Residential Properties Bill accepted by Parliament

The Residential Properties Bill intended to regulate the housing rental industry has been accepted by Parliament.

Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi-South, Mohamed Nasheed originally presented the bill to the Parliament in November 2009, which aims to protect the rights of both tenants and landlords. It has been in the queue system since.

The bill was widely based upon the Residential Tenancies Act (1987) of New South Wales, Australia, and proposes the creation of a tenancy deposit scheme, with deposits made at the start of a tenancy to be held by the government rather than individual landlords.

There would be a limit on how much the deposit could be and tenants would have the right to appeal if they believe they are not getting a fair rental price.

When he first presented the bill in 2009, Nasheed told Minivan News stricter housing regulations are necessary in a city as overcrowded as Malé, where demand for accommodation dramatically outstrips supply, leaving tenants vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords.

Even then, Nasheed admitted the bill was controversial and said he was unsure it would be passed as it was, but now that it has been accepted by the Majlis, Nasheed said he has “greater hope that a compromise will be reached between those who agree with it and those who don’t.”

“I basically looked at it from a consumer protection point of view,” he said. “So far [housing] has been regulated by ordinary terms of contract.”

Nasheed said he wanted to protect the rights of both the tenant and the landlord, and hopes the bill will help the market by leaving “less room for undue influence.”

The bill was accepted by 45 votes, “seven votes above majority,” Nasheed noted. It will now be sent to a committee before being sent back to Parliament for approval.

“I hope it will all be over in six months,” Nasheed added.

knocking down house
Demolishing a house in Malé

A holistic approach to the housing crisis

Minister for Housing, Transport and Environment, Mohamed Alsam, said the bill “has got rather ridiculous things in it. It’s very foolish to control the market.”

Aslam said the government was trying a more “holistic approach” to the housing crisis in Malé by “diverting demand elsewhere.”

He said the best thing to do was to improve services in other islands and provinces, so people would want to move out of Malé and back to their homes.

“It’s a national development issue,” he said. “Other parts of the country aren’t attractive enough.”

Aslam said that is where the government’s decentralisation plan comes into play. “We have always seen the issue of housing as a broad development issue, not an isolated thing. If we leave Malé as it is, no law will regulate it.”

Although the minister did admit “certain elements of [the bill] are good,” he said “I don’t think I would go with it.”

Housing in Malé

With a growing population of over 100,000, Malé is among the most densely populated cities on the planet, and the housing crisis is only getting worse as more people migrate from other islands and demands grow, allowing rental prices to spike.

Due to the high demand and low supply for housing in Malé, many people who own land choose to rent it out for extra income, either by renting a part of their house or giving the land for the construction of apartment buildings.

A 2008 report by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) found that 68 percent of families in Malé were living in accommodation that “qualifies as slums by UN definitions.”

Additionally, they found survey participants spent 85 percent of their income on rent and utilities in Malé and Vilingili. They also found some landlords were increasing rent “at will” and forcibly evicting tenants if they were unable to meet their ever-increasing demands.

Effects of overcrowded areas

There are many other issues with overpopulation besides money and rental control; health problems, psychological welfare and even sexual abuse have all been directly connected to living in overcrowded areas.

Dr Jorge Mario Luna, World Health Organization (WHO) representative to the Maldives, wrote: “Several social problems are also faced within the household including child abuse, psychological impact in growing up in areas of overcrowding, breakdown of many families due to the hardship faced by them stimulating a ripple effect of social disorder for the families, particularly the children caught in the situation.”

Buildings in Malé
Buildings in Malé

Dr Luna added: “It is important to note that the major drivers, or social determinants, of health in urban settings are beyond the health sector, including physical infrastructure, access to social and health services, local governance, and the distribution of income and educational opportunities.”


4 thoughts on “Residential Properties Bill accepted by Parliament”

  1. Can we get a breakdown of what exactly is in this bill? I'm assuming it stops landlords from suddenly and dramatically raising rents for tenants, but does it also allow evictions of bad tenants? Under the current regulations there seems to be very few enforceable rules on how and when a bad tenant could be evicted. In practice they often squat on property paying whatever they choose.

    Anyways, I'm glad there are active efforts being made to do something about the housing situation. I do wish more attention was being drawn to the problems associated with the housing crisis. Like sexual abuse for example. The situation has been spiraling out of control and it is a direct result of the influx of people into the capital. The fact that many families send their children to live with virtual strangers on exacerbates the situation. All these ills need to be expounded, elaborated, and understood by the populous.

    We have to change the dynamics of our nation - and this is a big reason why decentralization is not only a good idea, but a necessary step for us to progress as a nation. As a people who can protect our children from the evils in this world.

  2. Fashioning a bill on tenancy based on the Residential Tenancies Act (1987) was originially floated by myself and an associate I worked with, Ali Hashim, when we were working on hire for the DRP. The idea seemed revolutionary then but with the benefit of hindsight it now seems that lot of the personal support I had for drafting such a bill might have been due to the optimism of youth and ignorance of economics.

    The first discussion my associate and I had when we were making an attempt to tailor the bill to the Maldivian situation was with then Social Liberal Party leader, Ibrahim Ismail. His view was that regulating the real estate market in Male' would be next to impossible due to the influence held by landowners. He also stressed on the need for a more holistic approach, as Aslam has stated. The only element of the bill he had any support for was the establishment of a bonds board to hold security deposits.

    There may not be any connection between our idea and independent MP Nasheed's almost identical proposal to the parliament. However, astute politicians, practicing business individuals as well as experienced economists (NOT Mavotaa Shareef) should be heavily consulted before part or parcel of this bill is passed. The worth and value of the bill as my associate and I envisioned was the populist nature of it and the possibility of garnering the support of a large section of the population. Yet mass support should be weighed against the influence of vested interest before jumping up and down over the possibility of having this bill enacted into law.

  3. i just hope the Majlis passes that bill. we need a regulation and a better solution for the housing crisis. And for you Housing Minister! is your decentralization workin??? i dont think so. just because you built a house in another island does not give the solution. where on earth we get a job in those island. make sure u know what your are talking.

  4. @ hollow man: Far-reaching processes such as decentralization and regionalization will take time. No matter how much Male'-centric legislation is passed we cannot avert these issues.

    An attempt to regulate the housing market in Male' might bring about the creation of a black-housing market whereby people bypass the established tenancy authority to secure residences. Market forces are always stronger than legislation which does not take economics into account. Legislation against the sale of alcohol to Maldivian citizens is illustrative of this point. Although it is a criminal offense, the liquor black market is thriving because of existing and rising demand.

    Decentralization, as an earlier commenter stated before, is a process and not an event. It will take time for us to be able to reap the benefits. Centering development on Male' and passing legislation which fails to take the whole nation into account is dangerous. If, god forbid, Male' were to be washed away by a tidal wave, our whole nation comes to a standstill then and there. We should all support measures to develop other regional centers across the nation.


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