By Manoa Dawaibalavu
Monday 09/11/2020

The Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj has confirmed that he was referred a complaint of arbitrary eviction from the Director of Legal Aid Commission on Friday which had been initially lodged with the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission according to the complainant, Pramil Prasad in September.

Tamavua landlord claims he brought Pramil Prasad as a caretaker while Prasad says he was paying rent

By Priteshni Nand, Rashika Kumar
Thursday 05/11/2020
Pramil Prasad

Tamavua landlord, Urvendra Sharma claims that he had brought Pramil Prasad as a caretaker for his property last year while Pramil Prasad says he signed the caretaker agreement because he was told that renting in an informal settlement is illegal.

Pramil Prasad was arbitrarily evicted last week however he is back to living in Sharma’s flat after Legal Aid assisted the family in getting a court order for them to return to the flat.

The landlord claims that he did not throw Pramil’s belongings outside but the mataqali had placed it outside.

He claims that he has been asking Pramil for the past 5 months that he needs his house as he lost his job in Labasa and wants to come to Suva to work.

Sharma claims that his lawyer issued Pramil a notice to leave the house.

He says that when he asked Pramil Prasad to move out after his wife gave birth, he told him that he cannot stay in that house because his whole family is staying there.

Sharma says he also offered him $1,000 to leave the property.

He claims that he was called by FCCC who had told him that his case is in Labasa but when he went there, they said he does not have a case there.

Sharma also admits that he had disconnected the water supply as Pramil Prasad had not paid the bill for a long time and he will not be able to pay the high amount.

Meanwhile, Pramil Prasad says the landlord never offered him any money to leave the property however, the landlord’s brother had said that he would give him the money.

Prasad says he was paying $300 per month as rent but he had to sign an agreement stating that he was the caretaker of the property as the landowning unit had told him that renting on the land was prohibited.

He says he has been paying half the rent because of the impact of COVID-19.

The taxi driver says Sharma never considered his wife’s pregnancy.

He says that he did receive a letter from the landlord’s lawyer which stated that he must leave the property in 14 days whereas he should have been given 30 days.

Pramil Prasad says his belongings were taken out of the house even before the 14 days was up.

Arbitrary evictions and verbal eviction notices are illegal – Consumer Council

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 04/11/2020
Council Chief Executive, Seema Shandil. [Image: file photo]

The Consumer Council of Fiji says verbal eviction notices, arbitrary evictions and issuance of written eviction notices which demands tenants to leave their rental flats in a short time span are illegal and violates the constitutional right of tenants to freedom from arbitrary evictions.

75 complaints of illegal evictions by landlords were registered at the Council this year.

Council Chief Executive, Seema Shandil has urged landlords to provide proper written and legally binding eviction notices should they choose to evict their tenants.

Shandil says while landlords have the right to evict tenants, they are issuing a stern reminder to all landlords to do their due diligence and follow the correct procedures while evicting their tenants.

She says proper eviction notices give tenants enough time to look for other accommodation and avoids unnecessary burden on tenants

The Council CEO says they are also reminding landlords to issue a proper Tenancy Agreement at the commencement of the tenancy as it sets out agreed terms and conditions relating to the overall tenancy including evictions.

The Council is also urging tenants to issue proper notices before vacating the flat as this will allow landlords to look for new tenants as well as to keep their rental payments up-to-date and take care of their rental property while occupying it.

Tenants facing issues are urged to lodge a complaint with the Consumer Council of Fiji via the mobile app or through the toll-free number 155.

FCCC charges landlord for breaching tenant's rights

Prasad concerned FCCC did not take action since Sept when threat to evict was made
By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Wednesday 04/11/2020
[Photo: FCCC]

The Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission has confirmed that it has charged a landlord for unconscionable conduct after they illegally evicted Pramil Prasad’s family from their home in Tamavua last week.

Unconscionable conduct, or conduct that is unfair and oppressive, is illegal under section 76 of the FCCC Act.

However the tenant, Pramil Prasad says he is raising the question on why FCCC did not take any action from the time he filed the complaint in September as the threat to evict them was made by the landlord.

In a statement last night FCCC CEO, Joel Abraham says in September, a complaint was lodged against the landlord regarding non-issuance of receipts, failure to keep records and a threat of lockout.

FCCC has also provided some photos of the staff talking to Prasad.

Abraham says it is regrettable that while they were still investigating, the landlord decided to take the law into their own hands, and executed an illegal eviction using force.

He says the landlord did not obtain a court order, which is a legal requirement for eviction and illegally removed the tenant's belongings from the premises.

Abraham says it is appalling that people are behaving with this degree of hostility with no regard for the law.

He says an alleged assault also took place which was referred to the Fiji Police Force.

Abraham urges landlords against acting unconscionably and to show compassion, especially during these hard times.

The FCCC CEO thanked the efforts of the Legal Aid Commission Fiji and the Fiji Human Rights And Anti-Discrimination Commission for also assisting the family, in particular, Legal Aid's efforts in putting the family back in their home.

However, Pramil Prasad says he had been taking his plight to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission since September. He says no action was taken until he took up the matter with the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on the afternoon of the eviction.

Prasad says he is grateful for the assistance provided by the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and Legal Aid Commission and the Department of Social Welfare.

Fijivillage has asked the FCCC CEO how they deal with a threat to evict as that can eventually lead to eviction.

We have also asked what action was taken by FCCC after the complaint was filed in September and how long did it take to investigate the landlord.

The initial comment is that they cannot comment on ongoing investigations.

[Photo: FCCC]

Human Rights & Anti-Discrimination Commission, Legal Aid & good samaritans help family evicted in Tamavua

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Saturday 31/10/2020
Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj talking to Pramil Prasad. [image: supplied]

The Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj has confirmed that he was referred a complaint of arbitrary eviction from the Director of Legal Aid Commission on Friday which had been initially lodged with the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission according to the complainant, Pramil Prasad in September.

Prasad, his elderly mother, his wife who had just given birth nine days ago and another five-year-old child were arbitrarily evicted from an informal settlement in Tamavua.

The Human Rights Commission interviewed Prasad and his family yesterday and sought the assistance of the Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Housing and Community Development to find temporary accommodation.

The Commission and the Department of Social Welfare jointly approached various non-governmental organisations including faith-based organisations for assistance.

Prasad and his wife and two children have been temporarily placed in a hotel with the generous assistance of Dewan Chand of Quality Print while Prasad's elderly mother has been placed at the Old People’s Home.

Funds were also collected between the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Legal Aid Commission to support the family with diapers, toiletries and food.

Raj says it is a matter of grave concern that the landlord in the course of the arbitrary eviction took the wheelchair-bound elderly mother in a taxi to unknown places around the Suva area unaccompanied by her family members.

A complaint has been lodged with the Samabula Police Station by Old People’s Home because the elderly mother has visible marks on her body.

The Human Rights Commission has brought the arbitrary eviction of Prasad and his family to the attention of the Minister for Housing and Community Development because it is a matter of concern that the family was forcibly removed from an informal settlement which raises several legal questions about rights, ownership and restitution of rights as we all know renting out property in an informal settlement is unlawful compounded by the absence of tenancy agreements.

The Commission reiterates that arbitrary evictions constitute a violation of section 39 (1) of the Fijian Constitution which guarantees everyone the right to freedom from arbitrary evictions from his or her home or to have his or home demolished without an order of a court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. Landlords are urged to do the right thing by the law and respect the inherent human dignity of people who may be in a financially precarious situation particularly in the context of COVID-19.

We are now trying to establish what Minister for Housing, Premila Kumar and the Social Welfare Department are doing about this serious issue.

We are also trying to establish what the FCCC has done since the complaint was lodged with them in September as they had released a statement earlier today saying the case was one of three cases of forceful evictions they were investigating.

In a statement released this morning, the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission claimed "The matter could have been resolved amicably, however, due to the uncooperative demeanor of the landlord, CEO, Joel Abraham remained to assist the family until minutes before the curfew at 11pm”

The statement also said “We went to the house after receiving a complaint from Mr Pranil Prasad that they had been illegally evicted. They were horrified to see the family out in the rain with their belongings. The situation was a delicate one given that the complainant has an elderly mother who is confined to a wheelchair and an 8-day old baby”

The FCCC also said the landlord with 11 boys allegedly entered the flat and forcefully removed the family without a Court Order -- which is illegal.

The complainant Pramil Prasad says he lodged a complaint with the FCCC in September this year but he does not recall the date.

He says when he lodged the complaint, they took his statement and said they will talk to the landlord.

Prasad says the next day when he called to ask about the case, FCCC said they will call him and the landlord for them to be interviewed.

He says they fixed a date but the landlord did not turn up.

Prasad says FCCC then called the landlord but he was not picking up the phone.

He says after that the landlord started calling him and pressuring him.

Prasad says the landlord came to his house and told him and his family to get out of the house and asked why he complained to the FCCC.

He says he was informing the FCCC about all these issues and liaised with someone called Meli.

He says FCCC told him that they are calling the landlord but he is not answering his phone.

Prasad says the landlord brought boys and took all their stuff outside.

He says after that he called the Attorney General when they were standing in the rain with their belongings outside.

Prasad says Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said to give him 3 minutes as he is arranging something for them. He says it was then that the FCCC started acting on the issue.

He says before that he and his family were being hassled and the landlord even swore at them.

Prasad says the landlord went and disconnected their water supply because it was registered under his name.

He says the owner took his mother outside the house and pushed his wife who got injured as a result of that.

Prasad says last month the landlord even threatened to beat him and his wife and they reported the matter to Police.

We have sent questions to FCCC. They are yet to respond.

Tamavua family back in their flat after Legal Aid gets court order in their favour

By Vijay Narayan, Rashika Kumar, Semi Turaga
Tuesday 03/11/2020
Pramil Prasad. [image: supplied]

Pramil Prasad whose family was arbitrarily evicted from an informal settlement in Tamavua says he is back in the flat after a court order was issued however he is demanding compensation as his belongings were destroyed by the landlord.

Legal Aid Commission Director, Shahin Ali and his staff took the matter to the High Court over the weekend, and Acting Chief Justice Kamal Kumar ordered that the landlord is restrained from denying Prasad and his family from entering and residing in the house at Waisasa Settlement, until the final determination of the matter.

The court has ordered that Prasad is to take possession of the premises and continue to stay there until the final determination, the landlord to arrange with the Water Authority of Fiji to reconnect water supply to the house within 7 days, the landlord is restrained from disrupting or disconnecting any utilities, the landlord is restrained from intimidating, threatening or abusing Prasad or any member of his family.

Prasad, his elderly mother, his wife who had just given birth almost two weeks ago and another five-year-old child were arbitrarily evicted on Friday.

He says he has a roof over his head today but he does not know where his new born baby will be sleeping tonight as their bed and mattresses have been destroyed because it was thrown outside by the landlord.

He says their electrical appliances were destroyed.

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