ISK: Rent waiver up to tenant and landlord agreements

The Institution of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) has said that Kenyans who want their rent to be waived must negotiate with their landlords according to their contractual agreements.

“It is our position that rent payment is a contractual obligation between a landlord and their tenant and should thus be respected,” part of the statement reads. 

The press release comes after a report that some tenants have declined to pay rent due or certain items of a service charge and in some instances tenants have requested to exit their lease/ tenancies altogether.

The institution recommends that dialogue should be done between individual landlords, through their property managers, and tenants on the best way forward as provided for in the lease/tenancy agreements to address the issue of rent.

“The parties may consider options that include a reduction in rent due during the duration of the pandemic, rent waiver during the duration of the pandemic or rent deferment until the situation normalizes with an understanding that the unpaid rent shall be settled once things resume to normalcy,” said ISK. 

The Institute has also asked members of the public to ignore people and groups who are advising tenants against paying their rents until further notice and urged the government to rein in such elements to protect property rights as enshrined in the constitution and law.

“We caution you that such remarks are uncalled for and are likely to precipitate chaos with dire consequences to the real estate sector,” warned ISK. 

ISK has additionally requested the Government to issue a tax relief for rental income so that landlords can be able to waive rent for their tenants.

“We urge the Government to remove the 10 per cent rental income tax due on residential properties and reduction of VAT on commercial buildings to enable landlords pass on the benefits to their tenants,” the statement says.

ISK also stated that Kenyans need to understand the fact that landlords just like tenants, have been affected by the ongoing crisis, and therefore have property investment is a business like any other with many owners relying on rents to meet their personal obligations. 

“The investors include retirees, the elderly and pensioners amongst others. In addition, the property owners are expected to service their loans and mortgages, pay property taxes including land rates, ground rents, and maintain their properties including paying for insurances.”

The real estate sector, which comprises of residential housing, commercial, industrial and retail amongst others, is one of the sectors that has been adversely affected by the covid-19 pandemic. The scale of impact on the real estate sector is yet to be realized and quantified as the situation continues to evolve.