My name is Benjamin Opolot, a university graduate and second born out of four in my family. I am a landlord in Lira. After pursuing my degree in Social Works and Social Administration around 2007 I had to look for jobs which were scarce in Kampala.
Around the same time the northern Uganda region was in its rehabilitation state and was flocked with many non government organisations(NGOs). I relocated there as soon as I felt I couldn’t wander anymore on the Kampala streets with my degree. All these positive thoughts that I would get a job when I reached Lira was dashed when I stayed for two months just waiting for a call of appointment from the different organisations I had applied to.
Word on the streets there were that you needed to know someone to get a job. I became hopeless but this did not hinder my creativity. My father had a four bedroom house in Lira town were I was staying as I looked for a job. This helped craft and present my idea to my father easily.
I thought up the idea of renovating the house to a state that is worth staying in, even though we lived far from Kampala and its standards. We needed to connect piped water, electricity and seal patches here and there plus painting the walls. I drafted a budget. My father liked the idea but the lack of money was another bridge to cross. I got a loan from my uncle to start this project. Soon the project commenced at high gear and in three months I had spent Shs4m on all necessary improvements.
Renting it out
There I had achieved my first post graduation project. Initially this house was occupied by my grandmother who we relocated deeper in the village to give space for renovations, but when all was completed the old lady refused to got back into the house.
So I was “stuck” with a large house all to myself. This ignited the thought of renting it out to someone as I got a single room elsewhere. Again I sat my father down and he liked the idea.
It was a done deal for me, the search for committed tenants started but all was in vain. What I noticed was there were people from Central and Western regions of Uganda who came for special projects and needed space to stay.
Fortunately I found two desperate men which was good for a start they paid Shs300,000 for a room per month. They stayed at the house for three months which was the period in which they completed their work in Lira. Well I thought it was good business and when they left I search for replacements for a month. At the same time I searched for a permanent job as I did a part time job at a petrol station at night and attend at my uncle’s shop during the day.
Finding tenants got harder because of the cost that I could not change as I had set a standard and was not planning on looking back. After two more months without tenants, a family that was new in the area and needed a house came up.
I took them around the house and the man told me it was too big, he said he needed the rest of the house and two bedrooms. We agreed terms that included me staying and managing the rest of the house. At first he was hesitant, he looked else where but failed to get a better facility and came back for negotiations.
Since 2011 I have shared this house with this family to an extent that I do not treat them as tenants any more we are more like family. For the first few months I did not get close to the family by even saying “hello.”
I used the garage door as my entrance and exit and only once in a while I met with my tenant. One Sunday he invited me to have lunch and ever since then we have been close. Now I have a permanent job so we make contributions on food and the different home utilities. We have evening prayers together and somehow we do not have conflicting interests. I think it’s because we are of the same tribe.
This kind of relationship comes with challenges most of which are minor like the children messing up my room but there are major issues like getting money for rent.
My tenant usually pays in advance of three months but there are times were he takes his time to pay and asking him for money gets hard since we live like brothers.
Another issue that was quite embarrassing was when he accused me of having an affair with his wife; I had to leave my house for about three weeks so they could resolve their problems.
Good enough that challenge stayed in-house and was just a misunderstanding because I shared a lot with her because she was the only mature person at home when he was not around; I treated her like a sister.
Besides that we live happily and I do not regret having to stay with my tenants under the same roof.