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What the law says about sub-letting and repairs

REAL ESTATE
By Harold Ayodo | July 28th 2016

 

If I seek permission to sublet or improve — repaint, fix leaking roofs, blocked drainage, sewer or even replace window panes — my rented property but the landlord fails to respond to my request, what options do I have?

Shem, Nairobi.

The Land Act 2012 forces landlords to respond to proposals by tenants within “reasonable time”. According to Section 67 of the Land Act, the house or land owner is under obligation to give or refuse consent to the application by the tenant.

The tenant can make a written application to the landlord seeking permission to sublet the property, transfer or assign the lease or part with possession of the rented land or building. Other common reasons include changing the use of the property from what is included in the lease, extend, improve or develop the building or create a charge over lease.

The landlord can, however, decline to give consent if the tenant is required to pay additional rent, premium or fine towards expenses to be incurred in connection with the permission. Other reasons may include if the consent may impose unreasonable conditions to the property owner. The landlord should inform the tenant in writing the reasons for refusing to allow the proposals.

The law further provides that the tenant can either be compensated or seek damage for any loss suffered in regard to the application. As a plus to tenants, landlords cannot forfeit a lease without giving notice of at least 30 days.

In addition, tenants have legal rights to seek relief from court as a result of losses incurred from the forfeiture. According to the Act, tenants who are undergoing a forfeiture process, which began before the enactment of the new laws, may go to court and stop the process to start under the new law.

Therefore, the right of landlords to forfeit a tenancy agreement will last longer as most tenants will invoke their rights for relief in court. The court will consider conducts of both the tenant and landlord before delivering its judgment.

In daily practice, tenants and landlords both have their responsibilities, which may be presumed even without written agreements. For instance, tenants must pay rent, electricity and water bills, maintain the house in good condition, repair damaged doors, windows and bath tubs.

Tenants should also not sublet the house without the written permission of the owner and must move out on the agreed date. On their part, landlords must ensure that tenants enjoy their stay peacefully — not walking into houses without the permission of tenants.

They must also refund deposits as agreed in writing, pay the required land rates and land rent to the government. House owners should also insure their property against loss or damage by fire, for instance, and pay premium as required.

Landlords must also strive to keep clean the main walls, roofs and other exterior structures of the houses.

Others like electrical lighting, sanitary installations, water heater tank pipes and gutters should all be in good condition.

— The writer is an advocate of the High Court.

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