MENAFN - Jordan Times
Jordan- Merchants irate at Lower House 'obstruction' of rent law amendments
Shops in Amman are shuttered during a strike by merchants over the Landlords and Tenants Law last year (Photo by Muath Freij)
(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Merchants on Monday said they were furious over lawmakers' "deliberate" actions to block discussion of the Landlords and Tenants Law under the Dome.
Representatives of the Kingdom's commercial sector, interviewed by The Jordan Times on Monday, accused deputies of focusing on personal gains and neglecting issues that concern the majority of Jordanians.
During the Lower House's third extraordinary session, which started in late August and was adjourned by a Royal Decree on Sunday, lack of quorum disrupted several attempts by the House to look into amendments of the controversial law, which angered merchants, the majority of whom rent their places of business.
The law, which among other provisions allows landlords to raise rent on properties leased for years or decades by long-term tenants, was first passed last December during the current Parliament's second ordinary session, triggering a wave of protests and strikes by merchants.
In response to popular pressure, the government began revisiting the law in May and submitted amendments to Parliament during its second extraordinary session.
When lawmakers failed to address them at that time, the government asked that the amendments be discussed during the third extraordinary session.
A major point of contention is Article 5, which stipulates that "equivalent rent" pricing - a means of estimating the appropriate rent of a property in accordance with the rent of a similar property in a similar location - be applied to contracts signed before August 31, 2000, if the landlord and tenant cannot negotiate a new price.
Article 5 of the law, was passed in December, which stated that verdicts determining equivalent rent by the Magistrates Court cannot be appealed - a provision the Amman Court of First Instance found unconstitutional in a ruling issued in July.
Hussein Shreim, head of the Zarqa Chamber of Commerce, claimed on Monday that the rents of some shops in the city of Zarqa had gone up from an average of JD200 per month to over JD700 due to Article 5.
The government's amendment to the article, endorsed by the House Legal Committee but never passed, allows these verdicts to be challenged in courts of appeal.
Parliament's failure to table these amendments during two consecutive extraordinary sessions has further enraged merchants, who called the deputies' behaviour "irresponsible" and "corrupt".
Jordan Chamber of Commerce (JCC) President Nael Kabariti said that MPs had failed to shoulder their responsibilities by not discussing the laws referred to them.
Kabariti accused several "influential" lawmakers of orchestrating backroom arrangements to prevent the law, which he said is of interest to the vast majority of people, from being debated.
"There were some bad games behind the lack of quorum during Sunday's meeting," he claimed, adding that the number of MPs who were present before the session was adjourned was well above the 60 needed for quorum.
His remarks echoed the accusations of MP Reem Badran (Amman, 3rd District) who said on Sunday that Lower House Speaker Abdul Karim Dughmi had deliberately stonewalled discussing the legislation.
"Such behaviour shows that MPs are ignoring their responsibilities towards the entire country," Kabariti insisted, saying that many deputies were not qualified to represent Jordanians in the House.
"What they did was corrupt," he added.
Mohammad Shoha, president of the Irbid Chamber of Commerce, was also disappointed by how Parliament had handled the Landlords and Tenants Law.
As merchants expect landlords to more than double their rent under the new law, Shoha said that consumers will pay the price as the additional costs are added to the sale prices of goods.
He accused deputies of working to obtain more personal gains while ignoring national interests, citing attempts by MPs to grant themselves life-long pensions and diplomatic passports.
Shreim said that people were extremely angry over the way MPs handled issues that concern the interests of the public.
"We [traders] are enraged that deputies intentionally avoided discussing the rent law," he said, accusing some MPs of siding with landlords against tenants.
Shoha agreed, saying that the lawmakers' "irresponsible" behaviour had led merchants to believe that MPs had ill intentions against the commercial sector.
The deputies' failure was especially disappointing, he added, as many people were pinning their hopes on MPs amending the law to satisfy both tenants and property owners.
"Unfortunately, lawmakers let us down," he said.
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