Real estate owners and agents in Nakuru Municipality have fallen on hard times following the government’s measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The resulting constraints on work and incomes has seen a number of tenants relocate to cheaper residences as they are unable to meet rent demands in houses they have occupied for decades.
The pandemic has led to a dip in profits for property agents, resulting in some of them laying off staff to cut costs in the competitive market.
On the other hand, some landlords have terminated their lease contracts with commercial agents to also reduce expenses.
Elly Ogutu, who operates a commercial property agency, admitted that the pandemic has immensely impacted their businesses.
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“We are struggling to stay afloat because the move has reduced our earnings irreparably as we are paid on commission, which of course at the moment is meagre, but we are equally determined to fight on since it has affected everyone globally,” he said.
Ogutu said numerous households have been affected as they are unable to meet current rents and have been forced to shift to cheaper houses.
“This is a global problem and most tenants prefer shifting to cheaper houses but in the same locality they are used to. Moving to newer locations is not favourable and a priority to most of my clients,” said the agent.
Some of the affected tenants live in the upmarket estates of Naka, Section 58, Racecourse, Koinange, Kiamunyi and Shabab.
Naka, Section 58 and Koinange estates are well known for bigger apartments consisting of three to four-bedroom houses, whose rent ranges between Sh20,000 and Sh40,000 per month.
Some tenants have shifted from these estates to two-bedroom houses either in the same neighbourhoods or medium class estates such as Racecourse and Shabàb.
Rents here range between Sh7,000 and Sh10,000 for a one-bedroom house and Sh15,000 for a two-bedroom unit.
“Since the pandemic hit us, we have devised strategic ways of obtaining rents from tenants because of economic hardships. We have also followed the guidelines of the Kenya Landlords Association not to harass tenants in the course of collecting rent arrears,” said Ogutu.
Many tenants are unable to comply with the demands of agents that rents be paid at stipulated dates.
“They have hefty demands and some of our family members have lost jobs, others are on unpaid leave while others are unsure whether they’ll be absorbed back by employers once normalcy returns,” said 58-year-old civil servant Maria Wambugu.
Ms Wambugu has since shifted from a three-bedroom house in Section 58 Estate to a one-bedroom unit in Racecourse Estate, two kilometres away.
“These are stop-gap measures to enable us go through these tough times,” said the mother of four.
At the same time, many landlords are unwilling to reduce their rents to accommodate the reduced incomes for their tenants.
“How do I do so and yet I’m servicing a bank loan and its conditions are stiffer and have not been relaxed,” posed a landlord who was not willing to be named.
He said they have been affected by the pandemic just like the rest of property owners globally.