Anytime, you raise concerns about house tenancy in Ghana, especially Accra, it appears all the buffers that should ordinarily support the ordinary person are dormant. Some Landlords are indeed preying on their innocent tenants, in a way that one cannot easily understand. Sad still, the laws that ought to be implemented, continue to stir us in the face as our leaders look helpless in their inability to cause sanity to prevail.

Gradually, the culture of the ”Lordship of Landlords” is fast becoming institutionalized, as people, having no option, remain mute, in the face of stark injustice, insensitivity and abuse perpetrated against them by Landlords.

Survival in this part of the world, as a young man/woman seeking a little comfort and decency, is gradually becoming utopian, if not how on earth will a national Service personnel on an erratic allowance be able to cough up GH 300-500 per month for two years advance payment to the landlord, when in most cases, they may not even need to occupy the room for more than a year? In fact, how will a fresh university graduate on a serious job-hunt and leaving on the largess of others be able to meet this damning financial demand?

For a little convenience, only God knows the number people who spend more than half of what they make in a whole year to pay for a two year advance to a Lordlord, leaving them with little money to tackle other equally pressing expenditure, ie. feeding, clothing, remitting, health care, and others. Beyond the skyrocketing amounts people have to pay for rooms, tenants face many other nagging challenges, most of which are so petty to even report. From undue interference in affairs of tenants, lack of regular refurbishment of decapitated structures, no conscious regular renovation efforts, petty squabbles, lack of integrity in billings and unplanned increments, tenants, especially in urban and peri-urban residence, are invariably at the mercy of some of these calloused landlords.

The truth is that most of these landlords have no idea about the existence of tenancy laws and it doesn’t seem they care. Indeed, for those who know these laws exist, they have no motivation to comply, given that there is virtually no sustained efforts to whip them in line. To others, these regulations can be done without since no governments contributed to their building. It is this impunity that has allowed some landlords to flagrantly disregard the regulation that says rent advance should not exceed 6 months, as well as many other regulations that protect both the landlord and the tenant.

Sadly, the Rent Control Department is not only as weak, but it appears their role has been reduced to receiving complaints that are lodged to them by either landlords or tenants. Beyond the fact that the department continues to reel under inadequate resources, their own lack of innovative and creative approach to their role has also compounded the situation. Just when I was about wrapping up on this, I chanced on a Starfmonline news item, titled, ”Rent Control to write tenancy agreement between landlords and tenants”. In the said article the person who is designated as the Chief Rent officer is reported as having said:” “We will draft the tenancy agreement for the landlord and tenants. The rent control department and the ministry will now write the tenancy agreement for both landlord and tenant and that will benefit both parties. The current regulation is not stringent enough and if nothing is done about it, one day landlords will insist that you kill guineafowl for them every Sunday,”

Not only did his statement admit the repeated reports of abuse and excesses of some landlords, but it appears the man was blaming his department’s failure on the existing regulation regarding house tenancy, which to me is very sad. For the little that I have read, I know that Ghana has one of the most comprehensive regulations as far as the tenancy is concerned but like many of our laws, our inability to roll out proper implementation model for same leaves these laws impotent. In any case, will just the drafting of tenancy agreement prevents the many cases of abuse and in some cases the strained relationships between landlords and tenants? Will just the drafting of these laws, prevent the horrendous account of how a Landlord is reportedly alleged to have gunned down his tenant, over the latter’s refusal to vacate his house, on the day of the expiry of his tenancy agreement?

Listening to the story air on Joynews, left me with so much uneasiness. I was cringed at it as anybody at all, could have been the victim of such extreme acts. I was so saddened that an illustrious life of a young man is lost because of the state’s failure to control some of the excesses in house tenancy. Even the boldness with which the accused spoke speaks volumes of his lack of remorse after the event, and that should be frightening to any young person like us, who is not the privilege to have parents owning houses or having their own here in Accra. Sad still, our inability to clamp down on the ‘Lordship’ of Landlords is gradually coming back to bite us in the face.

But can you wholly blame these Landlords when the government’s own affordable housing projects are ruthlessly expensive for even the highest paying public officer? Can you blame these Landlords when most of the housing projects, built with state funds continue to wallow in bushes because of neglects by succeeding governments? Can you blame these Landlords when land tenure system and the regulations on the acquisition of land remains a knotty and capital intensive venture? Can we wholly blame these tenants when the phenomenon of land guards has created a survival of the fittest situation for land developers?

I won’t proffer any recommendations as all the best ideas, I can anticipate are already in our law books gathering dust. The Housing Ministry and its allied agencies must work to implement some, if not all, of these regulations. If we did this, young people will have enough disposal incomes to invest in businesses and create jobs for the teeming unemployed. In fact, most people will not need to depend on Free SHS. Again, the city will be rid of slums, which have come to be associated with flooding, drug abuse, crimes and other health-related concerns. And as the housing deficit is estimated to reach a staggering 5.7 million figure, we cannot afford to lose total control of house tenancy to Landlords, without the state regulating the same.

We cannot and should not allow the excesses and abuse to continue while we look on. No, we need serious change.


Article By: Samuel Osarfo Boateng.