Has your landlord increased rent? What you need to know to fight back

A landlord has the right to recover rent arrears through entering the property and confiscating the tenant’s property. PHOTO/TONY MUSHOBORIZI

What you need to know:

  • The Act states that a landlord shall give a tenant at least 60 days’ notice in writing, of the proposed increase in rent.
  • Where a tenant does not object to the increase, it is taken that they have accepted the rent increase. 

Angela Letaru’s landlord increased her rent from Shs750,000 to Shs1.2m at the end of 2023. She had been living in this three-bedroom bungalow for nine months at the time of the abrupt increase. Nine months prior to this, she had left a house of Shs450,000 across town and moved into a house that she could barely afford simply because she had found a school that ticked all the boxes for her son. 

It had been a matter of complete sacrifice to live in a house so expensive. But the landlord did not know this, nor did he care. The landlord attributed the rental increase to a sharp property value appreciation caused by a brand new tarmac road that had just been finished in the area. 

Letaru could not afford the new rate and no amount of pleading could soften the landlord’s heart. He simply told her that if she could not afford the house anymore, she should just leave and find one she could. And that is exactly what she did, not knowing that her rights as a tenant had been trampled on. She did not know that the law protects her from such ludicrous harassment from the landlord. 

states and territories (see the table above) and 30 days in the Northern Territory. If your landlord does not comply with these requirements, you are not obliged to pay the higher rent.

What the law says
According to the Landlord and Tenant Act, 2022, a landlord is not allowed to increase rent at intervals of less than 12 months, and most importantly, he is not allowed to increase the rent by more than 10 percent.
Article 26 of the Act, which is title “Increase of rent” States as follows:
(1) Except where the parties otherwise agree in their tenancy agreement, a landlord shall not increase rent at a rate of more than ten percent annually or such other percentage as may be prescribed by the minister, by statutory instrument.

By the above law alone, the landlord could have been reined in by the authorities and protected the tenant. But either the renter did not realise it at the time or did not want to consult legal minds. 

Tenancy agreement
Just as in the Letaru case above, there are times when your choice to rent a particular property is so pertinent to your plans that any sudden reversal on the part of the landlord throws you into chaos. 

Whether the reason is the need to live close to your workplace because maybe you work night shifts or because you want to stay close to your child’s school or maybe because the rented property is very crucial to your business as the home of the company, you just do not want the tenancy changed abruptly. In such cases, a tenancy agreement is ideal according to experts. 

Cissy Namaganda, a commercial property manager says that to avoid being rudely interrupted, a tenancy agreement stating specific terms one requires of the landlord would save one a lot of stress.

A tenancy agreement is a contract between a landlord and a tenant specifying the terms and conditions of their rental agreement. 

“A tenancy agreement prior to entering the property can stop the landlord from increasing rent for the next three or five years. It can be that or any other terms that you may want so long as you reach an agreement about them. The landlord will be able to put some demands of his own on the table but with a good negation, a win-win situation should be able to be reached. Usually how it works is that for him to agree to certain terms, you must also agree to his terms. But at least you will be sure that your tenancy will not be interrupted without legal redress,” Namaganda says.

The Act gives the tenant the right to predictability in section. It says: (3) A landlord under a fixed term tenancy shall not increase the rent before the term ends, unless the agreement provides for a rent increase within the fixed term.

It should be emphasised that the law forbids a landlord to increase rent (if he must) before 12 months of tenancy have elapsed. Section 4 states: A landlord shall not increase the rent payable under a tenancy at intervals of less than twelve months.

The Act reiterates by concluding article 26 by stating that “increase of rent is invalid if it contravenes this section.” 

Not cast in stone
The Landlords and Tenants Act, 2022, states that the ten percent increase is not cast in stone and not meant to be agreed upon by default on the tenant’s part. Article 27 says that the rent increase can only take effect if the tenant does not object to it or negotiate.

The Act states that a landlord shall give a tenant at least 60 days’ notice in
writing, of the proposed increase in rent.

“Where a tenant does not object to a rent increase or reach an agreement with the landlord on the increase to be effected and the rent increase is in accordance with this Act, the tenant is taken to have accepted the rent increase,” the Act reads in Article 27.

Limit on rent in advance
It has long been the rule of thumb that a tenant pays rent in advance prior to entering a property. While most landlords ask for three months’ worth of rent, others ask for four, six months or a year in advance. This can be a deterrent to the prospective tenant if the landlord is asking for too many months in advance. The Act protects renters in that it doesn’t allow any landlord to ask for rent in advance that exceeds three months. 
Article 24 of the Act which is titled “Limit on rent in advance” states:
(1) Subject to subsection (2), a landlord shall not require a tenant- (a) in the case of tenancy of more than one month, to pay rent more than three months in advance; or (b) in a case of tenancy of less than one month, to pay rent more than two weeks in advance.

But experts are quick to add that if the tenant and the landlord are in agreement for one reason or another, the rent advance can be whatever they both agree on. 

“In cases where negotiations for the tenancy agreement have reached a consensus that the tenant pays more than three months’ rent in advance, Article 24 Subsection (l) does not apply. It only applies if the landlord is pushing for it without the consent of the prospective tenant. Then in that case it is illegal and the tenant is protected,” Namaganda says.

Security deposit
Article 30 of the Landlords and Tenants Act, 2022 lays down the parameters that govern the security deposit or “security month” as it is known in the industry. This is meant to protect both the landlord and the tenant.
Section one of article 30 titled “Security deposit” state: A landlord shall require a tenant to pay a security deposit for the purposes of securing the performance by the tenant of his or her obligations under a tenancy. 

This means that the deposit is meant to repair any damages that may be caused by the tenant during his stay. But the Act goes further to protect the tenant by requiring the landlord to put in writing what exactly the security deposit will cover. 

Section 3 states:  The landlord shall specify to the tenant in writing the terms and conditions under which the security deposit or any part of it may be withheld by the landlord upon termination of the tenancy.
“In reality, most landlords never put it in writing what the security month will be used for at the end of the tenancy. The result is that most times, the security month has become a blanket insurance for everything from an overgrown lawn to a leaky roof to a malfunctioning old tap. This should not be. It should cover damages that as a result of misuse, not wear and tear,” Namaganda says.  

Section two of Article thirty bars the landlord from requiring more than one month of security deposit. Luckily, cases are rare where this happens. 

It states: A landlord shall not require more than one security deposit or require the payment of, or receive, under a security deposit, an amount exceeding the rent payable for one month’s occupancy of the premises to which the agreement relates or one-twelfth of the rent for one year’s occupancy of the premises to which the agreement relates, whichever is the lesser.

Article 29 protects landlords from defaulting tenants. Section one states: Where a tenant defaults in paying rent and is in arrears, the landlord may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to recover the rent owed.

The new law gives the landlord a right to re-enter the premises and take possession in the presence of an area local council official and the police if the rent default continues for a period of more than thirty days.