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List of constitutional laws that govern tenants in Kenya

List of constitutional laws that govern tenants in Kenya

Tenants in Kenya have for many years remained a suffering lot, especially in the capital Nairobi due to lack of knowledge of the constitutional powers that protect them.

In most cases, tenants chose to hold still where they stay and suffer due to lack of not only conducive but affordable housing units, many of whom do not know that tenancy is no longer a choice.

According to real estate agents, as long as there are desperate people, there will be unscrupulous landlords who abuse the power dynamic to harass, intimidate and even increase rent without following due process.

The following laws have been incorporated in the Kenyan constitution to govern the relationship between landlords and tenants.

1. The Registered Land Act

It requires that property owners must keep their premises habitable.

It also sets boundaries for leases and grounds for which one can be sued if found guilty of breaking these laws.

2. The Landlord and Tenant (shops, hotels and catering establishments) Act (Cap 301)

The law covers commercial leases. But there are some provisions within it that residential dwellings can also use.

3. The Distress for Rent Act (Cap 293)

The Act allows landlords to take a tenant’s possessions for compensation.

It is worth noting that there has been a motion in the recent past that lobbied for the reduction of the mandate of landlords over termination. It states that they should, first of all, go to court to terminate the agreement.

4. The Transfer of Property Act

The Act requires a property owner to disclose to a tenant any defects in a unit.

It also governs the way leases are made by making it a requirement for any defects to be listed beforehand.

5. The Rent Restriction Act, (Cap. 296 of the Laws of Kenya)

Its mandate is to determine disputes between landlords and tenants of protected tenancies, which are residential buildings whose rent does not exceed Ksh2500.

Below are some key areas of the law you should know as a tenant with regards to the laws listed above.

Distress for Rent

Distress for Rent Act is a law in Kenya that gives property owners the mandate to seize or cause a seize of goods from a tenant that owes rent.

So, if you are in arrears for more than a month, your landlord will use the act to try and sell your goods to recover the money you owe them.

In this case, a property owner does not have to seek a court order to recover rent.

The law requires landlords to use licensed auctioneers to conduct the process.

Once it is in the hands of an auctioneer, the company or agency will conduct the process under the guidance of The Auctioneers Act.

The tenancy laws in Kenya help to avoid situations like tenant bullying landlord and vice versa.

Evictions

A landlord does not have the right to evict a tenant in any way he deems fit.

The law lays out a procedure of evicting tenants from properties.

First, a landlord must give you a notice of termination. The notice must be in a prescribed form and must: State the date on which the tenancy will end and be signed by the person issuing the notice.

There are different forms of eviction notices for cause but they all arise when a tenant does something wrong or something that violates the conditions of the lease. The common types of eviction notice for cause are:

Pay rent or go notices: These notices are given when a tenant is always delaying their rent payments. These types of notices give tenants a brief period within which they should pay rent or face a suit for eviction.

Cure or stop notices: These notices are mailed when a tenant violates the terms of a lease agreement or do something wrong. These notices give the tenant a brief period of time to rectify the defect or face eviction.

Unconditional quit notice: These notices are only used when a tenant pays late rent, or refuses to pay rent, or damages rental property, or has engaged in illegal or dangerous activity on the rental premises.

If there is no cause for eviction, you have 30 to 60 days as a tenant to stay in the property before vacating.

Rental increments

A landlord cannot increase your house’s rent without notice unless stated in a tenancy agreement.

Typically, such increments happen when a person is renewing their lease agreement.

It also happens when one is moving to a new house.

You must receive a formal letter stating when the property owner will increase rent.

The letter or written notice must give you at least one month to inform you of the coming changes.

A landlord may or may not give a reason for increasing the rent.

On the other hand, you have the right to object to the increment.

If you choose to object, you must notify your landlord within 30 days after receiving the notice.

The Urban Tenants Association is one legal body you can use to lodge your objections on the increments.

Always expect such changes to happen after some repairs to the house or when there is inflation in Kenya.

Deposits

Before occupancy, landlords require tenants to pay the rent in advance and another equal amount as a security deposit which always refundable.

Duration for a refund of rent deposit will depend on what is stated on the tenancy agreement.

In some cases, it is usually within 30 days after the end of a lease agreement. Should you move before the end of the agreement, your landlord can wait until the expiry of the lease before giving you the deposit.

Understand that rental deposit laws also protect the landlord. There are situations where you will not get back the full amount.

These include:

Non-payment of rent

Damage to the property

Unpaid bills such as electricity and water

Repairs

Any landlord must always ensure that his property is not deplorable but make it consusive for a tenant to live in.

This applys in cases where most houses encounter wiring, water supply or lighting issues. This must always be fixed before a tenants signs ito the house or when the problem is raised during the stay.

It is your right as a tenant to make a maintenance request to have anything sorted by the landlord. Avoid making major repairs on your own because the landlord may not want any changes done on his property.

Right to Privacy

Once you move in, the landlord can’t enter your property without your consent. The only exception would be if there is an emergency such as a fire.

A protected tenant is one who lives in a ‘controlled house’ which are those residential buildings that have been put under the Rent Restriction Act, Chapter 296 of the Laws of Kenya.

The criterion of placing a residential house under the Act is those with a standard rent of Kshs. 2,500 per month and below.

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Lawrence Baraza is a prolific writer with competencies in Digital Media, Print, and Broadcast. Baraza is also a Communication Practitioner currently spearheading Digital content on Metropol TV's Digital Desk.

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