What are the rights of tenants and landlords during eviction?

Tuesday May 12 2015
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A woman gathers her property after she was evicted at Namuwongo by Kampala Capital City Authourity (KCCA). Photos by Abubaker Lubowa

Halima Nakafeero was one tenant any landlord would wish to occupy his or her premises. She rented a posh apartment in Bweyogere, in Wakiso District. She paid her rent on time and in full. In fact, many times she paid before due date, much to the liking of her landlord. But that was before she unexpectedly lost her well-paying job. The lack of a steady income meant that in just two months, Nakafeero had defaulted on rent.
The next she heard from her hitherto calm landlord was an order for her to leave the apartment since he had a new tenant. The landlord reasoned that his property was a commercial one on which he was not prepared to incur losses. Nakafeero could not stay in the apartment she could not pay for. She was given two days to vacate the apartment.
Circumstances such as Nakafeero’s where tenants are abruptly evicted are not uncommon. Denis Isabirye was thrown out of his one-room rented house in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb, when he failed to pay rent for two months.
He had rented the house for two years, and just like Nakefeero, he also had a hitch in income, which caused him to default on rent.
His landlord confiscated his 14-inch TV set and a radio in addition to hurling insults at him, wondering how a mature energetic man could fail to pay rent. Isabirye’s landlord demanded he pays rent arrears before giving him back his TV set and radio.

Causes of eviction

Payment of rent, failure of which is the most common cause of eviction of tenants by landlords, is a tenant’s obligation. According to the Civil Procedures Act, a landlord is entitled to recovering rent due to him or her from a tenant. Jane Namaganda Kiriba, a lawyer with Wetaka, Kibirango & Co. Advocates, says these and other provisions must be spelt out in an agreement between the landlord and the tenant prior to occupying the premises.
While such an agreement can either be verbal or written, Kibira advises that it is important the agreement is in written form for evidential or future reference.

Misuse and damage of property
But failure to pay rent as cause of eviction is just one reason. Kiriba a says there are other circumstances and these among others include a tenant carrying out activities in the premises that are contrary to the law such as prostitution which is illegal in Uganda.
It could also be as a result of misuse of the property or malicious damage caused on the premises. Isaac Walukagga, an advocate with Max Advocates says a tenant is liable for prosecution in courts of law on causing malicious damage to the property.
Malicious damage may include pulling out of doors or windows from the house.

Property devaluing
It is also a landlord’s right to make sure his property is not devalued because of the tenant’s activities.
Walukagga explains that a tenant ought not to conduct activity within the premises that would reduce the value of the property or activities that would make certain people less interested in occupying such premises. These include conducting illegal activity such as sale of drugs. He explains that besides being taken to courts of law under such circumstances, a landlord can always evict such a tenant.

Voices

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Landlord
By evicting their tenants without due notice, it is obvious that some landlords either do not know or ignore the rights that ought to be respected before being evicted tenants from premises. Rachael Namirimu, a landlady in Nansana, however, says she respects tenants’ rights. “If I am not satisfied with the behaviour of a tenant, I give him or her notice to vacate, that is spelt out in the agreement; I do not just wake up one day and command them to leave,” she says.
Idris Kiggunddu, a landlord in Bwoyogere agrees, “Some of us have many children something that may cause a fight for property among them upon death, something that can affect the tenant.”

Tenant
Brian Kayondo rents a two-bedroom apartment in Bweyogerere. He says he knows his rights so he cannot be exploited. “Some landlords do not mind occupying their premises as long as you pay them rent but, I ensure we write something (agreement),” he says. “Today we may not have any disagreements but who knows what can happen tomorrow? Only an agreement makes me safe. I ensure all things that can possibly happen are spelt out well and clearly.”
Kayondo says it may not even be the person who let out the premises in the first place but, say, upon his or her demise, his or her children may cause trouble to the tenant who occupied the premises.

Landlod
By evicting their tenants without due notice, it is obvious that some landlords either do not know or ignore the rights that ought to be respected before being evicted tenants from premises. Rachael Namirimu, a landlady in Nansana, however, says she respects tenants’ rights. “If I am not satisfied with the behaviour of a tenant, I give him or her notice to vacate, that is spelt out in the agreement; I do not just wake up one day and command them to leave,” she says.
Idris Kiggunddu, a landlord in Bwoyogere agrees, “Some of us have many children something that may cause a fight for property among them upon death, something that can affect the tenant.”

Tenant
Brian Kayondo rents a two-bedroom apartment in Bweyogerere. He says he knows his rights so he cannot be exploited. “Some landlords do not mind occupying their premises as long as you pay them rent but, I ensure we write something (agreement),” he says. “Today we may not have any disagreements but who knows what can happen tomorrow? Only an agreement makes me safe. I ensure all things that can possibly happen are spelt out well and clearly.”
Kayondo says it may not even be the person who let out the premises in the first place but, say, upon his or her demise, his or her children may cause trouble to the tenant who occupied the premises.

Abuse of tenants’ rights

People whose property was confiscated by the landlord do not know their rights. Justus Tumuhimbise, a property manager at Knight Frank, a real estate developer and management company, says many tenants, especially the less educated ones, do not know their rights.
“Many think once one pays rent that is all, there is nothing he or she is entitled to,” says Tumuhimbise.
The 2010 research on housing by a local organisation, Uganda Human Settlement Network, indicated that in low income housing settings, landlords take advantage of tenants’ ignorance to exploit them.
The exploitation is in form of charging exorbitant rent fees and evicting them without notice for a reasonable time, usually three months unless specified otherwise in the agreement prior to occupying the premises.

Duties of a landlord and what police says

Failure to pay rent, damage caused to the premises or simply the need for a landlord to repossess his or her property among other reasons, may warrant an eviction. Jane Namaganda Kiriba a lawyer with Wetaka, Kibirango & Co. Advocates says whatever the circumstances causing an eviction; landlords must use legal means to evict the tenant. He or she ought to refrain from using illegal means such as beating up the tenant, confiscating property and locking up the premises, in which case the tenant may take legal action against the landlord.
Order XXXVI Rule of the Civil Procedures Rules provides that the landlord can sue the tenant for failure to pay rent or if the tenant’s term has expired but has refused to vacate the premises.
The landlord can also chose to voluntarily refund to the tenant the amount of money paid in rent.
There is often the tendency for either a tenant or landlord to involve the police when eviction disagreements emerge between the two parties.
However, Polly Namaye, the police deputy public relations officer of the Uganda Police ,says the Police do not have a role to play because the relationship between a tenant and landlord is not a criminal but a civil matter. “That is an arrangement a landlord can make with a tenant; police have nothing to do with it,” she says. “And should there be any misunderstanding; such is taken to courts of law.” Namaye however clarifies Police only come in when violence erupts or deemed to erupt so as to maintain or ensure that peace prevails.

Eviction process
• A tenant is given a three months’ notice but the parties can agree otherwise in advance.
• The three months notice must be in written form for clarity and future reference
• After expiry of three months and the tenant has failed to heed the call, the landlord should file an eviction order from court.

Importance of an agreement

The only way you can defend yourself either as a tenant or a landlord is if you signed a tenants’ agreement. Naboth Muhairwe, a partner and Practice Manager at Agaba Muhairwe and Company Advocates states that this document which is normally drafted by the landlord is very crucial.“It helps in structuring the tenant’s relationship with the landlord and also helps the landlord manage their relationship with the tenant. If nothing is put down in writing this is why you see these unnecessary increases in rent where the landlord just decides to increase rent whenever they feel like.”He adds, “It also protects the landlord because the tenant can also decide to leave the house with no prior notice. This will make the landlord loose some revenue. But the agreement must have a period of notice in which the premises can be vacated.”Tenants should ensure that they sign tenant’s agreements before they enter in the house. These agreements must state the rent and of course put in place a period for which the rent is to be reviewed. Nevertheless, with the Rent Restriction Act and the Tenants agreement in place, Patrick Barugahare an Advocates and Legal Consultant with Barugahare & Co Advocates advises that a good relationship between the tenant and the landlord is very important.“Most of the disputes are as a result of poor communication. So it is always important for the tenant to build a good relationship with the landlord, be open and transparent, if they are experiencing financial difficulty, they need to approach the landlord before they come to them,” he says.

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