A week ago, a lady by the name Grace came by our offices. She came to commend me on the story I had written about fraudsters and rapists who were stealing from unsuspecting and desperate people looking for apartments to rent.
“It was a good story but you forgot about the landlords and the landladies. Most of them are milking tenants dry especially those trying to move out to look for another place to stay,” she said.
Listening to Grace’s story revealed a deep-rooted suffering among most Nairobi tenants and who have no one to help them because there is no clear law governing the same.
For more than 99 percent of rentals in Nairobi, one is required to pay an amount, equivalent to his or her monthly rent as a deposit which is supposed to be refunded when one will be vacating the premise.
“Most landlords don’t give back the deposit. They will create all manner of reasons of not paying you. I once stayed in an apartment owned by a lady called Maria. I stayed there for more than three years. When I wanted to move out, she refused to refund my money saying that I had stayed there long enough to ask for the money. How is that even possible?” asked Grace.
According to Grace, many landlords within the city have formed a habit of sticking to their tenants deposit under the pretense of ‘repairs and painting the room.’
Many tenants in Nairobi can identify with what Grace went through. Early last month, there was a case of a landlord in Lang’ata who evicted his tenants by use of raw human waste and sewage. Cases of tenants being harassed by agents, caretakers and landlords are on the rise especially in Nairobi and many people are suffering in silence.
Most common cases of harassment include being evicted from a house in the middle of the night, increasing rent without the consent of the tenant and refusing to give back deposits when the tenant wants to relocate.
Many Kenyans, however, are oblivious of their rights and this ignorance is costing them. Many have been left to live under the mercy of their agents, caretakers and landlords thinking it is how things should be.
What many Kenyans don’t know is that their rights as tenants are covered and stipulated in the Land Act. This act covered the administration of leases and states what actions each party should take in case of one exploiting the other.
For instance, the tenant should ensure that he or she pays rent on time. The landlord, on the other hand, should ensure that the house is habitable.
Before entering the new house, make sure that you sign a tenancy agreement. The agreement should have been drafted by a lawyer so that it can be binding by law. When you get the tenancy agreement, read it keenly. Many tenants have a habit of signing the tenancy agreement without reading it. Read it and if you don’t agree, raise your concerns before settling into the house. Find out such things as time the gate is supposed to be closed, whether you should be given a spare key and what happens if you want to relocate.
You are not supposed to be evicted from the house you are staying without a court order. Section 77 of the Land Act states that “A lessee who is evicted from the whole or a part of the leased land or buildings, contrary to the express or implied terms and conditions of a lease, shall be immediately relieved of all obligation to pay any rent or other monies due under the lease or perform any of the covenants and conditions on the part of the lessee expressed or implied in the lease in respect of the land or buildings or part thereof from which the lessee has been so evicted.”