Landlords could land in jail for evicting tenants if new Bill passes
We as tenants can finally breath following rife speculation that landlords will soon be stopped from undertaking unruly evictions. Some of us have been victims of such property owners who do not want to understand why payment of rent can delay for even a day – even if you have been paying religiously for more than one year. Many more tenants suffered in the hands of some landlords at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to loss of jobs and incomes leading to non-payment of rent.
It is not speculation but there is The Landlord and Tenants Bill 2021 that proposes a jail term of six months or a fine up to two months of rent for landlords who unlawfully evict or seize belongings of defaulting tenants.
If the Bill sails through, landlords will not be allowed to change door locks, install deadbolts, take off doors, roofs and windows, disconnect electricity, water supplies or stop defaulting tenants from accessing their homes to force them pay up.
The Bill that has been sponsored by the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya states: “No landlord shall, without legal process, seize a tenant’s property for default in the payment of rent or for the breach of any other obligation of the tenant,”.
If the Bill passes into law, majority of the tenants in Nairobi will breathe easy – recent statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed that 86.4 percent of households in the capital city live in rented houses.
Back to the draft law, there are provisions that seek to compel landlords to keep signed records of all rent payments and share a copy of the record with the tenant. A fine not exceeding one month’s rent will be imposed on any landlord who violates this obligation.
The rent records shall contain details of the person or people that are parties to the tenancy, details on the rented premises and of all rent paid.
In cases where a tenant dies or walks out on the premises while in rent arrears, a landlord will have to apply to a proposed Tribunal to dispose of the belongings of the departed tenant.
This will only be approved after an inventory of the items is taken by an officer of the Tribunal.
The Bill proposes the creation of a five full-time member Tribunal headed by an individual qualified to be appointed High Court Judge and a deputy chairman who has served as an Advocate of the High Court
Moreover, excess proceeds from the sale of the tenant’s belongings can be claimed by the next of kin or an administrator of the deceased estate within six months of the auction.
Even as renters celebrate provisions of the proposed law, tenants also have general legal obligations that include payment of rent as mutually agreed, taking good care of the premises and not to sublet without written authority of the landlord.
- Harold Ayodo is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya