Forex ban relief for tenants

Andile Tshuma

THE scrapping of the multi-currency system by the Government has come as a relief to most tenants as many profiteering property owners had started demanding rent payments in foreign currency while lawyers have assured tenants that there are legal provisions that protect them from unfair property owners.

Battle lines had been drawn between tenants and property owners in major cities around the country following demands for outrageous amounts of money in United States dollars.

Some businesspeople renting commercial properties in the central business district in Bulawayo said while it would take time for normalcy to return in the property sector, they were grateful to Government for doing away with the multi-currency system.

Bulawayo lawyer Thulani Ndlovu of Sansole and Senda Legal practitioners said both property owners and tenants are protected by the law in the event of disputes.

He said property owners were legally not able to increase rents willy nilly.

“It is the norm that a property owner and a tenant get into a 12-month lease of a property. A property owner cannot increase rentals by over 30 percent of current rentals without approval from the Rent Board.

Rent can only be reviewed after a minimum of six months. If a property owner and a tenant cannot agree on a figure, the Rent Board can be engaged on the matter, which can then come and assess the property and give value based on state of the property, location and general market rates.

While the matter is being handled by the Rent Board, the tenant continues to pay the rental rate stipulated in the lease agreement until the board determines the fair rental,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“If a tenant is not paying rent, a property owner can evict a tenant from the property through giving three months’ notice. If an owner wants to use the property for something else, they can give the tenant three months’ notice to vacate the property.”

Bulawayo residents’ association chairman Winos Dube said the Government’s move would protect residents from those who were now abusing the foreign currency system.

“We welcome the move by the Government as it will go a long way in cushioning residents.

Rates that some property owners were charging were very exorbitant and unfair. This has brought relief to many people in Bulawayo as a lot of people are dwelling in other people’s properties.

We hope Government will introduce more measures to protect residents,” said Dube.

Some Bulawayo residents who spoke to B-Metro said most people that demanded rent in foreign currency in residential areas were landlords in the diaspora who were out of touch with the daily struggles of people living in the country.

“People living in the diaspora and own houses in Zimbabwe are out of touch with the dynamics in the country.

They rely on relatives and friends looking after their properties and tend to make some of these decisions based on hearsay and social media reports.

Rates were spiralling out of control on the black market but you would hear someone calling you from Australia or the United Kingdom telling you that they now want foreign currency and you are a civil servant and you earn local currency,” said Mrs Lungile Sibanda, a resident of Bradfield suburb.

“Sometimes these relatives in the country want to maximise and earn cuts from making people pay in forex if they are responsible for their relatives’ properties.

Sometimes, you find out that the forex does not even go to the owner of the house.”

Mrs Tendai Chirwa, who runs a local boutique said she was relieved when Government announced Statutory Instrument 142 putting to an end to the multi-currency era which had been grossly abused.

“I think this is to our rescue because the owner of this property had indicated that he wants payment in forex as from 1 September 2019,” said Mrs Chirwa.

Following the move by Government to abolish foreign currency payments, some property owners have reacted by increasing rents in RTGS dollars by more than 200 percent.

However, legal experts said property owners were breaching the law through constant increase of rent.

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