The Landlord and Tenant Bill 2018 unfairly targets landlords

Monday September 9 2019



John Musiime

John Musiime 

By John Musiime

In passing the Landlord Tenant Bill, 2018, Parliament clearly sought to appease tenants by unfairly targeting landlords.
The House played to the gallery on calculation that tenants are more votes than landlords. In the process, however, the law enacted turned out lopsided, unreasonable and discriminatory.
It runs counter to government’s correct policy of a private sector-led growth in a free market economy. It risks to be a major setback on the buzzing housing sector which supports the clays, cement and steel industries.
In clause 3 (3), for example, the Bill places the obligation to keep records of the tenancy on the landlord but exempts the tenant. It requires the landlord to keep the immigration records of a non-citizen tenant but exempts the non-citizen tenant from doing so.
Clause 6 requires the landlord to ensure that the premises, handed over to the exclusive possession of the tenant in habitable condition, continue to be so.
One would have imagined that obligation would naturally lie on the party with the exclusive possession of the premises.
Clauses 7 and 20 are similar. They respectively require the landlord to keep the premises maintained in a good state of repair and ensure that they are free from health hazards yet the premises are in the exclusive possession of the tenant.
The Bill criminalises the landlord for making false and misleading statements yet the tenant has no similar criminalisation for the same acts or omissions.
Clause 28 of the Bill in effect bans rental increments. A rental increase can only take effect when a tenant does not object to it. In a free market economy, the most effective protest by a tenant to a rental increment is to leave the premises.
In Clause 51, the landlord is barred from “annoying” the tenant. No reciprocal bar applies to the tenant. This absurdly suggests that a tenant is permitted to annoy the landlord.
Recent court cases involving the element of “annoying” have presented their now well publicised difficulties. Why would the August House target a section of Ugandans with such an unashamedly unfair law?
Article 21 of the Constitution bars the discrimination of people on the basis of economic standing-real or imagined
The legislators appear to have been obsessed with Kampala arcade owners but in the process, they failed to look at the entire country in proper perspective.
Even in its view of arcade owners, Parliament paid no heed to the billions of shillings and the thousands of jobs that the said arcades create.
Readers might recall the paralysis and economic frustration that was caused when a few of the arcades were closed by their owners for some days.
In many other cases, landlords, far from being tycoons, are widows, orphans, and retired civil servants whose only source of income is rental income from a property bequeathed by a deceased relative or built out of a life’s savings or on a bank loan.
Corporate tenants such as commercial banks, which by law, rent all their branches, are invariably in a much stronger position than the landlord.
Former landlords of the failed Kenyan supermarket chain, Nakumatt, must still be reeling with the pain of financial loss after this “anchor tenant” left them in the cold with rent arrears in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Bill would leave them in an even worse position because it is steeped in favour of an even defaulting tenant.
The case that the Landlord and Tenants Bill, 2018 is bad economics which will spell Venezuela like doom for the growing housing industry has been ably made by other writers.

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