In general, it is fairly easy to identify your legal rights as a tenant and what you can or cannot request as far as contract terms. You then check the lease agreement thoroughly or have it reviewed by a local legal professional so that you know exactly what you are signing.
It is unfortunate that the legal situation and processes are not that straightforward in Ghana where rental market practices are pro-landlord and the protection of tenants is low despite legislation. Here, the peace of your tenancy all depends on what is agreed and signed between you and the landlord. We always emphasize on how crucial it is in Ghana to negotiate and sign a good Lease Agreement.
Unless the landlord or your employer imposes a lease agrrement, we use an exhaustive one which has been reviewed by a competent lawyer.
Draft lease agreements are either supplied by the landlord, the agent, accraexpat.com Property or its partners. Terms of agreements are sometimes imposed by the company of the tenant.
After selecting a property, a draft will be submitted to you. Feel free to present all the edits or additions you wish to make. As most lease agreements are in the name of companies, check if the headquarters of your employer will require reviewing/approving it as this can add considerable delays in securing a home, mostly that the main relocation period of summer may be when people in your home country usually are on vacation.
Negotiated case by case, lease agreements usually last for the duration of the advance payment - one year - or are made for two or three years. Signing an agreement for the duration of your posting gives you the security that you will not have to look for a new home and move but at the same time, ties you to your home with the responsibility to pay the rent.
Rent and rent increases
Rents in Ghana can be freely negotiated and increases are unrestricted. In the most common case of lease agreements of two years, accraexpat.comProperty or its partners negotiate with the landlord to include a clause limiting the increase of the rent in case of renewal to a minimum increase. Such clause can also be added in any lease agreement to limit the increase at the time of renewal.
Although the concept of Letter of Intent does not exist in Ghana, it is important to clearly state, negotiate and agree with the Landlord what equipment, appliances, furniture and other items will come with the property. Eventual repairs or improvements to be done before or after you move in must also be clearly listed with deadlines so your requests are provided without misunderstandings. We however advise against selecting properties that are not ready to move-in.
Utilities and service providers
There are generally no charges besides the rent in the Lease Agreement, except for residential compounds/gated communities where a service charge applies (but can be included in the rent). Other expenses like electricity are paid independently by the tenant. What is and is not included in the rent/service charge must be clearly stated, as in the listings of properties on accraexpat.com.
In case of outstanding bills related to the previous tenant, you must make adequate provisions as to who is responsible for arrears or unpaid bills.
Repairs and maintenance
You are responsible for maintaining the leased premises and carry out minor repairs at your own costs but the lease agreement should state what is concerned and which items the landlord will be responsible for, provided that the damage or malfunction of appliances is not caused by your negligence. For leases of one or more years and if the interior of the premises has been repainted before the start of tenancy, the tenant must customarily repaint when vacating.
Office at home
Properties are for residential purposes but many expatriates work out of their homes and it is not uncommon that company offices are found in houses. Many properties also have a residential/office duality, a good way to reduce costs and simplify operations. This is also due to the lack of office space although this situation has changed.
Should you put up a signboard or nameplate, receive many visitors, have a secretary, etc., then your home will be considered as an office and that dual residential/office use must be negotiated with the landlord and included in the lease agreement.
Landlord’s right to visit
As in Nigeria, the law authorizes the landlord to visit your property during your tenancy, with notice. The terms are indicated in the lease agreements. Some landlords will take this opportunity to come and see how your are using their property and that clauses of the Lease agreement are respected.
Diplomatic or Escape Clause and Reimbursement Clause
This clause is to safeguard you if in the event your government (or company in rare cases) transfers you to another country or if you are no longer employed. It provides you the right to terminate the lease, either anytime or after 12 months in case of a lease longer than a year, by giving a 2 or 3 month notice.
Should you feel that such event may occur during your posting, you should request this clause to be included. Reasonable landlords know it exists and will accept it; others don't.
In rare occasions, the diplomatic/escape clause comes along with a reimbursement clause.
That clause may also states that, should you exercise the diplomatic/escape clause, you will have to reimburse a pro-rata portion of the commission the landlord had paid to his agent, if any.
Conditions of termination
Unless termination occurs under the diplomatic/escape clause, you are normally committed to pay the rent for the whole length of the lease agreement you sign.
Some lease agreements of two years include a termination clause, with the number of months you must give as advance notice in order to be reimbursed for the unused period of your tenancy.
If not and should you foresee that you may have to vacate before the end of your lease, you may try to negotiate to include a clause that will allow you to find new person to take over the lease for the remaining duration or sign a new lease agreement with the landlord. In that case, the landlord will pay you back the unused period of your tenancy once paid by the new tenant.
The landlord may request to approve that person.
Conditions of renewal
A clause with the option to renew is generally included in the lease agreement, with the number of month you must give as advance notice in order to be reimbursed for the unused period of your tenancy.
The Rent Act was passed to protect the tenants from frequent evictions by the landlord, especially when the former are not able to cope with incremental rent increases. Under the law, a tenant is usually given time, usually three months, to find a suitable place to relocate before being asked to leave. He can only be ordered by the court to vacate the premises immediately if the landlord has demonstrated that the property is required for his or his immediate family’s personal use or that he wants to remodel and renovate. But even then, the tenant must still be given time to find a suitable place.
The Rent Act (Act 220) of 1963 established the Rent Control Division, responsible for monitoring and establishment of guidelines relating to the monitoring of landlords and tenants relations. Common law and customary laws of Ghana also apply. The Rent Control Division is also the primary authority responsible for resolving disputes between landlords, tenants, and other persons with interests in premises. However, this administration is believed to be inefficient.
Note that Members of Parlement are pleading to amend the Rent Act to address changing housing trends. Read more.
Again, the lease agreement is of utmost importance in Ghana to ensure your peaceful tenancy and avoid litigations. As far as eventual legal situations, for real estate or any other issue, we as foreigners must remember that we are not in our home country and that, despite the quality of several law firms we could recommend, “national preference” will often play a role at the police station or in court; going to court is an option foreigners should not consider.
Should you not want to do a search yourself among all available rental properties in the Residential Rentals section, you may send in your requirements to accraexpat.com Property using the "Send your requirements" box and we will contact you with a shortlist of matching properties. Alternatively, you can contact us directly at email@example.com.
We hope this and the other sections of our Residential Guide have been helpful and welcome your feedback and/or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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