Tenants Under Siege: How Landlords Have Been Taking Advantage of Your Ignorance

Do you ever follow the due process when you are acquiring a rental house or you just fall for the word of mouth assurances of your potential landlord?

Tenants Under Siege: How Landlords Have Been Taking Advantage of Your Ignorance
Photo/ Courtesy

Did you know that 85% of Kenyans live in rental houses and apartments? This staggering figure shows how many Kenyans depend on rental housing. Many people who move into these houses do so with the sole purpose of finding a conducive environment to call home and by doing so they forget to take into account the finer print which is that this is a business transaction like any other and apart from that, the fact that they have rights as tenants and the most important bit of all that there is a process to be followed before going ahead to rent a house and this is commonly referred to as the rental process. Not following the rental process or understanding your rights as a tenant has led to many tenants being harassed or mistreated by their landlords.

The first thing people need to understand is that the moment they start looking for a house or “house hunting” as it is commonly referred to as is the beginning of the process, and once you have found a house ensure you deal with the agent or landlord directly. Another important thing is that one should avoid committing to a property they have not seen, do not go to a newspaper see a house and start talking about payments and moving in without setting your eyes on the property.

The most important thing above all is the lease document and before appending your signature on this document ensure you read it and where you encounter any difficulties seek legal counsel t after that also ensure utilities such as water, electricity were paid by the previous tenant so as not to incur loses when you move in. All payments ie the deposit and the rent should only be paid after the documents have been signed. In addition to this, the landlord should also renovate and redecorate the houses before the new tenant moves in.

John Njuguna a resident of Mawanga estate fell victim and he narrates his story, “After leaving in the hostel during my first year on campus I decided to move out and rent an apartment so after finding one I got in contact with an agent and I paid the deposit and two months' rent.

"I did not inspect the house before moving in so it was after I moved in that I realized that there was a drainage problem and I raised the problem with the agent but it was never fixed so I stayed in the house as it was and after seven months when I could not take in anymore I decided to move out but the landlord would not give me my deposit because he claimed I was the one who spoiled the drainage so I moved out of the house but 15,000 thousand shillings short ”.

Maryanne Mwangi also fell victim to her landlord, “Earlier this year after moving into my new house I started getting messages from my landlord that the new rent was increased as per the lease agreement and this would not have happened at a worse time because I was not able to work because the pandemic had hit and my business premises which was a hotel was closed, so instead of paying the rent I moved out to a cheaper house. ”

(A man moving into a new apartment. Photo/Courtesy)

Maryanne and John are just an example of the many people who have been through the worst experiences when it comes to renting houses. The constitution of Kenya has a provision that caters to the rights of tenants and it also has laws pertaining to renting houses and commercial properties.

It is very important to understand these laws as they always come in handy. Just to mention a few of them, The Transfer of Property Act requires a property owner to disclose to a tenant any defects in a unit, The Distress for Rent Act (Cap 293) is a law that gives property owners the mandate to seize or cause a seize of goods from the tenant that owes rent under the same act which provides regulations pertaining to evictions and it states that a landlord does not have the right to evict a tenant in any way he deems fit and in addition to this the law lays out a procedure of evicting tenants from the properties.

With regards to rent increments, a landlord cannot increase your house rent without notice unless stated in a lease agreement and you must receive a formal letter stating when the property owner will increase rent.

                                          "Information is power, ignorance is no defense"

At the end of the day, it is up to the tenant to make sure they understand the laws and always be vigilant to avoid being exploited by greedy agents and landlords. It also falls to the landlords and agents to employ good business practices otherwise they may find themselves on the wrong side of the law.