Rental tenants rights in Kenya
Gerikko|Aug. 08, 2019
Laws that govern landlords and tenants in Kenya
Many tenants in Kenya do not know their rights and obligations when renting a property. Some only learn after having a bad experience with their landlords. Did you know that you have the right to stop paying rent if the property is inhabitable? The relationship between the landlord and the tenant is always in favour of the landlord. That is why many tenants face problems such as unjustifiable rent increments, poor waste disposal, and utilities cut off. The best way of avoiding unnecessary inconveniences as a result of tenancy disputes is to know rental tenants rights under the law.
Several laws protect both landlords and tenants in Kenya. It helps to have an understanding of these laws whether you are a tenant or landlord.
Laws that govern landlords and tenants in Kenya
The following laws have been incorporated in the Kenyan constitution to govern the relationship between landlords and tenants.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Rent Restriction Act, (Cap. 296 of the Laws of Kenya)
It gives control of rental amounts for units with a monthly rent of not more than KES 2,500. In other words, there is no rent control for units above KES 2,500.
Tenant rights in Kenya
It is crucial to understand the rights of a tenant before renting a property. Here are some key areas of the law you should know as a tenant with the regards to the laws listed above.
Before occupancy, landlords require tenants to pay the rent in advance and another equal amount as a security deposit. The deposit you give before occupancy is refundable. You can claim it once you return the property in its original conditions at the end of your lease contract. The law on deposits isn't explicitly included in the constitution and as a result, there are cases of breaches that go unpunished.
The 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. In simple terms, there are situations where you will not get back the full amount. These include:
Non-payment of rent Damage to the property Unpaid utilities such as electricity and water
If a landlord decides not to pay, find out the reasons for such a decision. Speak to them amicably to get a refund.
2. 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.
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 Be signed by the person issuing the notice Identify the premises you live or for which the notice is given
If you receive the notice, it must also set out the details and reasons for terminating the tenancy. After getting a notice, you must vacate the premises. If you do not vacate by the end of the date stated, the landlord may apply to a tribunal for an order to terminate the tenancy and evict you.
There have been instances where landlords increase rent for tenants who refuse to vacate their premises. That is unlawful. The law says a property owner cannot waive a notice of termination, create a new tenancy, or reinstate a tenancy by notice of rent increase. Both parties must agree to it.
Generally, it is only a Landlord and Tenant Tribunal that can legally evict you from a house. Even before the order comes out, the tribunal must determine that the reasons stated for are accurate and justifiable.
Part of understanding rental tenant rights is knowing which party should do repairs to a premise. It is not a tenant’s right or duty to do repairs in a house. Always leave such projects to the landlord.
Making changes will give your landlord an excuse of not refunding your deposit. Depending on the circumstances, they will claim you damaged their property despite the visible repairs.
5. Distress for Rent
Kenya has Distress for Rent Act . It is a law 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 of 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. In general, understanding your rights when renting a property is crucial to ensuring you avoid unnecessary confrontations.
Knowing rental tenants rights under the laws of Kenya is the best way of avoiding confrontations with a landlord. As a tenant, you have the right to live in a habitable environment. You also have the right to refuse any form of rental increments even if you get a notice from your landlord.