It’s the first week of a new month. Rent is usually due on the 5th of the new month which can lead to tension. With almost every Kenyan dreaming to become a landlord, many tenants dislike their landlord with some describing them as “bitter”, “nasty”, “ in their miserable 60’s”, “overweight” “outta shape” etc
With high cost of living, nobody needs dental bills. So here’s our quick and easy guide on how not to fight with your landlord.
Never hand over cash, rather make an EFT/use a cheque/bank deposit and always get a receipt from the landlord/estate agent,
Read your lease agreement before signing. Know what date rent is due, what extra costs you are liable for: water, electricity, refuse, sewerage. You do not have a seven day grace period.
Make sure the lease agreement spells out any potential increase in the rent – this is usually up to 10%.
Perform an incoming inspection with the landlord – this records defects so you are not held liable. The defects do not have to be repaired.
Report maintenance issues: the sooner maintenance is attended to, the less costly it is.Perform an outgoing inspection with landlord. If there is no damage, the deposit must be returned within seven days; if there is damage, the deposit must be returned 14 days after fixing.
Don’t withhold the last month’s rent by requesting the agent use the deposit. It is a breach which may lead to you paying it in future with interest.
If a dispute can’t be resolved, then you can go to your local Rental Tribunal.
When it comes to landlord-tenant disputes, interpreting legal obligations can be tricky. The varying nature of issues that might arise is endless in possibility, which means that there is no well-defined guideline on how to handle a highly specific set of circumstances.
“The majority of disputes that will occur between a tenant and landlord concern the landlord’s fulfillment of his maintenance duties,” reveals D.M. Mati, the Managing Director of Danco Limited. “In such cases, tenants are often inclined to withhold rent to force the landlord to act.”
He explains that the law which concerns disputes of this nature leaves a significant amount of grey areas, as it stipulates that the landlord has a responsibility to maintain the property such that it is fit for purpose it was let – but in practical terms what exactly does this mean?
“Maintenance responsibilities that fall to the landlord are things such as leaking roofs and falling perimeter walls” Mr. Mati Elaborates. “Issues such as doors not locking or light bulbs not working are matters for the tenant to resolve.”
However, because this is not spelt out in legal terms, the only way for both landlords and tenants to ensure they are not taken advantage of is to format a strong lease agreement. “The agreement needs to protect the rights of both parties, and it needs to include any obligations undertaken by either party in writing. For example, if the landlord has agreed to build a wall, but has only agreed to this verbally, this will be difficult to enforce as it has to be done in writing.”
If the tenant faces a situation in which the landlord is genuinely in breach of contract, they need to be aware that they cannot withhold payment as a means of rectifying the situation. Should the tenant withhold payment, he or she will then also be in breach of contract.
Finally, Mr. Mati’s advice for landlords or tenants who are already involved in a dispute of any nature is to make sure that all correspondence is recorded. “If the dispute has to be mediated, whoever looks at it will require evidence of your claims,” she explains. “As such, it’s absolutely vital to cover your tracks.”
All the best!