KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Some landlord have begun to increase rent ahead of the implementation of the new property tax rates and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said yesterday that these property owners should not use his name as “a battering ram”.
Gonsalves, in response a question at a press briefing, cited a Searchlight newspaper article in which some tenants complained that their landlords have already increased their rent, by as much as EC$100 a month in some instances.
Property owners will this year begin paying 0.08 per cent of the value of their property in tax, if the property is valued more than EC$25,000 on the market.
In some instances, the monthly increase in rent imposed on tenants is more than the landlord would pay additionally annually.
“What do they [landlords] say? ‘Didn’t you hear that Ralph increased property tax?’ So you are digging our people’s eye and you are using Ralph as a battering ram,” Gonsalves said, partly in dialect.
“Don’t use me as a battering ram. Don’t use De Comrade as a battering ram. It is dishonesty you are engaging in when you [are] putting up the rent and calling my name about property tax. Don’t do it,” Gonsalves further stated.
“And I am speaking to the tenants. When they come to you and tell you that, say, ‘You hear what De Comrade say?’,” Gonsalves said.
“Don’t use me as any whipping boy. Don’t sic me on pon anybody as though I am a bad dog. Don’t do that because I am none of that. What you sic’ing me on for? I’m some kind of mongrel? You can’t go ahead and do that. Be honest with people. We must expose these people you know,” Gonsalves said.
He further stated that his government would have to review the Rent Act to protect the rights of both landlords and tenants.
“It has to be done in a sensible and practical manner because at the lower end or the lower-middle end, the demand for rooms exceeds the supply of rooms,” he said.
Gonsalves further stated that in some Kingstown communities, landlords charge “an arm and a leg” because of the proximity to the city.
“So they feel that they have you, the tenant; they can take you for a ride. But we have to make sure that we are being fair to the landlords and we are being fair to the tenants,” he said.