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Nov 29, 2007

Jamaican pro-landlord luxury market


Pro-landlord luxury market

Jamaican law is PRO-TENANT, but there is a big gap between formal law and real-world practice, which in high-end rentals often ignores formal law.


Rents: Can landlord and tenant freely agree rents in Jamaica?

The Rent Assessment Board sets the rental for all commercial and residential premises.

Jamaica kingston ocean view villa

The landlord must make an application to the Assessment Officer of the Board . The latter sends a Valuation Officer to inspect the rental property. The Assessment Officer issues a Certificate of Assessed Rent, which contains the standard rent applicable to the premises.

The standard rent is an annual percentage of the assessed value of the premises and is prescribed by the Minister . The current rent ceiling is 7.5% each year.The Board takes into consideration any increases in property taxes, improvements to the property and other related factors.

Any illegal increases in rent can be recovered by the tenant, or deducted by him from the rent.

Increases in rent are allowed under the following conditions :

  • Substantial improvements or structural alterations in the premises
  • Substantial improvements to the amenities, or in the locality
  • Increases in rates and taxes (other than water and sewer rates)
  • As may be ordered by the Minister

Deposits

It is illegal to require a deposit . If the landlord has required one, the tenant may recover such payment. However, the Rent Board has announced that there would be amendments to the rent law which includes the provision for the payment of security deposits.


What rights do landlords and tenants have in Jamaica, especially as to duration of contract, and eviction?

Leases can be short-term or long-term.

Even after the termination of the lease, a tenant can only be evicted if

  • The tenant has not paid rent for at least 30 days after it became due.
  • Breach of tenancy agreement such as
    • Using or allowing the premises to be used for purposes other than that agreed by the two parties.
  • The tenant has given notice to quit, and in consequence, the landlord has taken steps as a result of which he would be seriously prejudiced if he could not obtain possession.
  • The rental property is seriously required by the landlord such as
    • Using the premises for residential purposes by him or his family.
    • Using the premises for business, trade or professional purposes.
  • The tenant fails to accept within a reasonable time an offer of new tenancy at a higher rent by the landlord.

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A notice to quit must be issued to the tenant, stating a valid reason. The tenant shall then be given 30 days to vacate the property. However, an extension can be requested from the court. A landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order.

The landlord may file charges if the tenant refuses to surrender the property and the extension has already expired. Even if this situation has occurred, the tenant remains protected against harassment by the landlord or any of his representatives.


How effective is the Jamaican legal system?

The Rent Assessment Board receives and settles landlord-tenant disputes. In practice, the Rent Restriction Act applies mainly to low-rent housing. High-end landlords have ways of bypassing the formal law, e.g. evicting tenants by claiming the property is required for their own use.

The Board has a 95% settlement rate and hardly has to refer cases to the courts. Those that are referred to the courts mostly involve security deposits. Among the 4503 complaints received by the Board during the period of April 2003 to March 2004, 4000 have been settled, according to the Jamaican Information Service. Most complaints to the Board are about illegal increases, arrears in rental and harassment.

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Landlords who have difficulty with tenants, especially on the matter of arrears in rental where tenants refuse or have not paid their rent for over 30 days, prefer to lodge their complaint to the Board rather than the court. The court is a bit tardy in dealing with these cases whereas the Board can arrange a meeting between the two parties within the next 5-6 days to settle the issue.

Enforcement of court rulings takes an average of 14 calendar days.

EVICTION FOR NON-PAYMENT OF RENT

Duration until completion of service of process 45
Duration of trial 46
Duration of enforcement 14
Total Days to Evict Tenant 105
Courts: The Lex Mundi Project

Legislation

Rental agreements can be verbal or written. The Rent Restriction Act of 1944 governs the relationship between the landlord and the tenant. The Rent Restriction Act is being amended to ensure the playing field is level between the landlord and the tenant.

Brief history: Recent changes in Jamaican landlord and tenant law

Since the establishment of the Rent Assessment Board in 1944 to address problems encountered by landlords and tenants, the only major change was the closure of the regional offices of the Board resulting in a backlog of cases. To address mounting concern, a new board has been formed with island-wide scope. The board will have members drawn from various parishes to prevent persons residing in rural areas having to travel to the city of Kingston. In other words, the new board aims to speed up the process of settling rent disputes and enhance convenience to both parties concerned.

In 2004 it was announced that the Rent Restriction Act will be amended to give birth to a new Rent Board tasked to strike a greater balance between in the protection of tenant’s rights (now strongly protected) and property owner’s return on investments (now weakly protected). Some of the proposed amendments are:

  • Renaming the Act to reflect its new, more balanced role
  • Removing rent control from public and commercial buildings
  • Setting minimum standards for premises
  • Legalizing security deposits
  • Establishing a rent tribunal to deal with all rental cases
  • Increasing fines and penalties for breaches of the Act.

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A recent development in strata units is the petition of Jamaica Association of Strata Corporations (JASC) to seek jail terms for delinquent apartment owners with outstanding maintenance fees. The Association believes that the courts should have the power to force rent money to be diverted to pay for overdue maintenance fees, and be able to pursue delinquent landlords overseas. The Association also wants violations of certain strata housing regulations to be addressed, such as proprietors allowing the establishment of informal or small businesses in their units.

      





Comments

#1 MARCIA P | March 21, 2010

You need to publish a responce to qusetions, so others can have a idea of how to solve some of thse problems.

#2 SHADAA S | May 18, 2010

I agree with Marcia, u really need to answer our questions. Does a tenant owns the room or flat that is rented to the tenant? I rent a room for $8000 per month and I do not get any key and anytime I leave the house, my landlord would go in my room and sleep on my bed and plug in her radio and give excuses like: 'your room is relaxing.' Is that right? What are my rights?

#3 JOY FULLER | May 21, 2010

I had tenant who owes utiity bills and left without paying,. how dod I recover the money?

#4 SHERENE | June 14, 2010

i am sharing light meter with the landlord. but her unfairness in splitting the bill is outrageous. i am living in one room and i only have a fridge, microwave and a tv. the landlord lives on the other side, she operates a bar and a shop on the property and this is where she lives. for example her light bill comes to 16,000 and she wants me to pay 6,500 and her water comes to 4,000 she wants me to 1,500. every month she increase the utilities. i work on shift and hardly at home. Is the legal? please help me

#5 BLOSSOM | June 21, 2010

my landlord lives overseas, whenever he comes he burns light and the bill goes up by at least $1500 to $2000,he does not give me any money on those bills. over the christmas holidays he came i went abroad, returned in Jan. 2010 he said he would help pay the bill to come, it was over $12000,he had already left so i called him and tell him he said he will give me $5000, i questioned it but he would not budge,i paid the bill in full & waited for him to re-imburse me, he gave me all kinds of stories until May 2010 he came to JA, he told me his brother had the money to give me, he left and when i asked the brother he said he did not know anything about any money as when he want money he has to get it from the person i pay rent to, i contacted my landlord, told him what his brother said and that i would be taking the money from the rent, this was May & i had paid this money from Feb., was i wrong?, he got upset and said i should remove some blocks that i had on his property, he had given his permission but he was now saying he had not, he told me he was going to raise the rent i told him that once the rent goes up then he has to pay to cut the yard, i pay $2500 each month depending on rainfall to cut the yard,he got upset & said i wanted to take over his house, two weeks later he gave me notice to quit the property on the ground that he was going to do repairs to leaking pipes, this pipe is in my bathroom & has been leaking since 2008 when i rented the house & he has been to the house numerous times & has not done anything about it.i am in the course of purchasing a house through NHT & i think that is the problem. Questions (1)how do i get back my $10,000 deposit at the end of tenancy (2)can he give me notice starting 27-5-10 when my rent is due 8th of each month (3)i am suppose to leave on 26-8-10,the house im buying will/should be ready by Sept 10,how can i get an extension on this notice.I really need answers to these questions.

#6 PHILLIPA WILLIAMS | July 08, 2010

My Uncle lives abroad and wish to rent is property. he would like to know the legal way to go about it. Would he need to become a memeber or something. If yes does he need to aplly or there is an appplication form. And what from there. He wish to have the legal guidelines.

#7 MR BERES | July 23, 2010

my landlord says that next month my rent will be increased by $1500, is it suppose to be increased by so much onetime?.

#8 COURTNEY | July 25, 2010

Tenant have not paid any rent since September 2009 and i am unable to contact him - not answering his phone or any messages left - how do i get him to leave and to pay rent owing

#9 SIMONE | August 18, 2010

lets sat my tenant pays his rent on the 10th of each month. He was given a 30 day notice to vacate on the the 18th. since there is a week after when the tenant would normally pay his rent, should the tenant pay for this week?

#10 GLYNIS WRAY | November 25, 2010

If a tenant which to to terminate his/her rent agreement is it ok for the person to live-out part of the rent and leave the remaining portion to clear subsequent bills such as water etc.

#11 KERA | February 07, 2011

I moved out of the premises I rented and then informed the landlord.I left the keys and last rent with a friend to handover.The landlord has refused to accept keys and cash; say they want it only from me and threatened to take legal action.How can i get the keys and cash to them seeing am far away?

#12 DANIELLE | February 20, 2011

i have been living at a particular place for almost six months now, all of a sudden the land lord has brought it to my attention as well as the other tenants that she will be locking her gate at 10:30pm and she will be the only person in possesion of a key. this is disturbing to me because when i moved in she said that the gate is only closed not locked. i am a student who sometimes has to stay out later than that and the yard has no other entrance in or out. Is this legal?

#13 CAROL STANLEY | February 26, 2011

I have given 60 days notice to my tenant to vacate the premises for April 1st 2011. As I have not received monies for a security deposit and the utilities and water are shared. She has just advised me that she will not be paying March 1st rent as she will be living out her last months rent. What recourse do I have to collect for utilities and any damages done to the unit. I have invested $500,00 in updating the unit including, new kitchen and counters and I am afraid that she may cause extensive damages and run up the hydro and water. Please help as I am living abroad and not familiar with JA Landlord & Tenant Act.

#14 ANNE HARRIS | April 23, 2012

I believe there are a lot of Landlords that are not registered with Rental Board. I think it is a good idea before renting to ask this question. It is always in your best interest to have a lease in place, which will protect you as well as the landlord. If there are things on the lease that you do not agree with, this is the perfect time to negotiate/ adjust before signing.

#15 STACY | May 02, 2013

I have a landlord who is trying to use his head on me, i rented the place about 1 year and two months ago for $10000. i have never owed him before and because am not always there i tend to pay him in advance so that i don't owe him, however he was suppose to paint the house when i moved in and he did not. i asked him about it and he said that's not my business and the expense was not on my hand. I did not say anything after that, then one day he text me and said that the rent will be raised to 12000, i started to complain about it saying that he finds it hard to paint the house and now he is raising the rent without doing so. i didn't communicate with him after that but i allowed my mother to pay the rent last month. yesterday he sent a notice to my mother saying that we need to move by June 1, 2013 because he is going to fix the roof. isn't that ac ward to know that he finds it difficult to paint the outside of the house and now he is going to fix the roof which is very much ok?
it is a 4 bedroom house, with a hall, kitchen, varanda,4 bathrooms and a back pouch, well built but the walls are stripping. my family rents half while another family rents the other half and i find it strange because the landlord speaks to the other family more and yesterday my family and the other family fall out so they must have told the landlord and thats the time my mother got the notice. she called the landlord but he did not answer his phone. can somebody please tell me what to do, i dont know where to go and it is affecting my studies

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