It is really getting harder and harder each passing day to continue living in Accra.
Aside the general economic hardship, there are some little things that have evaded attention and are aggravating the plights of the average earner.
Chief among some of these things is rent.
People are really suffering in this country (think Accra) to rent accommodation. From the high cost of buildings, demand for two years’ advance payment upfront, sometimes in foreign currencies and unclear rent laws, the average Ghanaian is left at the mercy of several things.
Ghana is racing against high population growth which is currently estimated at about twenty eight million people.
To compound the situation, the nation also has a yawning housing deficit of about 1.7 million. And to bridge this disturbing gap, a minimum of 170,000 housing units would have to be built annually, over a period of ten tears.
Jumia House Ghana and Hacking Adulthood recently conducted a survey and the reports revealed that that 91 percent of Ghanaians are not property owners. The report further stated that the 91 percent of Ghanaians are either renting accommodation or living with their nuclear family.
The high population combined with the widening housing deficit has increased demand for accommodation across the country.
However, with specific reference to Accra, the situation is extremely unpleasant due to the cosmopolitan nature of the capital city and the continual internal migration of people from other parts of the country.
Analysts have attributed the high urbanization of Accra to a lack of proper decentralization and unemployment.
Now, as usual, business minded people will always take advantage of a bad situation to create a source of income. Some people who call themselves agents (middlemen) have hijacked the few houses in the system in the name of liaising between potential tenants and landlords/ladies.
These days, like Jesus and God, one can hardly walk straight to landlords/ ladies to rent accommodation without having to pass through an agent, thanks to their strong syndicate and trickery.
Because most people try to avoid the agents due to their exploitation, now when they place their advert notices they clandestinely issue a false caveat that ‘no agent.’ It is only after calling the number provided in the notice that you realize that you are still dealing with the same agents you have been avoiding anyway.
This deception is just the beginning of your woes. After waking up to the fact that you have been misled, the next thing that you are confronted with is the payment of a GHS50 or more as a precondition to be allowed to see the very house being advertised.
If after viewing the said house you are not interested, the GHS50 payment made is not refundable. So if you choose to move to another agent the same trend continues and you have to keep paying that GHS50 to agents until you finally get the apartment that meets your desire.
The aforementioned problems are just a tip of the iceberg. When you eventually agree to rent the apartment that is when the biggest of all the problems will raise its head. As you struggle to raise the two years’ advance upfront payment, you are also burdened with paying ‘tithe’ to the agent.
Depending on the area of Accra one intends to live and the kind of apartment being sought, the cost of rent varies. If the two years advance payment will cost the potential tenant GHS10,000, he or she must also get an GHS1000 which is ten percent of the rent cost for the agent.
All these benefits are completely exclusive of what he or she is entitled to from the landlord/lady for work done.
Interestingly, when you are able to raise the GHS10,000 for the rent without the ten percent (tithe) for the agent, you will not have the apartment, because the payment to the landlord/lady must be done through him. You have to keep the ten thousand until you are able to raise the one thousand for the agent.
The question that one is tempted to ask is, why should the potential tenant pay ten percent of the rent to an agent when in fact he is working for the landlord/lady and not the tenant? Then we must as well pay ten percent to sales boys and girls compulsorily when we go to shopping malls to purchase things, because there is no clear distinction between what they do and the work of rent agents.
Just recently, a young pastor who had just graduated from theological school and wanted an apartment to rent and settle, was faced with raising GHS8,000 for two years advance payment. This was after he had tried fruitlessly to get one without dealing with a middleman.
The young Man of God was able to raise GHS4,000 which is a half of the money, and intended to go and see the landlord and plead with him for indulgence to pay the rest in two months’ time. However, he also had another burden of finding an extra GHS400 (tithe) for the middleman before he could even go to plead with the landlord.
Annoyingly, the pastor had to keep the money as long as it took him to raise the ‘tithe’ for the agent. While keeping that money, something else could have come up necessitating the use of it and then he would have come back to ground zero.
Asked why a potential tenant should be burdened with paying a ten percent of the rent to an agent when in fact the landlord/lady will be paying them, one of them replied, “But you too you don’t have the thing and I am helping you to get it.”
Don’t be deceived that in case you dislike the conditions of one agent and move to another one you will hear anything different. In fact, they are more united and committed to a common goal than a terrorist group. Sometimes one is tempted to wonder if they hold general meetings to decide on their charges, as drivers unions do.
Looking at things, the future for housing in Ghana with specific reference to Accra is bleak, because the central government that claimed to be building affordable houses for workers, its houses are only affordable to the politicians and their cronies who are already wealthy.
The existing rent laws that could give semblance of respite to tenants are begging to be implemented. Parliament itself that made the law is the first to break it, the executive equally guilty as they buy houses in foreign currencies in Ghana and pay the illegal two years advance.
Unfortunately, workers especially the average earners would have to continue to suffer exploitation at the hands of landlords/ladies and so-called agents until the housing deficit is hopefully bridged one day.