By Gloria Ibesi
The residents of Anambra State have groaned over the high cost of securing residential houses on rent in the state, protesting for government regulation of house rents and house agents’ activities in the state to ameliorate the distress of the masses who are already confronted by lashings of hardships owing to the economic footing of the country.
In recent times, many Nigerians go through a lot of struggles to survive. The terrible shape of the nation’s economy; dearness of food and commodities; high cost of production and transportation which has been massively provoked by the recent hike in fuel price as a result of the Federal Government Petrol Subsidy Removal Policy, have produced such a hot economy in the country and done many harms to the cost of living of Nigerians.
Among the hardships people undergo is the high cost of rents and the nuisance of house agents in the state, which is one of the major contributing factors. The cost of hiring apartments in the State has been seen as intemperate as many citizens grumble at the exorbitant prices they are made to pay and troubles they pass through in the hands of house agents in order to rent houses.
These house agents are individuals who render the service of assisting people to find and rent apartments, shops or business premises. They find and advertise places such as rooms, shops and empty lands to let; hunt for people seeking for such places to rent and acquaint them with information about vacancies as well as lead them to different places where they are available, for inspection.
While some agents are settled by Landlords with some percentage of the rent, which apart from the inspection fees, clients pay them on every occasion of leading them to see vacant apartments where clients still oversee the transport; to and fro, findings revealed that prospective tenants, in a number of instances, are made to pay extra money asides the house rent known as Agent fee and/or Barrister fee in cases where there is a lawyer taking care of the house, which are often up to10 to 20 percent of the house rent.
Similarly, it was gathered that some of the house agents, for their selfish gains, convince house owners to increase their house rents while assuring them of finding tenants for them. The agents who pose as aid to people seeking to rent places of residence, exploit them in so many ways.
A source, Mrs Chy Ogbonna, who is a tenant in Awka disclosed that most Landlords rarely rent out houses themselves instead, they hand it over to agents or lawyers with little or no knowledge of how they handle it. In her words: ‘it appears some landlords are now afraid of managing their house themselves because of house agents’ activities.
They hand over the houses to agents or lawyers who take control of the tenancy management. Even in cases where the Landlord did not hand them over the house, these house agents sometimes refrain from revealing the identity of the Landlord to the prospective tenants, to keep them from knowing and meeting the Landlord and discovering the actual price of the rents.’
On the high cost of house rents, she said: ‘the situation is now very alarming. To get 2 to 3 bedroom flats one pays nothing less than 500 to 600,000 Naira and even 700,000 depending on the owner and the location, which is quite excessive. An average income earner in the state struggles to pay rent added to the present economic situation of the country, Citizens who are tenants especially ones with children have a lot to meet up with.
‘If there is a way the government can help, maybe by regulating the cost of rents, it will help to lessen the burden people bear in our country.’
Another tenant and a Keke driver, Mr Chinedu Ekeokwu, residing in Awka showed his discontentment on the activities of House Agents while speaking to Fides, he said: ‘this house agents are very greedy, they are the reason houses are very expensive.
They approach landlords who have houses to let at reasonable prices and make them increase the rent, assuring them of finding tenants who will rent them at that rate, so that they will earn huge commissions.’ He further stated that some of the agents are so deceitful that they collect money from clients without rendering proper services to them; ‘after collecting money from people to show them houses available for rent, they take them to houses in bad shape which sometimes does not even meet the client’s specification, after which they will demand for more money to visit more places. Nobody challenges them, they always do what they wish,’he contested.
In a dialogue between our reporter and a house agent who pleaded anonymity, he declared that all agents are not the same as some are greedy and outrageous. The agent who is a teacher by profession said he renders honest and trustworthy house agent services.
His words: ‘I am a teacher but I also render house agent services whenever I find a vacant house to let or a completed new building. But I am not like some other house agents who employ many illegal and dishonest means to get money from their clients.
When I see a house to let, I meet with the Landlord and reach an agreement. Then, I look for clients, when I find clients and they pay for the house, the Landlord gives me 10 percent of whatever the client pays him as house rent and I go my way.’
Earlier contesting the claim that house agents are part of the reason for the high cost of rents, he asserted that it is only so for some jobless people who make a living through offering house agent services. ‘Some house agents are very greedy especially ones who have no other job; they go as far as paying the rent of a house and then finding tenants to rent the same house from them at higher prices. Landlords collect rents from them and not from the tenants.’
In the same vein, some other tenants in Anambra State who spoke to Fides poured out their heart on how hard it has been, meeting up with the expensive house rents in addition to other bills in the face of the country’s economic crisis even as they argued that most of the houses are not worth the hefty price tags.
A civil Servant Mrs Ezenna Eucharia, said: ‘We the government workers with children suffer a lot when it comes to issue of house rents. We are always at the receiving end because as transports fares increase, foodstuffs prices increase, Landlords increase house rents too.
‘Apart from that, some houses placed at certain prices are not worth it. Landlords place their houses at some exorbitant rates not minding the condition of the house.
‘My Landlord filled the overhead water tank, making us believe the borehole is in good condition and water is connected to everywhere in the house. We moved in and after some time, the water stopped and we found out the borehole was bad. And the house costs 500,000 Naira.
The Landlord refused to do anything about it because he has collected his money.’ She further pleaded with the government body in charge to look into the situation which she said has been a big challenge to many families. ‘It is becoming too hard on us, the government should try and help us,’ she appealed.
The students are not left out in this grievance as they express their distress having to put up with school fees which is not any cheaper, text books, feeding in the inflated economy and then face the ordeals of excessive house rents.
A student of Odimegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State, Igbariam Campus, had this to say: ‘I school at Igbariam, Sometime last year, we rented rooms between 80 to 100, 000 but now it is between 120 to 160 000. Rents increase as market prices increase and nobody cares how we manage to survive.’
Another student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University said she paid 170,000 for her apartment, stating that house agents also contribute in the expensive cost of rent even in student area like theirs. She stated that the sum of 10,000 to 30,000 is added to rents as agent fees.
A Landlord, Mr Mike Onyema, who spoke to Fides said ‘I became a landlord about two years ago, but before then, I was a tenant so, I understand what it is like to pay house rents. But I think most landlords fix their rent according to the cost of living of the place in question.
‘I also agree that there are greedy Landlords but the high cost of goods and services contribute a lot to it.’ He further stated that he employed a trusted person as an agent for his house who he settles by giving some percentage from the house rent. He added that it will be nice if the government can regulate the activities of landlords by setting a standard for fixing of rents and letting houses so that the poor could afford a breathing space.
Fides learnt that most landlords also greedily impose extra amounts of money which they name Agent or Barrister Fee on their new tenants who didn’t come to rent the place through any agent and where there is clearly no agent or barrister and subsequently pay the normal rent.
Some others who spoke to Fides expressed their contentions to be that there is no standard of fixing house rents in the state. ‘Some of the houses are not even spacious enough to contain normal properties while some landlords charge self contains as if they are 3 bedroom flats,’ they argued, adding that if the government could do something about it, it will assist the ‘liveable homeland’ plan of the Governor in Anambra State. Others maintained a standard should be set for letting houses, business outlets among others and the activities of house agents and landlords put in proper check.