Although they are being phased out, rogue landlords are still very present in this town. There are still Nairobi landlords who feel like they are above the law. Those who have connections in all the right places and therefore often get away with offenses. In some cases, a simple report to the police will get them to behave as they realize that the tenant is serious about seeking legal redress. Others require a little more than just a slap on the wrist. There are laws protecting tenants and their rights. As the tenant, you should have an idea of where to get help if and when you need it. However, before then, you should have an idea of what constitutes a credible complaint.
The rental agreement says that you should give notice of a month. You have surveyed and inspected that house. Everything is as it should be. Nothing is broken. Nothing is out of place. You, therefore, expect that the landlord will give your deposit back in full. However, on the day of the move, you are told that you should come at a later date despite having given a full month’s notice. From this point on you will be on a constant struggle with the landlord to get your money back. At some point, they will stop picking your calls. The caretaker will have no explanation for you. Then follow the insults. The landlord will tell you to stop disturbing him. They will claim that they will give you the money when they do. They may even tell you to do your worst. What then do you do about this? This is a situation that warrants intervention from the authorities. You will need help.
You come home one day only to find your property out on the curb. There was no notice. Nothing was communicated. Your rent is up to date. You are a pretty good tenant as you are peaceful. Upon inquiry, you are told that you are no longer welcome there. There are many malicious reasons why a landlord may do this. Most of them involve lies and propaganda. In this case, you pick up your property and find a place to go before the evening progresses into pitch darkness. However, upon arising the next day you should seek help through the law. Find out which authority can help you. You might want to try a conversation with the landlord first. If they are not amenable then, by all means, pursue a more official solution. The idea is not for you to be allowed back into the building. It is for the landlord not to pull such a stunt again.
If you lend a friend an article of clothing, you do not demand it while they are wearing it on the street. You let them know to know to return it later, right? This is quite similar to renting. Once a landlord rents out their house to someone, the person makes that house their own personal space. It may be the landlord’s property but it is the tenant’s space. The tenant is entitled to privacy and the peaceful occupation of the space. The landlord cannot enter the house whenever they feel like it. They must give the tenant notice before they enter to do their building inspections. If the landlord uses the spare key to gain access while you are away at work, then that is illegal. If they push their way into your house, that is illegal.
Every building has one person who is always disturbing the peace. Usually, you complain to the landlord and they take it from there. They warn the person or even evict them. However, what happens when the issue is the landlord himself? They go out and drink then come back and make noise all over the building. You may decide to leave it alone and simply move out of the building. However, what if the landlord destroys your property? What if they threaten you? Threats are something to take very seriously even from an intoxicated person.
Help for Tenants
Urban Landlords & Tenants Association of Kenya
This is an organization created to help both tenants and landlords. It helps all the parties in rental situations be heard. It governs the relationships in rental real estate. This association offers landlords a chance to meet like-minded individuals to learn how to be great landlords as well as manage their rental properties effectively. It also helps the tenants figure out how to deal with difficult landlords. The purpose is for all parties in rental real estate to be informed and educated about their responsibilities and liabilities specific to their respective positions.
Landlords & Tenants Association of Kenya
This organization is a lot like the first one above. It helps educate both landlords and tenants on their positions and the responsibilities as well as rights attached to them. As a tenant, you will benefit from knowing your rights according to the Kenyan law. You will know how and when a landlord or caretaker is taking advantage of you. You will have help scrutinizing your rental agreement. You will know what responsibilities the landlord has to you. The main purpose of the association is to create an environment conducive to proper and healthy tenant-landlord relationships.
Rent Restriction Tribunal
This is meant for residential buildings where the rent is nothing more than 2,500 shillings. These are called protected tenancies. The tribunal helps tenants and landlords to come to agreeable terms. This tribunal prevents the tenants from being exploited and misused. It also ensures that the landlord is receiving a fair profit from their property. This tribunal handles issues like increases and defaults. Once you complain, a hearing date will be communicated. On the day of hearing a ruling or solution will be sought. There is a similar tribunal for commercial renters. It advocates for business renters in protected tenancies. These tribunals involve several authorities within the government as well as the law society of Kenya.
In some neighborhoods, residents and landlords band together to form groups where they help each other deal with issues. They handle security problems. They handle utility shortage problems. They help solve disputes if one arises. It is easier for a group to get results than it is for one person to pursue solutions on their own. Problem shared and all that. If your neighborhood has one of these then it is best to start there then proceed.
The police can be quite helpful in such issues. This is if you do not come across some of the corrupt ones. If you find one who will be genuinely helpful, your matter can be handled without having to go too far like the court. In some cases, you may have to go to court especially if the problem is a criminal matter and not a civil one.
Barriers to Recourse
If it turns out that you need a lawyer, the cost might be astounding depending on the lawyer you pick. You will need to pay fees to get your matter heard by a judge. In some cases, if you are not lucky enough to evade the corrupt cops, you will have to fork out a bit to bribe your way through the system. This is one of the biggest reasons why landlords tend to get away with some offenses. They know that it is expensive to complain and you are bound to give up. Sometimes even with the expense, you still do not get what you need. You may end up spending way more than was owed to you by the landlord.
Kenya is a corrupt country. There is corruption everywhere. There is always someone who is meant to help you but requires greasy hands so they can. If you add the cost of surviving a corrupt system to the fees required to have your case handled then it becomes too costly to pursue it. In the end, the landlord may bribe someone to have your case file misplaced.
The Kenyan justice system is slow. If you are hoping for a speedy solution the chances are that you will be disappointed. You should hope that a call from the police will sufficiently sober up that landlord. Otherwise, it may drag on for years.
Sometimes, it is what it is and there is nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you may have to simply swallow the loss and move on. Other times, you may get help from the above mentioned associations to move your case along. Whatever the case, you need luck. So, good luck!