By Bruce asemota
In a landmark ruling yesterday, Justice Ebrima Jaiteh of the high court in Banjul has declared that it is unlawful or illegal for any landlord in The Gambia to demand payment of rent in a foreign currency.
The judge added that this applies to any type of rented premises, be it residential, commercial or tourist accommodation.
Justice Jaiteh made this declaration while delivering judgement in a high profiled suit between Liptis International Tourist Company Ltd and Fingam Construction Ltd in which Liptis is claiming the sum of 625,000.00 euros being outstanding balance due on an annual rent of a leased property commonly known as Sand Beach Hotel, in Kotu.
Liptis International entered into an agreement with Fingam on 29 April 2014 and the parties agreed that the rent for the property shall be 125.000.00 euros per annum. Liptis went to court to demand a sum of 625,000.00 euros it said are arrears in rents from Fingam.
Justice Jaiteh began his judgement by stating that in the first place the act of demanding rent payment in foreign currency in The Gambia is unlawful and a violation of section 17 of the Rent Act, 2014.
He further disclosed that in this particular case, Liptis International did not produce evidence that the rented premises were registered under the Rent Act nor did it produce any evidence of tax returns on the premises for the preceding year.
He stated that as a result the court cannot hear complaints from the landlord, Liptis International and it consequently struck out the suit as being incompetent and not compliance with the Rent Act 2014.
A legal luminary contacted by The Standard to analyse the judgement said the verdict is a landmark and it touches the heart of the current problems affecting rent matters in The Gambia. “The insistence by landlords to be paid in dollars or euros is in a country where the legal tender is the Dalasi is illogical and a robbery. No one should accept that anymore. The next thing should be the total eradication of six-month advance payments on rents. That too should be declared illegal,” our legal source said.