Wednesday, September 5, 2007

LGI News: Nairobi residents root for law on house rent

By Morris Aron of BD Africa (06-September-2007)

Nairobi residents yesterday supported plans to introduce a new law on house rents, saying it was the only way to curb runaway rise in the cost of living in the country.

Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations (KARA), however, cautioned that the enactment of the law should be accompanied by policies that will encourage construction of more housing units to address the supply shortage that is the main cause of landlord belligerence.

Besides, KARA said inefficiency, corruption and laxity were to blame for inability of the Rents Tribunal to deal with a housing crisis in the country.

Mr Stephen Mutoro, the chairman of KARA, told Business Daily that though exploitation of tenants had reached overwhelming proportions in recent times, regulations being proposed should not override the normal functioning of a free market economy.

“It is important that the relevant arms of the government deal with the underlying problem of supply shortage, while at the same time ensuring that property developers do not take advantage of the situation to exploit middle income earners,” said Mr Mutoro.

KARA also criticised landlords who cheat tenants into vacating houses claiming they are due for renovation, only to bring in new tenants at higher rents.

Mr Mutoro said such cases should be dealt with through the enactment of stringent laws on eviction and tenancy agreements. The association further asked the government to find sustainable ways of reducing the cost of construction materials to make housing more affordable to the majority of middle income earners.

KARA also said an influx of refugees was partly to blame for the acute housing problem in key cities such as Nairobi, as well as failure by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) to clearly define “middle income” earners in the country.

The organisation also put employers on the spot for failing to provide housing or pay their employees house allowances that enable them live comfortably.
KARA said the house allowance phenomenon was quickly disappearing from the Kenyan corporate scene, with companies choosing to engage in discrimination when it comes to housing their employees.

Unlike the civil service, most companies do not offer housing allowance except for top management.

“Companies need to play a more pro-active role in housing employees as it is one of their basic needs,”said Mr Mutoro.

KARA was reacting to a story in yesterday’s Business Daily on the proposed enactment of a law to establish a new rents tribunal that will hear disputes from tenants paying rents of up to Sh20,000 or bellow.

The new rent ceiling accounts for 70 per cent of all tenants in Nairobi.

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