The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says the cost of living for a low-income urban family of six increased by US$30 in January due to a steep rise in rents.
CCZ Director Rosemary Siyachitema said the cost of living rose to US$577 from US$545 in December following rent hikes which were declared illegal by the government.
Siyachitema said it is hoped that rentals will revert to December rates as ordered by Housing Minister Giles Mutsekwa last month.
Siyachitema said the government should punish landlords who will not heed directives of the Ministry of Housing to reverse rent rises. "The problem is that some landlords may resist the minister's orders," she said.
Housing Minister Mutsekwa said he will impose a rent freeze if landlords do not cooperate.
"I don't want to end up doing that in an economy largely influenced by free market processes," the minister said.
Some real estate agents and home owners increased rents by as much as 100 percent in Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Harare and Masvingo early this year.