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You can't force a tenant to stay in your premises, court rules in Sh23 million case

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An attempt by a landlord to force a tenant to stay in its premise has flopped after the Environment and Lands Court dismissed the suit.

Justice Mwangi Njoroge declared that no law allows owners of premises to force tenants to occupy the property against their wish so long as they give a reasonable notice to vacate.

“Imposing a condition that the tenant should not part with possession of a property is an onerous demand on a person who no longer needs the premises allowed to him by a landlord. It is unwarranted for a property owner to force a tenant to stay in the property,” ruled Njoroge.

Justice Njoroge added that the landlord’s push to force the tenant to stay in the property or pay a year’s rent does not make sense especially when the tenant was leaving the premise in favour of the owner and not a third party.

He made the decision in a case where Emerg Investments Limited sued Kenjap Motors Limited for terminating a tenancy agreement and leaving its premises in Nakuru.

Emerg Investments Limited argued that they signed a licence agreement with Kenjap Motors Limited on January 1 2019 for the latter company to use its one-acre land for 12 months at a monthly rent of Sh1.2 million.

Under the agreement, Kenjap Motors Limited was to occupy the land and use it as a motor vehicle garage and yard for cars for sale.

However on January 30, 2019, which was just a month after signing the agreement, Kenjap Motors Limited issued a notice to the landlord that they will vacate the premise. They also removed all the structures they had built to support their business.

The landlord claimed the tenant violated the licence agreement by vacating the premises and removing the structures before the lapse of the one-year lease period.

The company demanded a total of Sh23 million from the tenant as compensation for breach of the licence agreement, rent payable for the duration of the tenancy and damages for destroying and removing the structures the tenant had constructed.

Justice Njoroge however ruled that the demand for compensation was unwarranted given the tenant had not utilised the premise after terminating the tenancy agreement.

“The defendant never occupied the premises after terminating the tenancy. To compel the defendant to pay rent for a period that he never occupied the land would be not only unjust but also unfair enrichment of the landlord,” ruled Njoroge.

According to the judge, the tenant in issuing the notice to vacate the premise did not breach the license agreement to warrant being compelled to pay damages.

He added that although the license agreement did not have any clause that provides for termination of the tenancy, the landlord had reserved the right to sell the property or carry out developments on the property in which the tenant would be required to vacate within 14 days.

The judge ruled that under the circumstances, the tenant gave reasonable time to vacate the premises and could not be compelled to stay on the premise.


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