Are landlords taking advantage of tenants?
It is now emerging that rent is not the only thing that landlords are being blamed for, poor general service delivery, gross mistreatment and, in extreme cases, collusion with unscrupulous estate agents to fleece those looking to rent houses.
Some of the disputes also centred on frequent rent reviews, fixed electricity and water charges that tend to favour landlords. While that is the case, Kenya has no direct law to protect tenants who are left at the mercy of landlords.
According to the Consumer Federation of Kenya, the closest the country is in defining the relationship between landlords and tenants is the dysfunctional Rents Tribunal. “Tenants have been left to the mercy of landlords with no laws or courses of refuge in case of disputes,” said Stephen Mutoro, the chairman of CofeK. “The rents tribunal which could have helped solve some of the problems is, to say the least none existent as best and dysfunctional at best.” “It has been hard to have the concerned authorities to come up with legislation to streamline some of these issues. It is even political in some instances,” said Stephen Omengo, chairman, valuation and estate management surveyors Chapter at Institution of Surveyors of Kenya.
“That being the case, we have written to the Ministry of Housing seeking a way forward.” In 2008 for example, Ministry of Housing raised hopes of many tenants by drafting a law that would have seen the rent ceiling that can be addressed at the Rents Tribunal revised to cater for the low and middle-income group.
In the law, rent disputes that qualify to be heard by the rents tribunal was to be increased from Sh2,500 to Sh20,000 bringing into the tribunal’s ambit the determination of rent disputes in middle level estates such as Buru Buru, South B and C, and Langata.