananaya Sarmin, a blind government employee lives in Mirpur with her blind husband and two sisters in a rent house. One day landlord told her to live the house next month without any reason. “Why will we go and where?” asked Ananaya to the landlord. “There is no any reason. It’s my house. So I am not bound to explain you why” replied the landlord thus. So Ananaya had to look for another rent house although she is a blind helpless girl. But it is not easy to find out a suitable house in Dhaka city. At last she found a house in 5th floor where there is no lift, gas and well ventilation system. My question is where the justice for that blind girl is!

There is an act related to rent house named the Bari Vara Niontron Ain 1991. But the act has no implementation. So how can people get the protection of law? Nonetheless article 31 of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh spells out that “To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.” So right to protection of law is a fundamental right for every citizen of the state.

The Act of 1991 is still enforceable in legal sense, not practically, which states about the procedure of giving and taking of house for rent. But these procedures are not followed by landlords. For example, section 23 of the said act states that “without the written consent of the controller, if any person (landlord, or person employed by landlord) knowingly take a rent in excess of the standard rent, he  will be liable on the first occasion to a fine which may extend to twice the amount recovered in excess of the standard rent, and on every subsequent occasion to a fine which may extend to three times the amount of such excess; and if any landlord receives, asks for or invites, whether directly or indirectly, any premium, salami, security or any other like sum in addition to the standard rent for any reason, he will be liable on the first occasion to a fine which may extend to two thousand Taka and on every subsequent occasion to a fine which may extend to five thousand Taka; and the last clause of that section is that if the landlord or any other person appointed by landlord receives any sum as rent in advance in excess of one month`s rent without the written consent of the Controller; he will be liable on the first occasion to a fine which may extend to twice the amount received in excess of one month`s rent, and on every subsequent occasion to a fine which may extend to three times the amount received in excess of one month`s rent.

But where the application of this provision is! Nowadays the landlords claim advanced more months’ rent at the time of contract for house rent between landlord and tenant. Tenants of specially Dhaka city are bound to give the landlord more advanced rent. Tenants suffer, like the shuttle of a weaving machine, moving from house to house.  

They have no any alternative way without it. About three quarter of Dhaka`s total population live on rented houses. Nearly 65 percent or more of their monthly income is spent on paying the rent. The tenants are in a hostage condition in the hand of landlords. To whom will they go if they are deprived of their rights? Simple answer can be given that they will go to the controller who is appointed by the government according the section 3 of the house rent control Act, 1991. But in reality, where these controllers who are appointed? It was very difficult to find out how many rent controllers had been appointed. Although some controllers are appointed, Tenants do not go to rent controllers as many do not know of their existence, and even if they do, it is complicated processes which can create difficulties with the landlord and they often do not have the documents necessary to make an application. I asked before some days, Nilufa Begam a tenant who lives in Kalian Pur of the city that “is there any controller in your locality whose duty is to control house rent appointed by the government?”, No, there is no any controller in our locality and I have heard for the first time about the controller.” simple reply of my query. Another problem is that within a few gapes, the landlords increase rent for their house. Even it is seen sometimes rent is increased yearly by the landlords four or five times. But section 7 of the Act clearly states that where the rent of any premises has been increased so as to exceed the standard rent, the amount of such excess shall be irrecoverable against tenant. The landlord can only increase rent for two reasons. According the section 8 & 9 of the Act the landlords can increase their rent when he improves their house after giving their house as a rent house and when the tax is increased by the government. Without these two dimensions the landlords can not increase their rent without the consent of the controller.

On the other hand, the landlord can not claim money advanced for more than one month. According to section 16 of the act, the standard rent shall, on the basis of an application made by the landlord or the tenant, be reaffixed by the Controller every two years. But in reality this picture is absent in our day to day life. There is an exception in accordance with section 11 of the act that a landlord may receive a premium, salami, security or any other like sum in addition to the rent in respect of any premises which are let out on a lease for a period of not less than twenty years for the purpose of development either by building or rebuilding, if the period limited by the lease is not expressed to be terminable at the option of the landlord within a period of ten years from the date of commencement of the period so limited. Another important issue is that no order or decree in favor of the landlord for the recovery of possession of any premises shall be made as long as the tenant pays rent to the full extent allowable according to section 18 of the Act. But in reality it happens all the time.

So it is time to amend the house rent control act and make it well-timed because there are some loopholes in this act which are;

1. What will mean the term ‘standard money’ is not defined in this act. So landlord can hike for rent as their will which should not be gone;

2. Nowadays the rate of electricity and gas are increased consequently but it is not mentioned in the act whether the landlords will increase their rent or not, in this situation;

3. If some tenants do not pay the rent of current month the landlord can get out the tenant. But it is not stated in the act how the landlord can get their rent which has not been paid by the landlord:

4. Section 15 and 18(6) are contradictory to each other. Because section 15 says that the rent will be determined by the controller and section 18 (6) says that the rent determined by tenant and landlord is approved rent. So how can it be possible? For this reason it should be amended. It is not enough to amend the act.

The government must come forward to implement this act and regarding to it here are some recommendations of mine to the government;

1. “Standard rate of rent” may be specified or a chart of rent can be provided in every locality.

2. The controller may be appointed in every locality and the general people will be informed about the controller along with his powers and duties. The essence of this act is to control the house rent but the controllers are absent in everywhere.

3. Increasing rent may be determined when the government increases the rate of electricity and gas.

4. Landlord’s name –address and rent house can be registered so that the government can investigate if necessary.

5. Specified contract form can be given for contract between landlord and tenant by the government or controller so that the landlord can not give any unreasonable condition in the contract form.

6. Controller’s office may have in every locality and in a visible place so that the victim can go there easily. Last of all

7. The act should be amended immediately because people are crying for house rent where 60% salary goes for it and some land lords misbehave with their renter which is inhuman.  Please, landlord, think for some moment. You have house to stay without tension. But your tenant! When you get out them, where they will go is unknown. When you claim excess rent, they are bound to pay. When you misbehave with them, they are simply speechless. They feel so hesitated, so helpless!

Writer is a street lawyer & a student of Law (3rd year), University of Dhaka.

22 Apr 2012   11:49:51 AM   Sunday
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