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Four legal things to know in 2020

By Judith Mwobobia | January 12th 2020 at 10:50:00 GMT +0300

Sunday Magazine
Legal clinic on Domestic helps, Changing names, joint property ownership and wills


Legally, it is not right to kick out househelps at will in disregard of their constitutional and employment rights. Lately, the Employment and Labour Relations Court has been issuing orders in favour of domestic workers who have been dismissed without prior notice. The employers have also been slapped with huge bills for their sins of commission and omission – waking up and shouting at the househelp ‘rudi kwenu’ or ‘toka kwangu’

In dealing with disputes between househelps and their bosses, the Employment and Labour Relations Court enforces provisions of the Employment Act, 2007, which requires that termination of employment must be done after giving one-month notice, notification to the labour union or office, payment of all accrued leave days and severance pay.

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As an employer, you are obligated by law to keep the employment records of your domestic workers and should you fail to produce receipts in case of a dispute, the court will assume that you have not paid the salary.

The courts have awarded between Sh 50,000 and Sh1.2 million to househelps who have challenged their sacking without a written notice, for unfair reasons like falling sick, getting pregnant, as well as sexual harassment.

Finally, employers are required to give domestic workers valid reasons before kicking them out. That is the law!


It is possible for both of you to register real estate as joint owners for your names to appear in the title deed. Joint ownership of property is fast gaining momentum among couples as more women are getting economically empowered.

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·        Joint ownership guarantees survivorship, meaning upon the death of any of the owners(s), the surviving one(s) become legal owners, therefore preventing tussles.

·        There is also safety from unsecured creditors as the surviving joint owner is immune from unsecured debts incurred by the deceased partner before death. If the debtor is the survivor, creditors will have access to the entire property that was co-owned.

·        For couples that prefer joint ownership, they may be eligible for higher loan amounts as their incomes can be joined to determine borrowing eligibility.

·        It could also be easier to pool resources to buy property as partners, especially with high interest rates charged on loans.

In countries like India, joint ownership means tax benefits are available for both husband and wife. If the husband and wife have property with equal shares, then they are both entitled to claim deductions.

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·        Joint ownership also makes it easier for any of the partners to pledge the property as security to borrow loans in future.

It enables easy transfer of a house or land among spouses, as they can nominate their children as future owners of the property.

Moreover, the husband and wife have equal rights in the property and their interests are secured.


Legally, women can write wills stating how their property should be managed upon their death. Wills are not a preserve of men.

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But should a spinster without a child die intestate — without writing a will — the law provides for management or inheritance of her property.

According to the Law of Succession Act, her property shall devolve upon her blood relatives in order of priority.

Therefore, your father, mother, brothers, sisters or children of your deceased siblings will inherit the property in equal shares.

Next in line are cousins or their children or any other blood relatives — up to the sixth degree — in equal shares.

In cases where a single propertied woman has no living blood relative then the property can be sold and proceeds paid into the Consolidated Fund.

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For avoidance of doubt, widowed, divorced and single women have absolute rights over property registered under their names.

According to the Bill of Rights, every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.


Names are not cast in stone and it is possible to change them. You may need services of a lawyer to effect the desired change through the use of a legal document called a deed poll.

With a deed poll, you can change your forenames and/or surname, add names, remove names or rearrange your existing names.

You can change your name at any time and for any reason provided it is not to deceive or defraud or to avoid an obligation.

If a married person makes an application for a change of name, then their spouse has to give consent to the proposed change of name.

For a separated person, a certificate from an advocate that s/he is living separate from their spouse is required. If the applicant is divorced then their certificate of marriage or evidence of marriage together with decree absolute or certificate of divorce will be required, to facilitate the change of name.

Once all the legal requirements are concluded, the deed poll is registered at the Principal Registry in Nairobi or the Coast Registry for Coast province only.

The registrar shall after registration advertised in the Kenya Gazette as a notification to the public of the change of name.

However, it is important to note that the registrar may refuse to accept a change of name, if the change is impossible to pronounce, includes numbers, symbols or punctuation marks. The registrar may also snub names that are vulgar, offensive or blasphemous. Other names that can be rejected are those that promote criminal activities, racial or religious hatred or use of controlled drugs.

Other names that cannot be registered are those that ridicule people, groups, government departments, companies or organisations.

The registrar will also turn a deaf ear on names that may result in belief that you have a conferred or inherited honour, title, rank or academic award, for example, a change of first name to sir, lord, laird, lady, prince, princess, viscount, baron, baroness, general, captain, professor or doctor.

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