Kampala landlords, tenants move to settle rent arrears

Friday August 28 2020
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Mukwano Mall on Martin Road in Kampala. The landlord, Mukwano Group of Companies, has given tenants of the building a three-month rent waiver. PHOTO | KELVIN ATUHAIRE

Nearly five months since President Museveni locked down the country and ordered the closure of malls, arcades, and shops selling non-essential goods, sitting tenants have been pushing government to force landlords not to demand rent for the period.
The tenants want government to compensate the landlords for the time their shops remained shut without any income.
In an apparent move to ease the tenants worries during the lockdown, President Museveni stopped landlords from demanding rent from tenants, saying they either forgo some months or reschedule the payment.
A survey by Saturday Monitor around the city indicates that some landlords heeded the tenants’ call to waive the rent arrears during the lockdown, while others only rescheduled the rent clearance.
Mr Ham Kiggundu, one of the city’s big landlords, said after meeting Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, they expressed willingness to dialogue with the tenants for an agreeable solution.
“We too have loans that we have to pay. We can forego some months, but the tenants also need to pay half [of the rental sum] so that we can achieve a win-win situation,” Mr Kiggundu told journalists after the meeting.
Ms Kyambadde met the traders on August 6, 2020, in Kampala.
However, some landlords have insisted that their tenants pay all the arrears before they access their shops.
Commercial space rent in the city centre varies depending on location and floor of the building a tenant occupies.
Often tenants on the ground floor in an arcade in prime areas, including on Ben Kiwanuka Street, Nabugabo and Kikuubo lanes, pay as high as Shs5m rent for shop space per month.
However, rent for shop spaces in less premier areas are charged at about Shs2m per month.
Mr John Kabanda, the chairperson of Kampala New Generation Traders Association Ltd, said they have written to President Museveni to trigger fresh negotiations on the rent waivers between the tenants and landlords for the months the country was in lockdown.
“I appeal to the President to cause a mediation on this matter to enable the parties arrive at a solution. For now, some landlords are high-handed and focused on only killing the voices of traders, which isn’t easy if their primary pain is not alleviated,” he said.
Given the long period of closure and low business, many tenants have vacated shops, with only a few new entrants.
But some landlords with newly constructed buildings are also cashing in on these new tenants.
For instance, Mr Bosco Muwonge is granting new tenants three months rent-free occupancy in his new building in Kisenyi, downtown Kampala.
Similarly, Crane Services is also giving three months rent-free to fresh tenants in their new buildings at Kisenyi.
Mr Kabanda said other landlords have now reduced rent to attract new tenants.

Landlords that have given waivers

4 MONTHS’ RENT WAIVER
Omar Mandela (White House), Vincent Luyinda (Kooki Towers), Numan (Numak Plaza), Vicent Bugembe (God with us, Nateete), Donald Kananura (Leisure Complex), Bosco Muwonge (Shamba Complex, Ggaggawala Shauriyako and Gwanda Complex).

3 MONTHS’ RENT WAIVER
Haruna Ssentongo (Segawa Market)
2 MONTHS’ RENT WAIVER
Mukwano (Mukwano Arcade, Mukwano Shopping Centre), Agnes Babirye (Hanifa Tower),
Ddembe Lukyamuzi (Ddembe Arcade), Kasiwukira Estate (Angel Plaza), Godfrey Nyenya (Apple Tower), John Ssebalamu (Freedom City, Capital Centre).

abagala@ug.nationmedia.com

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