By Getrude Matayo
As Covid-19 continues to sweep across the country, Kenyans living in rental houses will have to dig deeper into their pocket to pay rent if a petition filed in court challenging the Rent Restriction Act Succeed.
The suit was filed yesterday at the High Court by the Ukamba Agricultural institute, which claims that the Rent Restriction Act and the landlord and Tenant prohibit landlords from increasing rents without the approval of the rent tribunal are illegal and unconditional.
According to the institute, they argued that the laws restrict it from increasing rent for several residential houses, business premises, and rented land that it owns in Nairobi and other parts of the country
According to Senior Counsel, who is representing the institute, Mr. Nzamba Kitonga, said they have been losing millions of shillings in rent collection and that the rent tribunal should be barred from presiding over rent dispute cases.
“The laws that stop landlords from increasing rent at will are outdated pre-colonial legislation premised on the notion that tenants should be protected from greedy landlords and they should not allow operating in our current constitution,” Said Mr. Kitonga
A survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in May indicated 69 percent of households were unable to pay rent as the effects of Covid-19 take a toll on the economy.
The report showed that at least 43.2 percent of the active labor force was not contributing to economic activities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It also showed that about 21.5 percent who usually pay rent on an agreed date with the landlord was unable to pay rent for April on time.
Approximately 59.8 percent of those who usually paid rent on the agreed date was able to pay rent for the month of April on time. A total of 15,840 people was interviewed with a 97 percent response rate.
Lawyer Kitonga said the rent restriction laws are in violation of an individual’s right to own with their property as they wish.
According to him, the Rent Restriction Tribunal and Business Premises Rent Tribunal should be disbanded since they are stumbling blocks in landlords’ wishes to increase rent and for lacking judicial authority to determine rent dispute cases.
Kitonga added that a landlord and a tenant should be allowed to enter into contact on a willing buyer, willing seller basis. The rent laws are archaic as they violet social, economic, and consumer rights of Kenyans who have invested in rental buildings and want to charge appropriate rent.
With the Health Ministry saying there is a new wave of Covid-19 in the country, the majority of Kenyans have to find ways to cope with economic pressures.