Nakuru rent slump dims outlook for landlords

The rental building in Nakuru where a 21-year-old man was locked inside by the landlord who welded the door shut over Sh10,000 rent arrears on August 12, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

After six months of struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, all is not well for the property sector in Nakuru County.

The county has been greatly affected by the slowdown of business and employment activities, and hundreds of tenants have ended up being locked out of their houses for non-payment of rent.

Some have shifted to cheaper houses, which has resulted in many dwellings falling vacant in different estates within the town and satellite settlements.

The only estates that have not been affected by the rent distress are those owned by Nakuru County Government such as Kimathi, Flamingo, Kaloleni, Moi Flats, Mama Ngina, Lumumba, Shauri Yako and Kambi Somali.  

The high number of vacant houses has forced landlords to accept new tenants without the earlier compulsory payment of rent deposits, which act as a goodwill for new clients.

“The situation is tough for us and the homeowners as we depend on each other in the property industry,” said Elly Ogutu, the managing director of De-Negotiators Enterprises, a commercial agency operating in the county.

As a result, he told Home & Away the property owners have reduced their rent by between 25 and 30 per cent to survive.

This applies to the upmarket Kiamunyi and a number of middle class estates including Racecourse, Langa Langa, Freehold, Shabana, Koinange and Pangani.

Rent for a two-bedroom house in Kiamunyi has reduced from Sh16,000 to Sh14,000 while a one-bedroomed house is now renting at Sh8,000 from the earlier Sh10,000.

However, some landlords would rather their houses remain vacant than reduce rent, said Ogutu, citing one property in Kiamunyi with 22 apartments, 14 of them currently unoccupied.

“We tried to convince the owner to reduce rent to get consistent tenants, but he refused. He preferred the houses remain vacant until such a time he can get new tenants at market rates,” Ogutu said.

Kamalunga Enterprises Chief Executive George Mwanda said they had advised landlords to scale down their expectations during these hard times.

“Tenants are looking for cheaper houses to survive the tough times and this has not come as a surprise to us since we expected it from the time a lockdown was instituted in Nairobi and Mombasa,” he told Home & Away.

Ogutu said the pandemic had caused a significant drop in their commissions from landlords.