Despite the abundance of rental options, there are still some landlords who remain arrogant and difficult. People who believe they are above the law and remain unfair to their tenants. These people own buildings with very high tenant turnover. This is not about the small tiffs over a tap that needs fixing or forgetting to pay the garbage collection fee. Every tenant has a right to enjoy their rental peacefully without impediments from the landlord. Below are some examples of the behavior of truly difficult landlords.
The landlord will increase the rent whenever they feel like it. They will not give notice like they are required to by law. They will not provide an explanation for the increment. They will simply do it despite the action not being a term in the rental agreement. This action will be frequent and random. Such a landlord will become agitated if a tenant dares question this action or decides they should leave and cannot take it anymore.
Impeding tenancy termination
The tenancy agreement may stipulate that a tenant give the landlord a notice of a full month before deciding to move so that they can arrange to refund their deposit. However, some tenants will keep the tenant waiting and frustrate them for a very long time. The tenant might be hesitant to go to the authorities due to the corrupt nature of the Kenyan justice system. In some cases, the matter remains unsolved and the tenant simply opts to move on with their life. Some caretakers will advise the tenant to simply not pay the last month’s rent that they expect nothing when they are moving out.
There are some truly hideous characters on this earth. It is understandable that the tenant may be on the wrong but then evicting them forcefully without notice and at night is simply inhumane. The landlord has their own right to admit and dismiss whoever from their building. However, this does not give him or her license to chuck someone at night without any warning at all. Some will even evict mothers with very young children in this fashion.
A tenant expects that the landlord will provide a safe building for him or her to live in. However, if the landlord leaves cracks on walls uninspected. This one is especially common as landlords tend to cover up the large marks made by authorities with new paint. This leaves the building residents vulnerable to injury or even death from collapse. If the broken panes are left un-replaced. If the damaged gate is left unrepaired then the landlord is not holding up their end of the deal.
Below are suggestions on how you could handle the situation.
This is the obvious solution to dealing with a difficult landlord. You pick up and move to a different place where the environment is better and more peaceful. However, if the infraction of the landlord is condoning a safety hazard to the people like painting over the large scarlet ‘X’. Moving would only be saving yourself and leaving vacancy for an unsuspecting person to move in. In this case then, you could take a stand and ensure that no one who comes after you is endangered.
There are associations and tribunals in Kenya where tenants can have their matters heard and resolved. This should be a first stop before deciding to take steps towards a resolution on your own. These authorities should approach the landlord and have them give their side of the story. Unfortunately with the way the Kenyan system is built, one might not get justice which would then make the action futile. However, the records would show that legal redress was sought before further action was taken.
Approach from friendly side
You could also try to reach the landlord through someone like the wife or the caretaker. You could explain the light to them and have them understand so they can champion for you. You could also send word through them that you plan to go to the authorities or whatever other steps you plan on taking. You should be sure to make your intentions to seek justice known. Submit your grievances in writing and keep a copy to present to the authorities if ever necessary.
There is power in numbers. If the tenants of the building all decide to revolt against a difficult landlord then he or she might reconsider their stance. It makes a statement. If the people decide to all report the landlord for an unsafe building then there is more strength in that than an individual fight. It is the responsibility of the resident of any hood to keep an eye out for unsafe buildings in the area even if they do not live in them. Consider this, what if it collapses right as you are walking by and you are caught by a stray block of building stone? What if that building collapses while your child is in there visiting a friend?
As the tenants of the building you could all decide to withhold rent for a month as a means of catalyzing justice. This may be considered a bit irregular and perhaps illegal but if nothing else works then you are left with nothing to do but a radical step. The landlord could see how dire the situation is by the mere audacity of refusing to pay rent collectively.
Nairobi is chock full of difficult landlords. Most remain difficult because the process of justice for tenants against their landlords can get quite lengthy. Others simply have supporters in high places and are therefore virtually untouchable. However with platforms like Buyer Beware one can report the landlord and warn others not to engage with them. The court of public opinion is brutal and does not consider status. Good luck!