Nairobi is chock full of shady characters. People who are out to empty your pockets or make you empty the pockets for them. It is just how some people survive in this city. In fact, if you live in Nairobi for a full month, chances are that you will surely come in contact with a shady person or several. This sure extends to landlords. You will meet some who want to make more on your rent than other tenants. You will meet some who try to rent you buildings they do not own. You should therefore be observant of some cues that will warn that you could be dealing with a con. Below are eight signs you might be dealing with a shady kind of landlord.


If the person seems a little too eager to find out about your private life, that may be a sign that they are shady. A landlord asking if you have a job is normal. A landlord asking how much you earn is a little much. A landlord showing up once when you move in to your unit to welcome you is normal. A landlord showing up uninvited even when you are not home is going a little far. However, some people are just naturally nosy. Just be careful about landlords and caretakers who are a little too inquisitive about your financial status or electronics especially.

Eye Contact

An honest person will not have a problem looking you in the eyes as they talk to you. If someone is having trouble looking you in the eyes then they are hiding something. There is a chance that the person is simply just shy but what if he/she is not? What if they are hiding something? Is it not better to be overly cautious than to find yourself in a disaster? Another sign f a liar is fidgeting and anxiety. The last thing you want in a person you are going to give your money is dishonesty.

Spare Key

This is Nairobi, very few people should have access to your house. In fact, very few people should get away with asking for a spare key to your house. If the landlord or caretaker does this then you should wonder about it. There are instances in which it could be acceptable like if they need to repair something. In which case you may give them your key but only if you trust. If they are insisting on having a spare key to your house then you should investigate why.

Non-Refundable Deposit

In commercial real estate this may be a term to protect the property owner from withdrawal after signatures have already been appended. However, in residential real estate it is questionable when a landlord decides to put this down as a term. It is passable if the deposit is not a full month’s rent but a few thousand shillings meant for utilities. If it is a full month’s rent then find out why. You should also prepare to back out of this deal as early on as you can.

Copy of Lease

One of the hard and fast rules about making any kind of deal is retaining a copy of the contract you sign. This protects you in the event the terms of the contract are changed in the future and used against you. If the landlord is hesitant about giving you a copy then you should question it. There is no law on any land that permits the landlord to keep both copies of the rental agreement. You should also be careful if you find yourself being pressured to sign the agreement without reading it first. You should take your time and read through everything no matter how many times you are assured that it is just a standard rental agreement. It might hold up to a whole other kind of standard you are not familiar with.

Showing the House

Some caretakers, agents and/or landlords may insist on showing you a house at specific times. This is not weird as they may have other matters to attend to. However, if they only want to show you the house at night or mid-morning Sunday when everyone is asleep or at church then you should wonder. If they go a step further and urge you to be quiet and creep through the hallways then turn around and run. There is a very high chance that you are about to be ripped off. The matter of convenience when it comes to showing a house is of matter but strictly under the cloak of darkness and anonymity is simply strange.

Cash Without Receipt

Only hawkers and market vendors are allowed to demand cash for commodities without giving a receipt. First, if the caretaker is demanding that you pay cash and through them then you should be cautious. If they go a step further and inform you that you will not be getting a receipt for your cash payment then by all means go on full combat mode. The caretaker will urge you to trust and even feign offense that you think they would rip you off.


There is a difference between a sales pitch and downright pressure. A sales pitch is subtle with the occasional hint that you could lose out on the deal if you are not swift about it. Pressure may include some threat and intimidation. These may not be blatant but they cannot be mistaken. If you find that the landlord and caretaker are pressuring you to rent the unit then there is a reason. It may go far beyond the regular Nairobi hustle. Make no decisions under pressure or intimidation. Promise to come back later then leave to really think about it.

Sometimes you can catch a con by aggressively bargaining. That means trying to get the deal at less than half the asking price. A con will almost always take what they can get so they can leave quickly. Be observant. Catch on to cues. Ask questions when in doubt. Distance yourself from the situation to reflect on it and think clearly.