Human Rights advocate Mary Francis has called for housing legislation reform while expressing concern over tenant abuse by landlords.
Francis observed that housing rights are human rights.
The outspoken Attorney at Law explained that inadequate housing affects other rights, such as employment and health.
The National Centre for Legal Aid and Human Rights Coordinator recalled last week’s official opening of the new National Housing Corporation (NHC) building on Chaussee Road, Castries.
In this regard, she said the emphasis of the government and Housing Minister Richard Frederick is on home ownership and ensuring sufficient housing.
However, Francis felt the authorities needed to examine the housing legislation.
She told St. Lucia Times she was concerned with home ownership and renting, including legislation relating to landlords and tenants.
Francis referred to unlawful practices by landlords that affect housing rights.
“Some people may never be able to own a home. So we have to protect tenants from illegal evictions and raising the rent,” the Attorney at Law stated.
Francis recalled a case she had where a landlord locked out a tenant and seized all the items in the rented house.
She told St. Lucia Times that the tenant could not get his belongings back about eight years later.
“As a result, he lost his job,” Francis disclosed.
She said having been denied access to his clothing and other belongings, including his passport and other documents, the tenant could not go to work.
She said after thirty adjournments, during which the landlord did not appear, the court judgement favoured the tenant.
Nevertheless, Francis said the matter was now before the Court of Appeal, the landlord claiming inadequate notice.
“The time has come to look at housing rights in Saint Lucia in a serious way,” the Human Rights advocate declared.
“We need laws that would reflect more compassionate governance at all levels of the public service, including the courts,” Francis told St. Lucia Times.
In addition, she spoke of the need for policies to reflect human rights as the foundation of development.