Bangladesh is a developing country where in its capital city Dhaka, majority of the inhabitants rent a place to stay in the city. The large percentage of people who live in rented apartments or houses face a financial dilemma with the constant hiking of rent. Statistics show that between 2006 and 2010, house rent in Dhaka city has increased between 14-21 percent. The Premises Rent Control Act 1991 (“the Act”) of Bangladesh is the law dealing with such matters.
The Act contains an extensive set of laws relating to the dos and do-nots when it comes to renting out a premises and other ancillary issues. There are a number of provisions which are seen being violated heedlessly by the landlords, much to the peril of the tenants. One such provision is contained under section 7 of the Act which imposes a restriction on the landlords when it comes to increasing the rent of premises. This Act prescribes very specific circumstances under which the landlord may increase rent; for example, in the event of increase of taxes or if improvements or alterations (not falling within the meaning of necessary repairs) have been made to the premises at the landlord’s expense or furniture has been supplied by the landlord to the tenant, the tenant shall be required to pay the landlord sums in addition to the rent. Aside from certain specific circumstances stated in the Act, the landlord is not permitted to increase the rent on the premises. When the landlord takes rent beyond the agreed rent, the tenant can make an application, within six months of the payment, to the Controller and recover or adjust the excess amount paid to the landlord.
Landlords commit another violation of the law when they take advance of more than one month’s rent from the tenant before leasing out the premises. In most cases, the advance claimed from the tenant is of more than one month. If the tenants show any objection in paying the advance sought, the landlord refuses to lease out the premises. The taking of advance rent for more than one month is a clear violation of the Act. If tenants are forced by the landlord to pay advance, then the tenant is legally entitled to adjust the advance rent against the monthly payment of rent.
In situations where the tenant proposes to adjust the monthly rent against the advance rent deposit, the landlord threatens to evict the tenant from the premises on the argument that the tenant has defaulted to pay the monthly rent. However, it has been held that the landlord cannot, in law, evict the tenant as a defaulter for adjusting the monthly rent against the advance deposit.
Legally speaking, a tenant will be a defaulter if he fails to pay the rent of one month by the 15th day of the next month, i.e. the rent for, say, August by 15th September. Where the tenant fails to pay within such time and there is no advance rent deposit to adjust the monthly rent, the tenant then becomes a defaulter and can be evicted from the premises by the landlord.
It is true that despite the protections provided in the Act, many families are suffering from increased rent, advance rent and eviction. In order to fight back these problems, the tenants, at first, need to be aware of their rights. Some, who are aware, are reluctant to seek the protections available to them under the law because of the expensive and time consuming legal process they have to go through to assert their rights. Unless people come forward and take action against their landlords by writing an application to the Controller or filing a suit, the law cannot assist in easing any of the tenants’ problems.
The other side of the coin would be that the process for seeking protection under the Act need to be simplified and the tenants needs to be made aware of their rights which have been conferred under the Act, so that they can take quick action against their landlords. This, in turn, would deter the landlords from breaking the law in fear of action being taken against them by the tenant for such a violation.
Written by Sajeda Farisa Kabir, Partner
† Disclaimer: The opinions and comments expressed in this Blawg are not to be regarded or construed as legal advice by and from Vertex Chambers or any of its members. It is highly advisable that any person should seek independent legal advice before relying on any of the contents of this Blawg.
 2010 report of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh
 A Controller appointed under section 3 (1) of the Act and includes an Additional Controller and Deputy Controller appointed under section 3(2) of the Act
 Section 14 of the Act
 Section 10 of the Act
 31 DLR (AD) 155