Landlord seeks end to rent hike regulations
By Paul Ogemba | October 16th 2020
Your landlord could soon increase your rent without notice if a petition filed in court challenging the Rent Restriction Act succeeds.
The suit was filed yesterday at the High Court by the Ukamba Agricultural Institute, which claims that the Rent Restriction Act and the Landlord and Tenant Act that prohibit landlords from increasing rents without the approval of the rent tribunal are illegal and unconstitutional.
The institute argued that the laws restrict it from increasing rent for the several residential houses, business premises and rented land that it owns in Nairobi and other parts of the country.
Senior Counsel Nzamba Kitonga, who is representing the institute, said it had been losing millions of shillings in rent collection, and that the rent tribunal should be barred from presiding over rent dispute cases.
“The laws that stop landlords from increasing rent at will are outdated pre-colonial legislation premised on the notion that tenants should be protected from greedy landlords, and they should not be allowed to operate in our current Constitution,” said Mr Kitonga.
According to the lawyer, the rent restriction laws are in violation of an individual’s right to own and deal with their property as they wish.
Kitonga argued that the Rent Restriction Tribunal and the Business Premises Rent Tribunal should be disbanded since they are stumbling blocks in landlords’ wishes to increase rent, and for lacking judicial authority to determine rent dispute cases.
He added that the tribunals have created a difficult trading environment for landlords who cannot increase rent without going through oppressive and lengthy proceedings before being granted permission.
“A landlord and a tenant should be allowed to enter into a contract on a willing buyer, willing seller basis. The rent laws are archaic as they violate social, economic, and consumer rights of Kenyans who have invested in rental buildings and want to charge appropriate rent,” said Kitonga.
He submitted that the Constitution protects the consumer rights of the landlords and tenants, and that landlords should not be the ones to suffer whenever they want to increase rent.
Kitonga further argued that the laws have made it difficult for landlords to terminate a tenancy without due notice despite being the owners of the property.
Ukamba Agricultural Institute chairman Robert Mutiso swore an affidavit stating that their attempts to increase rents have been thwarted by the rigid laws thus denying them an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their investments.
Mr Mutiso said they were being punished by the discriminative laws. “The Constitution created the Environment and Land Court which should be the court dealing with any dispute relating to land usage, including rent. The tribunals are illegally presiding over matters of rent dispute and should be declared unconstitutional.”
He added that as mutual contracting parties, both the landlord and tenant should have equal rights where a landlord is allowed to decide the amount of rent to charge for his premises.
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