By Fatoumatta Conteh & Amadou Manjang
Gambians and residents of the Gambia, continue to raise their worries and concerns about the skyrocketing cost of house rent.
And as has been observed by this mediium, many tenants continue to complain about the high cost of living but of late, many said they are alarmed about the high cost of house rent to the point that tenants may not be able to pay their rents.
Not only food and fuel prices are on the rise, but house rents are getting more expensive as families and young people struggle to pay exorbitant rent bills demanded by the landlords. And as the country continues to face shortage in affordable houses which is driven by the high demand, tenants are left with no other option but to be at the mercy of nefarious landlords.
Many tenants lament that not enough has or is being done by the government to address this problems at a time when many of them struggle to cope with the high cost of living and transportation. While most families earn less every month, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, these tenants lamented that the cost of rent and living keeps rising. Some tenants lament that they have little choice but to leave their country and venture into irregular migration.
Because of the rising cost of house rent, Fatou Saine is not sure if her father can endure the pain much longer. Despite his best efforts to keep the family, Fatou urges the authorities to intervene and protect the citizenry from becoming homeless. Fatou gave us an instance where an average two bedroom apartment in the country is rented from D4,000 to D5,000 or D6,000 with some landlords even asking for foreign currency when paying the rent, particularly US dollars.
With less than two million people and with a majority that live below the poverty line, many thought that newly elected President Barrow, could have offered them hope particularly on the issue of house rent, food, fuel prices and the cost of transport. She however said that as tenants, these hopes have been dashed.
Fatou said she stays with her father and siblings in Serrkunda, and lost her mother at a young age. The 18-year-old said her father pays D2, 500 for only a single room and parlour, which they view as very expensive to a low-income earner.
“Every end of every month, my father pays D2, 500. Sometimes, he finds it very difficult to pay. My father is a mechanical engineer and takes care of his family needs and other expenses from this job,’’ she explained.
“I wish our government could do something about the rising cost of house rent, because my landlord is an impatient man,” She added. Saine fears that there will be a time when some tenants would become homeless, if the state refuses to address the issue of house rent in the country.
Alpha Jallow, a shopkeeper, who lives in Kerr-Serigne complained about the high cost of rent and said he pays D1, 300 monthly.
“It is high time for the Government to wake up from their slumber, if not they will end-up seeing their own citizens sleeping in streets as homeless people,” Jallow said.
According to Jallow, the continuous increase in house rent coupled with the high cost of living, has forced him to return his family to Guinea Conakry.
“The government should have each our interest at heart and help the masses,’’ he urged.
Another tenant in Bakoteh was Fatoumatta Sowe who lamented on the abuses and unfairness meted on them by landlords without any justification.
“Sometimes, landlords would increase their rent without doing any work or renovation on the house itself,” she said.
Sowe further feared that the way rents continue to escalate in the country should be worrisome for all tenants, and urged the government to step in and regulate it before it gets out of hand.
“Can you imagine, my landlord has increased the rent twice last year, without consulting the tenants or doing any renovation. And the rent has now soared to D4,000 per month,” she said. Sowe complained about how it takes her to pay her rent, adding that she is just managing to maintain a roof over her family. Sowe said she works at a beauty salon at the Serekunda market, and is a single mother with two children.
“It is not easy as a tenant here in the country. I am just coping with the situation, but it is not easy to pay a six month rent at once at four thousand dalasi per month,” she said.
Muhammed Jallow, another tenant in Bakoteh stated that tenants in the country are the people who suffer the most.
“I have to pay house rent, water bills and cash power for electricity. This is very hard and expensive for me,” he said.
He added that house rents are expensive since landlords have decided to take the law on rent into their own hands.
According to Jallow, when landlords want to increase the rent, they will and as a tenant, they will dare not to object because of the fear of eviction.
“I experienced such in the past, and that is why I stopped complaining or arguing with my landlords,’’ he explained.
Jallow indicated that there is need for serious rental regulation and implementation because he heard that there are laws that regulate renting but he had not seen any effect.
Meanwhile, Bakary Camara, a former National Assembly Member (NAM) for Kiang Central recently remarked that the only solution to curb the high cost of house rent is to re-amend the Rent Act.
“There is no regulation in the cost of house rents in this country, and the worst part of it is that some people would even be asking for dollars from tenants. I was very shocked to hear this particularly from those renting stores on the high-way. And this is said to extend to some owners of residential apartments,’’ the ex-lawmaker lamented. He suggested for the Rent Act to be amended, to give more powers to Area Council to closely monitor land owners and the agents involved in corrupt practices, in the event where tenants are being cheated or badly treated.
He further said house owners are ask for six or eight months advance payment while others would ask for D3,000 for a room and parlour or D6,000 for double room and parlour. He described the rise in rent as condemnable, saying that some landlords are just nefarious to their own fellow citizens.