Even though I have heard stories on people’s predicament in search of accommodation, I have always underestimated it until I came into reality with the situation. This has deepened my understanding of the plight of accommodation seekers in the City, particularly, Accra. In my search of accommodation, I got to know so many intriguing factors that I had never thought of. It is breathtaking to note that even though toilet, by law, is supposed to be part of every house, some tenants are made to pay as much as twenty cedis a month to their house owners who claim to dislodge toilet with it. Besides this, it is thrilling to note that some house owners in Accra do not pay electricity and water bills. But then, one question which comes to mind is, ‘whether they are in any form of joint ownership with ECG and Ghana Water Company over these utilities?’
This article is not meant to vilify landlords neither am I trying to exonerate any tenant who has had dispute with a landlord. Why? Because I know there are as many good landlords as there are many bad landlords. In the same vein, there are very bad tenants and very good ones. Instead, it is meant to address the ills in this aspect of society.
Among the many concerns of accommodation seekers is the escalating cost of accommodation. Now, any form of accommodation that goes with the name self contained comes with exorbitant prices. Even a single room self contain could cost 150.00 GHC a month. A chamber and hall self contain could cost as much as 250.00 a month. These are in ordinary places and not residential areas. Today, key criteria for getting affordable accommodation are unavailability of water, toilet and locations in shabby environment. While the increasing cost of rent in Accra remains a major concern to many; the situation is only a tip of the iceberg in respect to myriad of problems accommodation seekers face. Among them are the risks of acquiring accommodation in flood prone zones; thereby putting one’s life at the mercy of the merciless annual flooding in the City. In fact, sometimes when you see a very nice house with quiet a low price, you need to pause and do a little enquiry for the place could be a known flood zone. In addition, a search of accommodation, particularly in haste, could expose one to fraud, disputes, and litigations. A major source of problems between tenants and landlords is often what was promised and not done. Here, it is important to note that promises of what will be done often turn into mirage when financial commitments are made. To be on a safer side, make sure if not all, most of the things to be done are done before any financial commitment is made.
Even though one of the easiest ways to acquire a room is through acquaintances, such as a friend’s father among others, it could equally sabotage relationships if care is not taken. The ugly tribalistic sentiment in this 21st century could also hit you in the face like a thunderbolt while in search of accommodation. Why do I say this? You may go to a house that appears to be your ideal place only to be asked which tribe you belong to. Some landlords will then come out with a tall list of tribes they cannot live with in their houses. If your tribe is found in the list of prejudice, wahala for you. In some cases, however, a mention of your name alone will be enough for you to be told there is no room even though there is. However, it is important to note that names could also be misleading. I ask as Martin Luther King Jnr looked to; when are we going to begin judging people by the content of their character instead of the colour of their skin or their places of origin? Lets’ wake up Ghanaians!!!
The increasing influx of people from across the country to the city is prime to the problem of accommodation scarcity. In addition, Ghana being a preferred destination for our Francophone neighbours, especially students trying to better the queen’s language, has also accounted for the scarcity of accommodation in the city. Exacerbating the problem is lack of clear government policy and action in mitigating accommodation deficit. Mr. Akwete Akita, the Executive Director of HFC, hinted that Ghana’s accommodation deficit, which stands at one million, could double in the next decade. Increasingly, places of abode are becoming goldfields in the city as garages, kitchens, halls and any available space are being converted into rooms. It is not surprising that many streets in Accra have become car parks as there are no spaces for car parks for houses that are located along such roads. This makes driving along such streets difficult and risky for motorists, pedestrians and residents as well.
Agents, though, are supposed to make the search for accommodation less stressful, turn to add more stress and overprice the available houses. The activities of some agents leave less to be desired. In spite of giving them a clear description of a preferred house type, some will keep taking you to places nowhere near what you want. Bear it in mind, transportation during the search is solely a responsibility of the prospective tenants. Other agents may rush you to pay for a room that you have neither seen nor seen the landlord under the pretext that you may lose it to other clients. There are, however, good agents. The watch word is caution.
Aggravating the issue of accommodation in the city of Accra, for example, is the weak and under resourced regulatory body by government to deal with accommodation related disputes. In my search for accommodation, I run into a problem with a landlord and decided to seek assistance from the Rent control Office. However, the thick crowd I witnessed there was enough warning signal for me to take an alternative approach to resolve the issue with the landlord. Thank God my decision paid off.
The role of government in mitigating the accommodation deficit cannot be underestimated. For example, outmoded and obsolete laws pertaining to rent must be re-organised to meet the modern challenges facing house owners and tenants. Regulatory bodies should also be better resourced to do a good job. To tenants and landlords, we all need one another for a peaceful co-existence. A tenant one time may become a landlord one day and a landlord may also become a tenant one day some how elsewhere. When we have this in mind, we will not make things difficult for one another. Long live Ghana. Long live Landlords, Long live Tenants.
Mawuena, Emmanuel Kwasi