Nairobi is a beloved city. Many people are mistaken about it though. People who have never lived here before move in with very ridiculous expectations of what renting in Nairobi is going to be like. If you are going to move to Nairobi, you must keep your expectations realistic and not based on myths. Let go of those and just learn about the real Nairobi. Besides, some of those ridiculous things are only partially true.
“The only people who get adequate water in Nairobi are the high-end renters.”
“You could go months without water in the taps.”
“All Nairobi water is contaminated.”
These are downright lies. The Nairobi water authority supplies water to every neighborhood at a particular frequency. Some landlords have dug boreholes on their properties. These buildings will have water round the clock. Therefore whether you have water day and night or not is really dependent on the decisions your landlord has made about this issue. The water authority has been known to announce rationing from time to time. This, however, is not frequent enough for it to be a general quality of the city.
Caretakers are thieves
This is a terrible stereotype. Some assume that because the caretaker is the one person who is always present around the building then he must be the one responsible if something goes missing. Admittedly, there are some cases in which the caretaker is to blame or was actually part of the entire thing. However, this is not a reason to generalize and distrust all caretakers. Some are quite good at their jobs.
Neighbors will steal your clothes
This is a common one. If you will be moving to Nairobi for the first time, you will be told to sit by hanging lines and wait for your clothes to dry. You might also be told to only wash your clothes at night. Again, there have been cases of some people stealing clothes off the hanging lines. You might even run into some vendors selling wet clothes in town. However, this is rarer than the water thing. People do not do this anymore, as much. Nairobi has developed a very strong negative reaction to petty theft. No one wants to have a tire around their neck for stealing a couple of wet jeans and a shirt. It would be nice if the same was applied to the looting of public funds though.
Neighbors cannot be your friends
Not every single person you meet in Nairobi will try to con or steal from you. You are a genuine person, sure. You could not possibly think that you are the only genuine person in the whole entire city? There are other genuine people. It is, therefore, possible to foster real friendships with them if they happen to live next door. You just have to learn how to tell the fakes from the genuine people. It might take a while. You might get robbed a few times before then. Do not let this myth keep you from being open to friendships and connections
Street food is contaminated
Sure, sometimes it is. Think about this though, if all of Nairobi street food was contaminated would there still be street food vendors in the hoods? That business would have died by now. No one would be doing it. All you have to do then is find a vendor you trust in whichever neighborhood you move to. A street food vendor is important if you are going to live in Nairobi. They come through when you need them to.
The landlord will evict you whenever
No, the landlord will not evict you whenever they feel like for whatever reason. Rogue landlords who do such things are being swiftly phased out of this city. Tenants have a voice now. If you are evicted unlawfully, you can pursue legal recourse. A tenant is entitled to notice and an explanation before they are evicted. Some do not give notice in cases like late payment of rent. In these cases, you will find that it is stipulated in the rental agreement.
Buying will always be better than renting
This is yet another lie that people will tell you in this town. You will often find that they are also salespeople for homeownership plans. They tend to go for the new and naïve for a quick sale. Buying will not always be better than renting. Owning a house requires some conditions to be present. For example, the person needs to be able to have the financial capability to follow up on the mortgage and not just have enough for the downpayment. The person also has to have the capability to cover home maintenance costs. There are some stages in life where one does not need the permanence of homeownership. Some times, renting is a better option for you. This is especially true if the economy is not in a good position or if your work situation is unstable.
Low-income hoods are the most dangerous
Every part of Kenya is dangerous. Insecurity is not specific to low-income areas. There are some low-income areas where there is rarely ever a case of mugging or robbery. There are some high-income areas where people get mugged before 10 o’clock at night every single day. Cases of mugging are really dependent on the number of opportunities available and traffic. Are there too many dark corners in the area? Are there basically no people walking around as soon as darkness falls?
- Low rent means low-quality rental
If anyone ever tells you that if the rent is high then you are in a good neighborhood and you should definitely take it, leave. This person is lying. There are many options for renting in Nairobi right now. That means that some very affordable options are also quite great. You can find a bedsitter for 6,000 shillings in Zimmerman where there is round the clock water supply and the building is clean with spacious units. You can find a smaller option for 50% more with occasional water shortages in Langata. It really depends on the neighborhood you choose. You must know how to fish out all the good rental deals without simply going for the priciest or the cheapest.
Any house is fine
House hunting is a sacred process. It is the process by which you find a home. If you settle on any old house then chances are that the place will only be a house for you and not your sanctuary like a home should be. This is why you are advised not to settle on the first option you get and not to rush the process. Take your time with it and try to check off as much of the checklist as you can. This amount of care will also prevent you from the expense of frequent moves.
You must pay immediately
You never have to pay on the spot unless of course, you have absolutely loved the place. Even then it is advisable to come back for a second visit. You will be told that if you do not pay immediately the unit will be lost. Whoever says this has not been around Nairobi and seen the numerous rental options there are. They might also be trying to con you. Never release the money until you are sure of it.
All online listings are cons
Before, it used to be that a larger percentage of online property listings were schemes to lure in marks. However, the internet has become a rough place for cheap cons with platforms like Buyer Beware and real estate related to social media groups. As soon as one person realizes that a certain listing is a con, it gets flagged quickly and the information is scattered all over the place. The cons that have remained on real estate sites have had to work harder to survive. Besides, there are many ways in which you can avoid engaging cons online and still get valuable leads on rental choices.
If you live on the top floor, you will never be burglarized
This is such a weird thing to believe. Sure, the ground floor is closer to the gate and will be easy to access then leave. However, the top floor is further from traffic and will be harder to detect if someone is trying to break in. Every unit in a building is just as vulnerable to break-ins as the other. Burglars are not discriminatory. The point is, being on the top floor does not mean that you can ease up on the security. It does not mean that you can leave your door unlocked. It does not mean that your property will be safer than it would be on a ground floor unit. It just means that you will get better air quality as you bask in the disappointment of your empty house.
Nairobi is not perfect. It has its quirks and bruises. Some of the things outsiders believe about Nairobi are downright unfair to the city. If this is your first time here, the advice is to be hopeful but to be prepared for anything. Good luck!