GEORGE TOWN, Sept 23 — Penang will be able to table a Rent Control Bill without the federal government’s approval, state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo said today.
The town and country planning and housing committee chairman said the Federal Constitution provided for each state government to regulate rentals imposed by landlords in the state.
“Now that legally it can be done, constitutionally, it is provided for, so we are proceeding to the next stage which is to gather information on the numbers of alleged increase and how major the increases are.
“This is to enable us to decide whether the increases if of significance and requires us to go into the next stage of reintroducing rent control within the heritage site,” Jagdeep told reporters after launching the Malaysian Secondary Property Exhibition (Maspex) Penang at Queensbay Mall here.
He said the reintroduction of the Rent Control Enactment is only aimed at properties within the core and buffer zone of the George Town World Heritage site.
“The complaint is that with the spike of rentals, a lot of our intangible heritage have been forced to move out and that is something of concern,” he added.
He pointed out that many had invested in the world heritage site because it is the one major attraction of the state and that the site’s intangible heritage is an outstanding universal value (OUV) that contributed to the heritage status.
“We have to strike a balance. A lot of people are investing in the world heritage site, they are reaping the benefits from the world heritage site, but don’t forget that it is a world heritage site because of the intangible heritage.
“So, you cannot reap the benefit, force them out and jeopardise the OUV of the site,” he said.
The state government will now move on to the next stage to verify the complaints and get input on the rental increases before proceeding with tabling the enactment at the state assembly.
He stressed that the proposed reintroduction of the rent control law was only to regulate the rate of increase, and not the rental rates.
“We cannot control the rent, we can only control the manner of increase,” he said.
He said there’s a clause in tenancy agreements that stipulates rental increases at 10 per cent, but certain individuals are flouting these agreements to increase the rental by 500 per cent.
In July, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng expressed concern about the numerous evictions of existing residents and traditional trades from the George Town World Heritage site in recent years.
Many businesses and local residents have been forced to move out in recent years due to soaring rental rates as the heritage houses were sold to new investors.
Lim announced the state government’s intention to reintroduce a different version of the Rent Control Act to curb soaring rental rates and sudden 100 per cent to 200 per cent increases in rental rates.
The Rent Control Act 1966 was repealed in 1997, allowing for previously low rentals to be increased by house owners.
The Act had previously restricted the increase of rent by owners of buildings that were built before 1948. Rental rates were as low as RM60 for these houses.
After the repeal of the Act, rental rates have increased to RM500 and above but with the inscription of the world heritage site, rental rates have further increased to RM4,000 up to RM10,000, depending on the size and location of the premises.