After more than 10 years of waiting, cabinet ministers on Monday finally approved the Landlord-Tenant Bill, 2018, which is expected to harmonise issues that have been affecting the two parties.
In mid-February this year, the leadership of Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) gave the Prime Minister, who is the leader of government business, approximately one month to ensure that the bill is approved and presented to Parliament or else they would demonstrate.
The proposed law seeks to define the duties and responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in respect of rentable premises, and promote access to adequate housing and other rentable premises.
When the bill is ratified by lawmakers, it is also expected to create a mechanism for proper functioning of the rental market for both residential and commercial premises.
Because of many observed disputes between tenants and landlords, when the law is passed, it will hopefully “establish a Landlords/tenant dispute resolution mechanism.”
To formulate the bill, a number of stakeholders were consulted and these include; all government ministries and local governments, the Uganda Law Reform Commission, the Association of Real Estates Agents (AREA) and the Uganda Home Builders Association (UHBA).
Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), the Housing Tenants Association, the Uganda Law Society, the NGO Forum, the Housing Finance Bank (U) Ltd and Uganda Bankers Association, among others were also involved in the process.
According to an April 10 statement signed by Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, a minister of state for Housing, the main problems that have been affecting landlords and tenants were poor maintenance of rental premises and high defaulting rate in rent and utilities by Tenants.
Baryomunsi also says that “charging of rent in foreign currency, unilateral increase of rent and arbitrary house evictions, lack of privacy on the part of Tenants and poor quality of rentable premises that lack the minimum infrastructure standards” have been extensive issues.
Existence of obsolete laws in the rental housing subsector and reluctance of Landlords to rent their premises to vulnerable groups which they consider as “risky groups” has also worsened the situation.
The bill, according to Baryomunsi’s statement, provides for a Security deposit to be paid by the tenant in advance as a safeguard against any damages to the premises that may be occasioned by the tenant.
The bill also suggests that the tenant will be obliged to pay the rent for premises, pay for the utilities and other charges, utilize the premises only for the intended use, and keep the interior of the premises in good and clean condition.
Additionally, the tenant has to avoid doing anything that would be a nuisance to inconvenience others.
If the tenant is to sublet any part of the premises, he or she, has to ensure the landlord is aware.
In the proposed bill, for a Landlord to increase or decrease rent they should have served the tenant with a prior notice to which the tenant has to respond.
Termination of tenancy by either party, according to the bill, is supposed to be after providing a notice of the intention to terminate the tenancy.
In case a dispute arises, there is a provision in the law for “an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, failure to which, parties are free to seek redress from any competent Court of Law.”
Lawful eviction of the tenant only through a Court order is also provided for in the bill.
Payment in dollars
Recently traders in town were protesting the idea of landlords charging rent in dollars, which implies that when the dollar fluctuates, rent is also affected.
The bill seeks to solve that: “It provides payment of rent in Uganda Shillings in accordance with other laws and gives exception only with mutual agreement between the parties.”
Duties and obligation
The law, if passed, will specify the roles of the tenant and landlord in maintenance of the rented property and an agreement will have to be signed as part of their relationship.
“The Bill makes it mandatory for the Parties to execute a Tenancy Agreement in writing in order to document and provide a framework for their relationship. In making the Agreement, the tenant shall provide a National Identity or Alien Identification card in case of non-citizens,” reads the minister’s statement.
It continues, “It (bill) provides for the duties and obligations of the Landlord and Tenants. The landlord’s responsibility entails providing rentable premises fit for human habitation, payment of property rates and relevant taxes, keeping the exterior of the premises in good condition, and according the tenant peaceful and quiet possession and enjoyment of the premises.”
Good working environment
With the law in place, government and all the involved stakeholders hope that it will “culminate in a reduction of forceful evictions and destruction of lives and property” and there will also “be a conducive environment for investors to increase on the housing units which in turn will lead to a reduction in the housing backlog.”
That being said, government also looks at an increase in security of tenure for occupants, which will lead to increased economic investment in the Housing Sector hence contributing to employment creation and poverty reduction in the Country.
When the bill is approved by legislators and enacted into law, governmet will then commence implementation of the law with financing by the Government of Uganda.
Funds for its public awareness and implementation have been budgeted for, according to Minister Chris Baryomunsi.