How to avoid shady agents when house-hunting

By - Jan 1st 1970

Some rogue estate agents have spoilt the names of others who are professional in their work. The fraudulent agents are always on the loose during the first quarter of the year when many Nairobians shift houses.

They eke a living out of ‘helping’ tenants get new houses and have also taken advantage of the biting housing shortage to defraud tenants seeking cheaper houses.

However, the majority of modern apartments in Nairobi have caretakers who live within the gated compound, making house hunting easier. It is safer to spare time – maybe a weekend – to visit your preferred apartments and view the houses without being charged the famous ‘viewing’ fees.

Some of these caretakers even have templates of tenancy agreements which you can sign in duplicate and keep your copy once you have decided to move in.

Such houses are better to most Nairobians as there are no middlemen who meddle to increase the rent – the tenancy agreement has the account details of the landlord where you pay rent as agreed – either monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually.

Back to house agents, in South C some are charging as high as Sh5,000 for aiding a tenant to get a house. They also charge at least Sh2,500 as viewing fees — amount paid after being shown a vacant house — whether the tenant moves in or not.

Some are also somersaulting to the bank as some landlords have issued tenants with notices to increase rent by up to Sh2,000 monthly. Up-market apartment tenants in Kilimani, Lavington, Riverside, Muthangari, Runda and Westlands are also battling increments of between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000.

Some cunning agents even swindle landlords who pay them commissions for bringing tenants, not knowing that they have already pocketed secret profits. Moreover, some agents who allegedly assist people to get houses are not registered estate agents. Estate agents should be registered with the Estate Agents Registration Board as well as the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya.

The registration should include details like the name, address and qualifications of the person.

The registered dealers must have certificates, which are valid for one year but can be renewed on payment of a fee. Names of registered estate agents must be published in the Kenya Gazette — the registrar should publish the same annually for the public.

Unregistered estate agents are liable for offences that draw fines of Sh20,000 or imprisonment of up to two years.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya


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