Landlord & Tenancy Consultation in Nadi

Oct. 3, 2017, 6:04 a.m.

"Landlord & Tenancy Consultation in NadiPublic consultations on the proposed Landlord & Tenancy Act were held in Nadi recently as part of a national awareness and discussion campaign by the Fiji Commerce Commission.

FCC senior compliance officer, Sekope Ciriyamoto oversaw consultations for residents of the tourist town at the Nadi Civic Centre. The following issues were covered:

A Rental Board Tribunal will process bond claims, as the FCC observed that many landlords use all sorts of provisions to stop the refund of bonds back to tenants. Ciriyamoto said fair bond amounts would also ascertained as some landlords -especially in the Central division- charged above the usual bond amount of a month’s rent in advance, by charging for 2 months’ worth of rental fees alongside the bond charge.

There needs to be consistency in who collects rent money and regulation to oversee the appointment of an agent or another individual collecting rent from tenants.

In the absence of a Data Bureau, a data listing may be established so landlords can cross-check the personal data and payment ability of prospective tenants.

A reduction in rental charges is covered by the proposed Act, as the FCC currently does not have powers to enforce such a decrease. Ciriyamoto told attendees that many complaints lodged with the Commission were on landlords defying the Rental Freeze Order – which prohibits an increase in original rental charge charged. FCC issued spot fines ranging from $100 – $1000 in 2016 for defiant landlords.

Certified reports on a property’s condition will be mandated as the basis of any damage claim, under the proposed Act. This is to particularly address the difficulty in ascertaining tenant damage to properties by third parties such as the Court.

Resort properties need clearer classification, as VAT is charged for residential dwellings that provide over $100,000 annually in gross residential income.

Landlord wanting to inspect their property can apply for an Order to Access, under the proposed Act, as landlords give up their property rights to tenants and need permission to enter the premises or it’s trespassing. This is particularly to ensure the enjoyment and privacy of tenants against intrusive landlords, who shouldn’t question visitors to the property being rented by the tenant(s), Ciriyamoto said.

The proposed Act has provisions for general repairs and maintenance as many landlords reside overseas and appoint caretakers, who sometimes make alterations and fixtures without landlord permission. Section 48 of the Act covers authorization for tenants or caretakers wanting to make fixtures and alterations to the property rented out.

Consultation attendees said the proposed Act should be considerate of inflation and be user-friendly and not be a revenue-generator for the Fiji Revenue & Customs Authority.

They also suggested that tenants be charged according to their budget as part of a supply and demand system, instead of forcing landlords to comply with the Rent Freeze Order, which they said diminished any incentive for landlords and tenants to have their own contracts, and was inconsiderate of mortgage payments.

Members of the public have been invited to submit their views and suggestions for and on the proposed Landlord & Tenancy Act to the Fiji Commerce Commission.

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