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Law protects tenant and landlord

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by Jolene Toves

Guam - Substandard housing is seen throughout the island begging the question why is nothing being done?

When we first brought you the story we showed you the Sinajana apartments a run down housing complex that was finally getting attention after years of complaints from neighbors. As we reported substandard housing such as this is not an isolated case instead there are run down apartments and homes through out the island. This raises the question "is there a landlord tenant bill of rights?"

GCIC Property Management principal broker Steffen Niu said, "On the existing Guam code you'll find there are already laws on the books that describe the land lord responsibilities and the tenant's rights with regards to a rental situation and in particular where there is no agreement in writing already."

It is highly recommended that when entering into any rental situation that a lease agreement is formed. It is in this document that rights, responsibilities for both landlord and tenant are clearly defined. "But already there is something on the books that describe a tenant's remedy in case there is a dilapidated condition of the building that has not already been taken cared of they have the right under the law to have that repaired and to withhold the amount from their monthly rent," he said.

But if laws are already in place then why are many apartments substandard. According to BHI Realty associate broker Louisa Flores-Wessling while there are agencies responsible for enforcing building codes and sanitary conditions. "We may not have the man power for the agencies to be going out to do inspections and also we have situations where in these lets say substandard buildings rents may be charged at a much lower rate then what market value is," she said.

Flores-Wessling says it is in this market where people who need housing can not afford market value rent and it is because of this there may be a reluctancy on the tenant's part to speak out. "Or they may not know where to go to report that so there may be a need for some kind of an advocacy office where people can go easily to seek help," she said.

Attorney Ray Haddock says one way to protect your rights as a tenant is to enlist the help of a realtor. He said, "For the most part what we see is the people that are being taken advantage of are those people who do not have an advocate."

The realtor will assist the tenant at no charge to ensure landlords know what their duties will be and the tenants will know their responsibilities protecting both parties.

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