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Rent control antennae up

A garment worker stands outside her rental home in Phnom Penh last year.
A garment worker stands outside her rental home in Phnom Penh last year. Pha Lina

Rent control antennae up

Three pro-government unions yesterday endorsed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s warning to landlords earlier this week, telling them to refrain from increasing rents for garment workers, though an expert questioned the effectiveness of such directives.

The unions – the Cambodian Council of National Unions, Cambodia Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Federal Union of Solidarity – welcomed the premier’s speech on Monday at the opening of a Coca-Cola factory in Phnom Penh, where he asked landlords to respect the Rent Control Law and refrain from exorbitant increases in rents. Rents have typically gone up alongside the regular yearly raises to the sector’s minimum wage.

“I would like every local authority to work closely and precisely with every rental room owner to not let them increase the rental room and housing fees,” Hun Sen said.

The Rent Control Law, passed last year, mandates that landlords negotiate rent increases with tenants, have a written agreement for two years, then have it confirmed by the local commune chief.

Som Aun, head of the National Union Alliance Chambers of Cambodia, said his union also supported the statement but that more needed to be done to ensure implementation.

“When the minimum wage increases, it does not mean landlords should increase [rents], too. So the commune and district officials need to check and work together,” he said.

But Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said the law was destined to be ineffective because of difficulty of controlling rents in an open market.

“We should probably think about public housing instead, where the government can build it, and keep rents and utilities low,” he said.

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