Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Rent Restriction Act to be more equitable

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Keith Senior (left), consultant, JN Bank; Petal James (second right), head, mortgage sales, JN Bank; and Barbara Clarke (second left), secretary, Realtors Association of Jamaica (RAJ), listen keenly as Rose Bennett-Cooper, chairman of the Rent Assessment Board, makes a point, following the RAJ Symposium 2018 held recently at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

Rose Bennett-Cooper, chair of the Rent Assessment Board, says the long-awaited amendments to the Rent Restriction Act should be finalised within the next year.

"I was hoping that the amendments would be in place by December, but we're working on it. However, those amendments will come about soon, because we are far along and we have a draft bill that's coming ... within the next year," she explained.

The changes are expected to address the existing inefficiencies in the act, which was last revised in 1983.

Among the challenges which currently exist in the rental industry are the standardisation of security deposits, timely recovery of possessions, and the breach of tenant and landlord covenants.

The recent phenomenon of 'short-term rentals,' or 'Airbnb', is also a matter that may be addressed under the new legislation.

The matter took centre stage at the Realtors Association of Jamaica's real estate symposium, which was held recently at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, as part of activities for RAJ Week, September 30 to October 7. The symposium, which was sponsored by JN Bank, focused on the theme: 'The Impact of Airbnb on Real Estate Investments and Tourism.'

Bennett-Cooper said several consultations were held across the country to garner the views and concerns of various stakeholders in regard to the revision of the rent act.

She outlined that among the changes being proposed is an amendment to the name of the 'Rent Restriction Act' to 'The Rent Act'. The word 'restriction' will be removed to make it clear that the act covers the entirety of the rental industry.

She said the revised act will also address current challenges in the rental industry and make it more equitable for landlords and tenants.

"Right now, the act is crafted in such a manner that it is skewed towards protection of the tenants, and there's a long historical reason for that. And part of the difficulty is that when the tenant (destroys) your place (as a landlord) you have a major difficulty in getting that tenant out. This is one of the things that we are seeking to amend in the act, to take into consideration better protection for landlords, because it doesn't now exist," she said.

In regard to short-term rentals, Bennett-Cooper noted that the current rules and regulations that exist in Jamaica do not take into consideration the new concept, which has grown exponentially during the past few years.

Data from Airbnb Latin America and the Caribbean show that Jamaica currently has more than 3,100 active hosts and 5,900 active listings of short-term rental properties.