Dr Mahamudu Bawumia hits the nail right on the head when he tells us a major problem in Ghana is not the lack of good laws but non-implementation. The Vice President on Wednesday told a National Symposium on the new land law that all the good things in the law will be a mirage if it is not vigorously enforced. He charges citizens to “fight the demons and principalities” they encounter in acquiring and registering their lands.

Like many, his joy is that the new law sanitizes and deals with all the known problems. Who doesn’t like this good law that compels chiefs, clan and family heads and all other landowners to establish secretariats with registers to manage lands using transparent processes and to render accounts? A law that hands five, seven, ten to fifteen years jail terms to chiefs engaged in fraudulent or multiple sales of land, land guards and those behind them who try to use force or violence to obstruct, intimidate or prevent you from developing your piece of land.

A law that ensures you get a refund if a chief or anybody selling land conceals an encumbrance or problem with the land or falsifies the plan-document, or they pay between ¢60-120,000 or go to jail for five to 10 years. Officials paid to help you register your land get to pay ¢12-14,000 or go to jail for two to five years if they aid fraud by deleting or falsifying land records if they issue fraudulent documents, make fraudulent entries, alter, erase, deface, obliterate or mutilate a land register.

These will now be done electronically. But all these good stuff will remain on paper if the Lands Commission is not adequately funded and the stakeholders including the police equipped to enforce the law. Justice Dennis Dominic Adjei observes that a bad law that is properly implemented is better than a good law that is poorly implemented.

The Rent Control Department informs me that about 72% of the complaints it received in 2019 concern rent arrears. Tenants are compelled to cough up rent advance for two or more years, only to be evicted in ways prohibited by the law because they cannot pay illegal extortionate rates and illegally increased rents.  

Section 25 of the rent law prohibits charging, demanding or receiving rent advance exceeding six months of the monthly rent even if you gave out your apartment for more than two years. This is punishable by up to GHC 6,000.00 and/or up two years in jail.

A landlord cannot increase rental charges without permission from the legal authority. In fact, before you can advertise your property for rent, you must obtain an assessment certificate by which the Department determines if the premises is tenantable or good for human habitation and the rate to charge.

A copy of each tenancy agreement must be lodged with the Department. Landlords must procure a Rent Card from the Department for tenants in case of monthly or short tenancies. They are to issue receipts to tenants to assist payment of rent tax – 8% for premises for domestic use and 15% for commercial use.

If this Department gets the needed attention, it should be able to generate income to improve its facilities and personnel to sanitize the sector and get rid of the injustice many suffer because of accommodation. But what do we see except complete disregard for the well-intentioned rent laws rarely enforced in this country.

That’s My Take. That’s your legal light. Next week, we may bring the experts and duty bearers to answer questions about the problems with landlord and tenant and the way forward including the bigger issue of the housing deficit and affordable housing for a decent living.

Samson Lardy ANYENINI
June 26, 2021
Issue #22