Get tough policy on rogue landlords and bad tenants signalled
A crackdown on rogue landlords was triggered by a spate of “heinous” acts committed against tenants, the home affairs minister said yesterday.
Walter Roban said some unscrupulous property owners had used strong arm tactics against tenants they wanted out, such as cutting off the water and electricity supply and removing doors and windows.
Mr Roban added that the legislation would also cover illegal activity by tenants, such as the intimidation of elderly landlords.
The new laws would give also the Department of Consumer Affairs emergency enforcement powers to act in disputes.
Mr Roban said the ambiguity of current legislation had been highlighted by the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
He added: “There have been instances where some landlords have committed heinous acts, such as shutting off access to water and electricity, the removing of windows and doors as a way to force tenants to leave and putting a tenant's belongings out of the rental premises.
“Likewise, some tenants have indulged in illegal activities or engaged in intimidation against elderly landlords.
“These occurrences require immediate intervention by an authority where there have been contraventions of the legislation.
“The updated Act will introduce emergency enforcement powers for Consumer Affairs, who can now only do their best to conciliate issues that arise but cannot enforce remedies.”
Mr Roban said action was needed as the level of disputes had risen.
But he insisted that, despite the rising number of disputes, “most landlords and tenants have been fair and respectful in their relationships with one another.”
Mr Roban added: “Since the 1990s, the rental market has changed significantly. In contrast, however, the legislation has not been kept current with those changes.
“As in most jurisdictions, disputes between landlords and tenants have increased, and legislation is needed to address these issues and provide adequate guidance and protection to landlords and tenants.
“A more comprehensive Act will enable Consumer Affairs to better assist landlords and tenants by giving clear guidance on settling rental disputes and potentially avoiding civil court.”
He said: “Responsibility for enforcement of the two Acts currently falls to the courts. Hence, landlords and tenants have little option but to resort to the courts to settle disputes because of a lack of clear direction from the Acts.
“The court process can be long, is generally not user friendly, and can prove to be expensive with no guarantee of a positive outcome.”
Mr Roban added: “Approvals are being sought by Cabinet, after which the drafting of the legislation will occur.”