Condition of Rented Spaces

April 27, 2017

Owning a home is not everybody’s cup of tea, particularly given the price of real-estate in Fiji.

The reality for many is to settle for a rental property by scouting through local dailies and social media, or knocking on doorsteps of property owners, requesting for a rental space. A place they can call home, at the expense of monthly rent payments. 

In doing so, the least consumers expect is to get a hygienic place with basic amenities intact. No consumer wishes to fork out money on a monthly basis paying for a dilapidated house not fit for human occupancy.

Time and again the Consumer Council of Fiji has advocated on issues surrounding landlords and tenants in an attempt to create awareness on the norms expected during tenancy. This includes having a fair written contract in place outlining the do’s and don’ts of the tenancy period and the responsibility of both parties.

Amongst the many problems which tenants face, one key difficult area is the run down conditions of some rented flats. In cases of wear and tear, it is the duty of the landlord to ensure repair works are done in a timely manner which can guarantee that the facility is safe for habitation.

Alas, there are some greedy landlords out there who are mainly concerned with the incoming financial gain and least concerned with the condition of the house as they will not be occupying it.

On the losing end are poor consumers in urgent need of shelter, who shift into the premises believing that their landlord will fix the weak spots in due time.

Unfortunately, in some cases it is a never ending wait for the tenants while the landlord continues collecting the rent with no moral obligation. Such was the case with Seru.

Seru shifted into a single room flat under a verbal agreement with the landlord. The rent amount was fixed at $200 per month.

When shifting in, Seru noticed that the condition of the restroom and shower floor was frail and would need urgent repairs in few years to come. Nevertheless, he shifted in with his wife and one child on the assumption that when the need arises, the landlord would attend to the situation.

Eight (8) years passed and as anticipated the condition of the restroom and shower floor went from bad to worse. The wooden floor had sunk in making it difficult to use the basic amenity.

To top it up the lavatory waste outlet started leaking while the entire wooden floor of the flat became loose thus needing complete renovations.

On several occasions within the 8 years, Seru tirelessly tried to get the landlord to carry out repair works on the flat which could improve the living status of his family, but to no avail. Instead, the landlord kept promising that he will attend to it.

Alternatively, Seru requested permission from the landlord to allow him to carry out the repair works on the premises, but this plea also went unheard. He was paying $200 on a fixed basis for a rundown flat which posed serious hazards for him and his family.

Tired of the laid back attitude of the landlord, Seru lodged a complaint with the Council regarding the condition of the rented space and the insolent behaviour of his landlord.

The Council stepped in and inspected the condition of Seru’s flat along with three (3) other flats adjacent to his in the same property under the same ownership.

It was ascertained that the condition of all the houses rented out were unsuitable for habitation. Hence, the Council informed the relevant Town Council of the incident requesting for inspection of the property and necessary actions to be undertaken thereafter.

The Town Council undertook an inspection of the property and issued a defect order to the landlord. Upon failing to comply with the defect order the authority is now in the process of placing a closing order on the building.

The Council wishes to remind landlords to ensure their properties are suitable for occupancy before renting it out. Should the need arise for repairs, they should attend to it in a timely manner to avoid being issued with defect orders.

Alternatively, tenants need to take good care of the rented premises and avoid damaging the property intentionally. But in cases where tenants feel they are made to pay rent for dilapidated flats without timely repairs, they can contact the Council via its National Consumer Helpline toll free number 155 and seek advice or lodge their complaint.