The Urban and Tenants Association of Kenya (Utak) wants the government to exercise greater legal control over the dealings between landlords and tenants.
The association is calling for an overhaul of the rent tr0ibunal to be replaced with a rent and rates regulatory authority. He said the authority would enforce ceilings on rents and rates to apply based on location and size.
Utak Secretary-General Ephraim Murigo told the Standard that such an authority would be more effective in dealing with landlords of impunity who hike rents arbitrarily and profile tenants on ethnicity particularly during election periods.
The association told the Standard that it has filed a memorandum with the ministry of housing seeking a stakeholder meeting to discuss tenant protections.
In addition, the association wants legal control and accountability over land rates charged by local authorities which it says is a major landlord in some locations.
“The Government is the worst landlord since it uses its monopoly of violence to evict tenants. We are cognizant of cases where tenants have been evicted illegally by use of police force and in the case of county governments, evictions being conducted by crude askaris,” he said.
Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Communications Director Joseph Kamuto said there are county governments that have since 2014 increased rents and land rates by between 300 and 500 percent, arguing that the hike should not be above 60 percent now.
Utak is seeking amendments to the Rent Restriction Act that will impose fines of between Ksh. 1 million to Ksh. 5 million and allow the tribunal to issue jail terms of up to 5 years against rogue landlords.
“Landlords are operating with raw impunity where they hike rents anyhow. The law is very clear that this should only be done annually and not at a rate exceeding 10 percent. And this is only after conspicuous upgrading of the premises is done,” Mr. Kamuto said.
Utak’s position is that the Rent Restriction Tribunal has not been effective in solving landlord-tenant disputes with most landlords enjoying a free reign over tenants, contrary to the constitution.