Business News of 2013-12-12

Accra Mall tenants angry

Tension is brewing between the tenants of Ghana's foremost shop­ping destination, Accra Mall, and the management of the facility following attempts to introduce new lease terms.

According to tenants at the Mall, the management is trying to introduce draconian terms which operate in South Africa, contrary to the provisions of the Rent Act of Ghana.

Since the introduction of the new lease agreement early this year, the management of the Mall has allegedly resorted to bullying tactics and divisive methods intended to cow the tenants into submission, amidst threats to evict them.

It even intends to audit their books compulsorily every month in order to know how much each tenant earns for them to be charged under a new 'turnover' rule.

Under the new agreement, the tenants are required to pay their rents as well as electricity bills in dollars, when the Bank of Ghana rules do not allow them to sell their goods and services in foreign currencies.

Although the average rent increase should be between two and five percent, the management of Accra Mall is said to be demanding a seven-percent increase.

Furthermore, all tenants are expected to pay more than 100 percent in increments, from an average of $26/m2 five years ago, to an average of $55, clearly in contravention of the Rent Act.

In addition to this, the man­agement is also asking the tenants to pay an average of seven to eight percent of their gross turnover as part of their monthly rental pay­ment.

And this particularly has sparked agitation among the ten­ants in addition to the bullying tactics of the property manager,Johan Venter.

To make matters worse, the management has directed every tenant to provide monthly state­ment of accounts to calculate their profit margins, failure of which will incur a penalty.

Interestingly, security deposits which is the tenant's property and therefore should be kept in a secured account so as not to be part of the landlord's capital in the event of liquidation or bankruptcy, has allegedly been paid into the landlord's personal account instead of an escrow account.

Racist Comment

However, Johan Venter, the South African property manager and representative of the new landlord, Atterbry, who is at the centre of the brouhaha, flatly denied all the allegations, describ­ing them as claims which did not merit his comments.

He told DAILY GUIDE in an interview that he was not involved in the negotiation of the lease agreement with any of the tenants, and that he was also "not involved in the day-to-day man­agement of the Mall.

"The terms and conditions of the lease agreement are negotiat­ed on behalf of the owners of the Mall by the Centre Manager. Suf­fice it to say that every tenant has got a lease agreement which is negotiated on open basis with the tenant."

Mr. Venter conceded that though all their leases were dollar-based, tenants still had the option to pay their rents in Cedis, adding that "we do not insist that any tenant pay us in dollars. If the tenant wants to pay us in dollars that is his own choice."

But that is the difficulty of the tenants who said they still had to use the exchange rate in paying in Cedis, particularly if there is depreciation of the local currency.

Insisting that the issue of turnover was an acceptable prac­tice worldwide, Mr Venter main­tained that the practice was not peculiar to Ghana.

He denied that he neither looked down on Ghanaians, nor was he a racist, claiming that he was loved by everyone - a claim that has been denied by the ten­ants who warned that they might stage a demonstration against him.

A copy of the new lease agree­ment available to DAILY GUIDE titled, "Payment of Additional Rental" averred that "notwith­standing anything to the contrary contained in this lease, the tenant shall pay to the landlord in addi­tion to the basic rental, the amount (if any) by which the turnover rental for every turnover period exceeds the total gross rental for the same turnover peri­od".

According to the agreement, "within two months after the end of each turnover period, the tenant shall deliver to the landlord an audited statement of the net turnover for that turnover period and make payment of any addi­tional rental that may be due in terms of the schedule hereto"