QUESTION: Dear Legal Wiz,
Every time I try to get an apartment, the owner is asking me for a security deeposit. Is this something new.
RESPONSE: Dear Sue,
To respond to you, reference to an interview the chairman of the Rent assessment Board in 2016 is being posted.
Follow the link to full Article on Security Deposit in Jamaica
Former chairman of the Rent Assessment Board, Janice Nelson Brown has stated that charging a security deposit before renting a property is indeed legal.
In a 2016 interview with a local mediahouse, the chairman outlines that once the deposit is in keeping with section 24 of the Rent Restriction Act, it is lawful.
At a recent hearing, the current Chairman of the Rent Assessment Board Rose Bennett Cooper (right) reiterated that the charging of security deposit is legal, as long as it is in line with the rent sum being charged.
Section 24, subsection 1 of the Rent Restriction Act of Jamaica states that a person shall not… require the payment of any fine, premium, or other like sum, or the giving of any consideration in addition to the rent. It further outlined that where any such payment or consideration shall be paid after the commencement of this Act, the amount or value thereof shall be recoverable by the person by whom it was made or given or his personal representatives.
Breaking it down, Bennett Cooper explains that according to Section 24 landlords/ladies are not to charge such security deposit sums in excess of or in addition to the rent. Any added sums to the agreed rental amount is therefore regarded as a premium or a fine. However the security deposit sum is refundable only after leaving rented premises, and on condition that the inspection by the landlord proves that the premises is ‘intact’.
In her interview, Brown further stated to the mediahouse that “the courts have interpreted that section to be that a security deposit can be charged once it is returnable based on the happening of certain events. So it’s not a situation where the rent is $10 and the security deposit is $10 and you can’t get back the security deposit. Once the deposit is returnable in certain circumstances, usually if there is no damage to the property, if there is no outstanding utilities or if there is no breach of the rental agreement then the deposit is returnable and in those circumstances it is entirely legal.”
It is interesting to note that although security deposit is legal, the popular act of renting premises without first being registered as a landlord is in fact illegal.
You may visit the Rent Assessment Board while in Jamaica at The Towers, 25 Dominica Dr Kingston 5, Jamaica West Indies. OR Call them at 876-906-1765, 876-926-1590
The above does not constitute legal advice. Inhouse senior journalists research and discuss with specialists eg attorneys-at-law, as necessary before posting responses. Names are changed at times by request.
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