By John Semakula
In 2007, Lawrence Kubenja, 30, ended his rent woes by shifting to his incomplete house at Lwanyonyi village in Nama subcounty. The house was partly roofed and had no windows and doors. The day Kubenja entered the house, residents of Lwanyonyi scorned him. “They converged near my home and watched in amazement as I offloaded my property from the truck. Some said I was mad,” Kubenja said.
At night, Kubenja was insecure because the mat, which he had fixed in the door way, could not stop cats, dogs and snakes from entering the house as they looked for warmth. Debris was also a big problem. At the time of entering the house, Kubenja had just bought a new sofa set, but he soon gave it away after it was destroyed by the dust.
Other properties were either broken or damaged as he moved them from one room to another during the completion. Lack of privacy whenever visitors came to his home, also tortured him.
Several years down the road, however, Kubenja has no regrets. He has been able to fix doors and windows and also work on the floor of his house. By shifting to the house, he was able to save sh70,000 in rent every month, which he used to buy and stock building materials.
Kubenja’s heart was also at peace, since no one came knocking at his door for rent every end of the month. Entering the unfinished house also put Kubenja under a lot of pressure to complete it. “I immediately started looking for funds to roof and also fix the doors and windows.
Alex Mwangu of Nabuti village in Mukono central division, also entered his house in 2005, before it was plastered and cemented. Mwangu says he rushed to enter the house because he was tired of his former landlord, who did not respect tenancy agreements.
“According to the agreement, I was supposed to pay rent six months in advance, but every time he got a problem, he would pressurise me to give him more money. That irritated me and I left,” he says. After shifting, Mwangu realised the money he
had been spending on rent could be used to cement two rooms every month. Since then, he did not look back and today, he owns one of the best houses in the area. But Mwangu says he faced many challenges living in an incomplete structure. “Rats were a big problem. They rattled it with holes and also destroyed my property.
Martin Balyejjusa, the Mukono district senior health inspector, says unfinished houses allow vectors like mosquitos to enter and cause diseases to the occupants. He says chances of getting injuries from debris are also high. “Such houses are insecure. The builders can turn out to be thieves. While working in your house, they can get to know where you keep your valuables and come for them at night,” he said.
Idris Nsereko, an architect with 3M Design and Construction Company, said it is risky to live in an unfinished house because it can collapse. “The curing period for a slab of a storeyed building is 28 days. If you enter that house before the slab dries, it can collapse,” Nsereko warns. He says unfinished houses are usually cold, and this, compounded with the dust from unplastered bricks and the open floor, may affect the health of the occupants.
Mark Donovan, an American writer, in his article, A great way to buy a home, highlights some of the benefits and challenges of entering unfinished houses. He says it allows the potential buyer to grow into the home as their family and financial resources also do so. Donovan says entering an unfinished house gives the owner a chance to adjust the plan on realising the need for a change. For instance, if the home was planned to have three living rooms, you could suggest to the contractor to convert one into a bedroom, hence saving on space.
Although a homeowner may face many problems while living in an unfinished house, such challenges, if taken seriously, may turn out to be a big step into realising their longtime dream of owning a beautiful house.