Tenants-turned-landlords a nightmare to owners

By Beatrice Obwocha

As one walks down Kaptembwa Road towards Nakuru West, evidence of post-election violence stares you in the face.

Scores of houses that were torched and yet to be repaired are a ghastly reminder of the dark days. Only a few are occupied and the tenants say they moved in recently.

Mr Edward Mutai shows the rental houses he is taking care of after the landlady fled. Photos: Lucas Thuo/Standard

Down to Kaptembwa and Nakuru West, some houses have been repaired, the population is growing, but shells of the ruined homes remain.

The underlying problem in the area is that most of the abandoned houses belonged to landlords who fled at the height of the violence and never returned.

Some left the houses to caretakers while others were kicked out by their tenants or outsiders. Majority of those who have taken over the houses do not pay rent. Some of the landlords became IDPs and lived in camps in Nakuru town.

"Few who tried to reclaim their houses retreated after they were threatened," claimed a landlord in Nakuru.

Getting information on people who have taken over private houses is difficult, as many pose as landlords.

"These houses are among some whose owners fled and no one comes to claim rent," said Bernard Lang’at, who resides in Kaptembwa.

Calm restored

Mr Lang’at says after calm was restored in Nakuru, there were people who moved into other people’s houses.

"Those who fled from other areas joined members of their communities here and took over houses left behind by owners," he said.

Those who occupied the houses at times threaten landlords who attempt to return.

Another resident, Mr Edward Mutai, said he was appointed by a landlady to collect rent on her behalf.

Landlords who left their houses under caretakers now complain they get nothing as the caretakers have taken over the units.

Ms Karimi Mwihaki who now lives in a rented house in Mwiki, Nairobi, said recently that it was too dangerous for her to reclaim her house at Kaptembwa.

Lang’at remembers that around June and July last year, those occupying the houses were to be evicted.

The operation, however, yielded little results. The landlords complain that the police have done little to enforce the eviction order.

"They obviously promised to pay rent, but when I went in I was threatened with death," says Karimi.

But Nakuru OCPD Daniel Kimeu says police have not received any report on illegal occupancy since July.

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