Laveist’s rent controls suggestion gets shot downPOSTED: 12/11/11 3:47 PM
St. Maarten – A suggestion by National Alliance MP Louie Laveist for price controls on rent have been rejected by a number of his colleagues and delegations from the St. Maarten Real Estate Association and the Real Estate Association of St. Maarten. Laveist’s suggestion was made at Friday’s hearing on National Ordinance Rent, which was also attended by the Rent Commission.
Laveist called for the controls because he believes that the law should ensure that people in all income categories are protected. He also pointed out that average starting price for an apartment is $500.
Independent MP Frans Richardson called the rent control suggestion dangerous and called for the market and amount in mortgage that the landlord/landlady has to pay to serve as the determining factor. President of the Real Estate Association of St. Maarten Arun Jagtiani and Dieter Schaede of the St. Maarten Real Estate Association agree with the independent MP on this point, but the latter’s position is somewhat unclear.
“We cannot have government regulations on rent. If somebody has a building that costs one million dollars and he rents out one floor that’s 500,000 dollars of his investment. He needs to have enough of a return that he can cover his mortgage. So that’s basically how it’s determined. In the States – in New York – where I lived for quite a long time they have rental laws and rent control for certain areas. There are rent controls based on how old is the building. For example if the building is 50 or 60 years old the rent can be very, very old – mid-town Manhattan for instance,” Schaede said.
National Alliance MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson, who welcomes some of the proposed changes, also wants the Rent Commission to be further empowered to carry out their task because he’s heard of “countless situations that makes the control by the Rent Commission impossible.”
The MP also expressed the desire for the law to contain a specific term of how long a person can be pursued to recoup owed rent. He also called the law to spell out the actions to be taken and the players involved in an eviction.
“Those responsibilities need to be clearly defined,” L. Richardson said.
F. Richardson also agreed that the amount of time landlords/landladies have to get to evict a tenant that is not paying rent should be shortened.
“It is important that if you can’t pay you should leave,” F. Richardson said before saying that standardized contracts are possible, but dangerous at the same time.
Independent MP Patrick Illidge suggested creating a register of rents who default on their rent and their reason. He also called for the Rent Commission to assist both landlords/landladies and tenants by helping them seek a grace period from the bank in terms of mortgage payments when tenants fall on difficult times.
Jagtiani agrees with the suggestions for the register but stressed the process of adding the names of defaulting tenants should be fair, so people who truly had a good reason are not placed in a position where they have extreme difficulty in finding a new home.
Jagtiani also agrees with seeking the grace period on mortgage payments when people default on paying rent because they have fallen on difficult times.
National Alliance MP George Pantophlet believes that receipts are vital and stated he’d not support a push to give the Rent Commission the power to set rents of buildings past a certain amount.
“How high would you go? I don’t believe we can legislate across the board,” he said.
Pantophlet also advised that landlord/landlady and tenants do walk through a property at the moment it is rented and called for the contracts to clearly stipulate which party is responsible for what damages, in what time period it should be repaired, whether or not the tenant can subtract the cost of the work from their rent payment and under what circumstances.