A landlord who confiscated his tenant's television and fridge during a dispute over rent has been ordered to pay the tenant Sh50,000.
Ronald Ngulu will pay Cliff Mbala Sh50,000 plus interest for six years after the Court of Appeal saved him from paying Sh400,000 as ordered by the Magistrates' Court and confirmed by the High Court.
The case started after Mr Ngulu sent auctioneers in July 2006 to get the household items as a way of recovering one month's rent, which was in dispute. The rented house was in New Garden estate, Nairobi.
In court, Mr Mbala argued that he had paid his rent in full and had gone ahead to terminate the contract with Ngulu thus the attachment of the two items was illegal. The value of the two items is not disclosed in the court records.
The bitter court war lasted six years.
The lower court agreed with the tenant that the landlord had accepted the notice to terminate the tenancy and that Ngulu and Top Link Auctioneers had agreed to release the items during the hearing of the case.
It was also discovered that the auctioneer was not licensed and the court awarded Mbala Sh400,000 as damages for the unfair treatment.
Ngulu appealed in the High Court but lost and moved to Court of Appeal judges Patrick Kiage, Roslyn Nambuye and Patrick Kiage, complaining that he never sold the TV and fridge, and that the court's award was "astronomical".
The Court of Appeal judges agreed with the other courts that what Ngulu had done was unlawful but disagreed regarding the amount that had been awarded.
"It seems plain to us that there was neither a factual nor legal basis for the award of Sh400,000 as general damages made by the subordinate court and affirmed by the learned judge," the court ruled.
"There were no authorities cited and no reasoned justification for the figure, which seems to have been literally plucked from the air."
The three judges ruled that the amount was not properly tabulated in favour of the tenant.
"Considering that all that occurred herein was the attachment and restoration shortly thereafter of the respondent's television set and refrigerator, the award given and confirmed was inordinately high and amounted to a wholly erroneous estimate and must be set aside," the judges found.