By: Nyamacoro Silla
The property market in Freetown for rental or for buying can only be referred to as cut throat. It appears that there are no regulations, price guidelines or a code of practice applied to proceedings. There is certainly no industry regulator effective or otherwise.
Greed and avarice on the part of both landlords and agents seems to be the overriding determinant in any transaction.
Over the last two years I have known of a number of people including returnees and expats who have been looking for rental properties in and around Freetown.
Some have been successful in negotiating and finding the right property and location but always at vastly inflated prices. In many conversations that I have had with various friends and colleagues on the matter they paint a rather grim picture of their experiences.
[notification type=”info”] These experiences range from the ridiculous to the downright threatening and unpleasant. [/notification]
For instance a person whose rent changed from $5,000 to $10,000 from one
year to the next, landlords who insist that rent can only be paid in dollars, a landlord whose asking price for a three bedroom basic apartment was $25,000 per annum, landlords who ask for any prospective tenant to be non Sierra-Leonean partly because they consider that they would get more money out of non Sierra-Leoneans , those who have scant regard for the basic rights of tenants and would n’t have a clue what it was to respect a person’s privacy, unscrupulous landlords and agents who inflate prices of properties to such an extent it actually becomes totally surreal.
[notification type=”info”] I am reliably informed that the agents double the price asked for by the landlord. So if the landlord says he wants to rent his property for $10,000 the agent will ask for $20,000.Renting out properties that are derelict, dangerous and unfit for human habitation is commonplace and an accepted practice. [/notification]
No one considers the potential loss of life or fire hazard if for example the electrics in a house are dangerously wired or are no longer working.
What is also normal in this unregulated industry is for landlords to refuse to repair and upgrade their properties before rental. I am told by a reputable agent that landlords generally refuse to spend any money on renovating their properties they actually expect the tenant to pay for all repairs in addition to paying rent.
None of the Sierra Leoneans I spoke to felt that they were treated with dignity and respect by the landlords or agents they were dealing with and in some instances some felt as though they were expected to be grateful for being allowed to live in someone’s derelict property.
The expat contributors to this discourse felt that they were being blatantly fleeced by the landlords and agents but were unable to do anything about it.
There are Sierra Leonean housing laws but as with every other legislation in the country it needs to be enforced if required.
The situation appears hopeless but I think that introduction of proper regulatory bodies and enforcement of housing legislation will go a long way in taking the first steps to rein in this cowboy industry.