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Don’t demonise us, property owners plead

By Mary Karugaba

Added 28th February 2019 05:15 PM

"Why is it that when the tenant annoys the landlords, it is not a crime? Who says that the landlord cannot be annoyed by the tenant?”

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(L-R) Vice chairperson of Property Developer's Voice Uganda Ltd Godfrey Kirumira, lawyer Muzamiru Kibeedi and other proeprty owners appearing before the Infrastructure committee of Parliament. Photo by Miriam Namutebi

"Why is it that when the tenant annoys the landlords, it is not a crime? Who says that the landlord cannot be annoyed by the tenant?”

The Landlord-Tenant Bill 2018 should be amended to cater for the interests of the landlords and tenants, property developers have said.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on physical infrastructure, under their umbrella association the Property Developers’ Voice Uganda Ltd, the team said that in its current form, the Bill portrays landlords as ‘devils’ while tenants as ‘angels’ which is not the case.

The team was comprised of city property developers and businessmen and led by their vice chairperson Godfrey Kirumira, they said they want equal treatment and no group should be preferred against the other.

“We do not want a bill where all landlords are portrayed as devils while tenants are portrayed as angels and victims. We want a law equal that treats all of us equally. We want a law where the agreement between a landlord and tenant is honoured and promotes harmony,” Kirumira said.

Kirumira told the committee chaired by Nakifuma MP Ssekitoleko Kafero that; "I hope you will not disappoint us.”

The team's secretary general Muzamil Kibedi wondered why the Bill states that it is only the tenants that get annoyed and not the landlords.

"If you say it is criminal to annoy the tenant, why is it that when the tenant annoys the landlords, it is not a crime? Who says that the landlord cannot be annoyed by the tenant?” he asked.

He argued that the clause on annoyance is redundant because the Bill does not define annoyance.

irumira shares a light moment with the chairperson of arliaments infrastructure committee afeero sekitoleko hoto by iriam amutebiKirumira shares a light moment with the chairperson of Parliament’s infrastructure committee Kafeero Ssekitoleko. Photo by Miriam Namutebi

 

As such, he argued that tenants' mood swings should not be the basis for legislation. According to the Bill, landlords risk imprisonment for intentionally annoying tenants.

The Bill states that it’s an offence for a landlord to intentionally subject a tenant to any annoyance with intention of inducing or compelling him or her to vacate or pay directly or indirectly.

The Bill states that any landlord who breaches the aforesaid provision commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding sh3m or imprisonment not exceeding one year or both.

However, in its current form, the Bill does not stipulate what constitutes annoyance neither does it define what annoyance is.

The Bill, currently being scrutinised by the committee stipulates the responsibilities of each party, ensuring that each party stays clear of the other.

According to the Bill, the tenant is not supposed to use the premises for an unlawful purpose, do any activity that interferes with another person’s peace or comfort, should not damage the rented premises, or install any fixtures or make alterations without the consent of the landlord among others.

The duties of the landlord include ensuring that a tenant enjoys a quiet environment, keep the premises safe and free of health hazards and should not refuse to rent the premises to a person on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.

The Bill abolishes forceful payment of rent in foreign currency. “All rent obligations or transactions shall be settled in shillings unless otherwise provided under any enactment or agreed to between the parties,” the Bill states.

The Bill also suggests that the tenant will be obliged to pay the rent for premises, pay for the utilities and other charges, utilise the premises only for the intended use, and keep the interior of the premises in good and clean condition.

Other issues addressed in the Bill include a security deposit. The bill provides for a security deposit to be paid by the tenant in advance as a safeguard against any damages to the premises that may be occasioned by the tenant.

On issues of increasing rent, the Bill proposes that for a landlord to increase or decrease rent, they should have served the tenant with a prior notice to which the tenant has to respond.

Termination of tenancy by either party, according to the Bill, is supposed to be after providing notice of the intention to terminate the tenancy.

The Bill also proposes that for any eviction of the tenant, it should only be through a court order.

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