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Abraham: We Will Investigate Housing Grievances By Students

The Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) will investigate allegations concerning landlords exploiting University of the South Pacific (USP) students by charging high rents for overcrowded sub-standard accommodation. The commission’s
20 Feb 2018 12:35
Abraham: We Will Investigate Housing Grievances By Students

The Fiji Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) will investigate allegations concerning landlords exploiting University of the South Pacific (USP) students by charging high rents for overcrowded sub-standard accommodation.

The commission’s chief executive officer, Joel Abraham, said Suva landlords charging USP students exorbitant rents for sub-standard accommodation could be breaching the law.

The Commission was reacting to a Fiji Sun report on Saturday that exposed the poor quality accommodation provided to Solomon students in exchange for exorbitant rents.

Mr Abraham said the charging of exorbitant rent was unethical and illegal if the total rent for a given space had been increased either by increasing the number of students per room or increasing the levy per student per room.

He said the commission would come down hard on landlords once they received more details.

Investigations by the Fiji Sun revealed that as many as eight students were squeezed into single room flats, paying $250-$300 per month each in rent. Students from one house said at least 70 people were living in it.

Mr Abraham said this may be a breach of section 45 of the FCCC Act 2010 and rent freeze order.

Students also complained of rents being increased every year, which Mr Abraham said was also a breach of the FCCC Act 2010 that is designed to promote fair trading and protect consumers.

“The FCCC is responsible to protect tenants against the breach of illegal rent increase and any unfair conduct by a landlord,” Mr Abraham said.

USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra, yesterday said that while the university was “acutely” aware of the accommodation problems regional students faced due to high rent, it had not received any complaints of ill-treatment.

Asked whether USP had a responsibility towards these students given their serious plight, the VC’s office said it was not party to private landlord/tenant agreements.

“While the University has actively made provisions for student accommodation as one of its key strategic objectives, students choose to live outside the Campus for their own reasons and therefore enter into private arrangements with the landlords,” the VC’s statement added.

It also said the university was building a new campus in the Solomon Islands, which would mean that students would no longer need to travel to Suva for their studies.

The Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji, John Patteson Oti, said he was not aware that many students were living in overcrowded conditions, but said it was only intended for temporary accommodation.

However, students interviewed by the Fiji Sun said it was a long-standing problem. This is the third week of classes with students still living in the same crowded conditions.

The Fiji Sun had asked Mr Oti if anything was being done about the problem. He referred the questions to the “relevant authorities” in Honiara.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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