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How the proposed Landlord and Tenant Bill will tame rogue Landlords

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Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Hon. Amos Kimunya has sponsored a Bill that aims to change the current laws governing the rights of both Landlords and tenants in commercial and residential property.

If adopted, the proposed Landlord and Tenant Bill 2021 will see rogue Landlords who evict tenants and seize their belongings over rent arrears jailed for up to six months or pay a fine double the amount in dispute.

“A landlord and any agent or servant of a landlord who evicts a tenant without the authority of a tribunal or willfully subjects a tenant to any annoyance with the intention of inducing or compelling the tenant to vacate the premises or to pay, directly or indirectly a higher rent for the premises commits an offence,” Kimunya’s bill read in part.

According the Bill, landlords will not seize any tenant’s property over default in rent payment without following the due process of the law as the Landlords will also be compelled to keep signed records of all the rent paid and share the record with the tenants.

Landlords who fail to keep such records which must include the  details of the parties to the tenancy, details on the rented premises and of all rent paid will be compelled to pay a fine not exceeding one month’s rent.

The Landlord and Tenant Bill further clarifies in a scenario where a tenant dies or abandons the premises while in rent arrears, landlords will have to apply to the tribunal to sell or dispose of the tenant’s belongings.

“Before the landlord calls or otherwise disposes of a tenant’s property, an inventory of the goods in the premises shall be taken by an officer of the tribunal and be filed in the tribunal,” the Bill read.

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But if a member of the tenant’s family or an administrator of the estate claims the property within six months, the landlord will be compelled to deposit excess proceeds from the sale of the tenant’s belongings after deducting rent arrears or expenses incurred in the auction.

“The Bill seeks to introduce a legal framework which balances the interests of landlords and tenants in a free market economy by ensuring that landlords earn reasonable income from their investment in housing and also protects the tenant,” says Amos Kimunya in a memorandum accompanying the legislation.

Majority Leader in the National Assembly Hon. Amos Kimunya . He is the sponsor of the Landlord-Tenant Bill [p/courtesy]

The draft legislation proposes the establishment of a tribunal through the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) whose function will be to adjudicate disputes brought forward by landlords or tenants.

The tribunal, with five full-time members, will be chaired by a person qualified to be appointed a High Court judge, a deputy chairperson that has served as an advocate and three members, one of whom should have expert knowledge of valuation of premises.

The Bill will also give sitting tribunals powers to give determinations that will be binding to both landlords and tenants. For example, the tribunal can determine, assess or vary the rent payable in any premises and tenancy period. It can also determine the service charge payable on a given property, the much each tenant in the building should contribute and demand payment of rent arrears or service charge.

The tribunal will also have the power to compel landlords to carry out repairs that they are liable for or authorize tenants to pay for the repairs and deduct the same from their monthly rent. Failure to comply with the decision of a tribunal or honoring summons will attracts a fine of up to Sh100,000 or a one-year prison term, or both.

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