BY STELLA NASSUNA
TENANTS usaully find themselves at crossroads with their landlords, especially when it comes to payment of rent.
You may be like Sharon (not her real name) or even worse. She says after failing to pay rent for one month.
Her landlord took ironsheets off the house despite her pleas for more time since she was expecting money from the husband who was away on business in Kenya.
â€œFor three days, we (sister and my three-month old baby) stayed in an open roofed house. It often grew cold late in the night and not even our blankets could keep us warm.
My baby developed a severe cold,â€ Sharon says.
â€œWe often cleaned the house since dust and leaves came in at will. The sun was another problem,â€ she adds.
Is this the best way to deal with a defaulting tenant? Are there laws or procedures landlords should follow before evicting tenants?
How are the tanants supposed to protect themselves from such ugly scenarios?
What landlords should know
â€œThat was an unlawful act. Evicting tenants must be done in accordance with the law,â€ Veronica Nakityo, a lawyer, says.
She says under the Distress for Rent (Bailiff) Act and Rules, the landlord has the right to distress for rent and an eviction.
Distress for rent is a legal forceful demand for rent by the landlord from a defaulting tenant.
Nakityo says the landlord must file a civil suit distressing for rent if he wants his case to be presented before the courts of law.
However, she adds:
â€œThe landlord should clearly indicate what he wants the court to do for him. Whether he only wants the rent paid or he also would want the tenant to vacate the premises (eviction).â€
Nakityo says if the landlord does not indicate the need for an eviction on the suit papers, the court will not order the tenant out of the house
It will only ensure the rent payment is done.
The court will deploy court bailiffs to the said premises with a permission letter to auction off the defendantâ€™s property and the money raised will cover the rent.
Every landlord should have tenant agreements written out by anyone with full knowledge of the law.
The agreement must be standard, backed up by equity and principles of natural and uncommon law.
What tenants should know
â€œThe tenant should ask for a tenantsâ€™ agreement before occupying any house. This agreement will clearly show the tenantâ€™s ability, rights, the payment day and the implications of defaulting it,â€ Nakityo explains.
She cites a scenario last year where a landlord wanted to evict her from the house over a misunderstanding without giving her the one-month notice the agreement stressed.
â€œI will not get out, unless you write informing me to leave, with a one monthâ€™s notice,â€ Nakityo told her landlord when he asked her to vacate the house.
However, she says the one-month notice does not exonerate one from paying rent for it.
Tenants should read the agreement thoroughly before signing it.
She says signing should be done in the presence of witnesses, at least one for either parties.
Nakityo says verbal agreements are not considered in court.
Only hard evidence and paper work with signatures make sense.
â€œIf the conditions in the agreement are not favourable, look for another house,â€ she advises.
Your signature will be core evidence that you breached the agreement when taken to court, Nakityo adds.
Why the landlords have taken matters in their hands
â€œThe full hearing of the case may even take over six months depending on the magistrateâ€™s diary. Yet, the landlord may want the tenant to vacate the house as soon as possible. So in order to meet his urgent need, he becomes the court bailiff,â€ Nakityo says.
Procedures landlords should follow
The landlord is expected to write a letter to the LC1 chairperson informing him or her about the intention to evict a tenant.
The letter should indicate the reasons why and deadline date of occupancy.
When the date elapses and the tenant fails to pay, the landlord is free to return to the chairperson and inform him.
Together, in the company of the Police, they force the tenant out.
The property can be sold to recover the rent money or lock it up in the house in the presence of the LC1 chairperson and the Police until the tenant pays up.
She explains that the Police and LC will act as witnesses if the tenant makes aclaim to court that their property was stolen by the landlord.