Several landlords are using the post Hurricane disaster to take advantage of their tenants, by either raising their rent or asking them to vacate.
The issue was raised last evening, September 25, during a meeting with Premier Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith and his Ministers, which was broadcast live on social media.
“…Issues of landlords asking persons to come out of their properties and there is no place for them to go…I think we need to look at what we are going to do from a policy decision to keep some of these people in their homes,” Hon. Melvin Mitch Turnbull, Second District Representative opined.
Hon. Myron Walwyn, Minister of Education and Culture, said he too has received numerous complaints about the actions of some landlords, both on Tortola and the sister islands.
“…Landlords asking tenants to leave. I also got complaints about persons increasing their rent during this time. This is something Premier, we have to very clearly show our contempt…I know you handled the matter very well of price gouging; there seems to be some evidence that some of it is happening,” he said.
Minister Walwyn acknowledged that the issue is that the BVI does not have laws to address such behaviour.
“But we need to send a very clear statement that we will not be supporting that sort of conduct at this time.”
Hon. Marlon Penn, Junior Minister for Trade and Investment Promotion, also weighed in on the issue, where he mentioned that plans were already advanced to bring a Consumer Protection Bill to the House of Assembly, prior to Hurricane Irma.
“(It’s) to fight against the very same thing that is happening right now, which is the price gouging that is happening…We have the legislation ready Premier. There are aspects that speak to the gouging specifically and collusion, and that is something we need to look at quickly,” he said.
Hon. Penn said that the government is doing all it can to support businesses, including offering concessions, but it is wrong for them to use this disaster to take advantage of consumers.
“…Consumers are going through a difficult time right now…We need to protect our consumers…We need to have that balance, stimulate businesses, get them back up and running, but we have to protect the consumers and consumers are right now going through a very difficult time, and we need to be fair.”
He continued, “…While business persons are in business to make money, you cannot take advantage of a already bad situation and create further hardship for the people of the Territory, who have experienced tremendous hardship during this period.”
The Junior Minister of Trade said that they will do what is necessary to ensure the issue is arrested, “bring necessary legislation…We must not take it lightly.”