Eviction is never easy on either the tenant or landlord. It, however, becomes even more complicated when either of the parties resorts to litigation as what happened in TV personality Anita Fabiola and former landlord Mania Azza. According to the landlord, Fabiola had defaulted on rent and any effort to talk her into leaving quietly had failed forcing Azza to involve the local chairman and media.
Reasons for eviction
Ssenga Hamidah Namukasa has been a landlady for more than four decades in Kazinga, Kiwatule. She says in all these years, the only reason she evicts tenants is nonpayment of rent.
However, there are other reasons a landlord can legally evict a tenant. These include violating the terms of the lease or rental agreement, causing serious damage to the rental premises and illegal activities such as selling drugs. In some cases, the landlord might want to take over the place for personal use.
Henry Kyarimpa, a lawyer with Magurara, Kwarisiima and company advocates, says legally the only relationship between a landlord and tenant is one of providing accommodation and the other paying for it. “When any of these obligations is not being met by either party, then there is no relationship,” he explains.
Kyarimpa cautions tenants against taking matters into their own hands. “Even when faced with a tenant who owes a lot of back rent, or one who is damaging your property, you should never take matters into your own hands. Doing so might land you in legal complications,” he adds.
According to Kyarimpa, the eviction process starts with a written eviction notice to your tenant stating your demands as per your tenant agreement. It states the reason the landlord is serving the eviction notice, a time period to remedy the offense, the date the notice was served and the signature of the landlord.
The tenant might fortunately comply with the notice’s demand or refuse culminating into an eviction lawsuit.
A lawyer will help you file the necessary documents which he will present in court and summon the tenant. “If you win the eviction lawsuit, you will receive a court order for possession of the property. But even with this court order in hand, you cannot remove the tenant and their property yourself,” Kyarimpa cautions.
Many times, landlords find themselves stuck with property of a defaulting tenant and have no idea how to legally handle the situation. Online legal portal www.nolo.com gives tips.
List all the items of value left behind. Take a photo or video of each item to show its condition.
Get a witness
Invite a neutral party (such as a neighbour) to watch you move the items to a safe place.
Notify the tenant
Notify your tenant in writing or through mail. Let your tenant know what was left behind and what you have done with the property. State that your tenant has until a certain date to claim the property.
If the property is not picked up by the deadline, state that you will dispose of it. You can deduct any costs that you incur to store or advertise the property for sale from the security deposit. However, you should state this in a letter you send to your tenant explaining the reason for withholding the amount.
Even if the tenant is months behind on rent, without a court order the landlord cannot:
• Physically remove the tenant.
• Remove the tenant’s personal property.
• Lock the tenant out.
• Change the locks.
• Shut off utilities such as water or power.