COVID-19 EFFECTS

ICJ: Cushion struggling tenants from cruel landlords

Some have pulled off the roofing of houses while others have removed the doors to force unpaying tenants out

In Summary

• President Uhuru Kenyatta has been pleading with landlords to be merciful on their tenants and reach amicable agreements. 

• Says the Rent Tribunal should not issue eviction orders in favour of landlords in order to protect the tenants. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has been pleading with landlords to be merciful on their tenants and reach amicable agreements, including waiving or reducing the rent fees
President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has been pleading with landlords to be merciful on their tenants and reach amicable agreements, including waiving or reducing the rent fees
Image: FILE

The state should stop the eviction of rent defaulters so long as Covid-19 restrictions stay in place and stop all house demolitions, a rights lobby has said.

The Kenyan section of International Commission of Jurists said that the Rent Tribunal, in particular, should not issue eviction orders in favour of landlords in order to protect the tenants, especially in the face of the ongoing rains and hard economic times Kenyans are grappling with due to the virus containment measures.

“The Rent Tribunal to avoid issuing eviction orders for persons with rent arrears during this period and instead advocate for alternative amicable arrangements between landlord and tenant agreements,” it said in a communiqué.

 
 

It summarised a webinar that explored the possible interventions to help those socially and economically vulnerable due to the Covid-9 situation.

The plea for state intervention in addressing the rent default situation comes in the backdrop of sustained media reports over the last three months that show landlords using crude means to evict tenants who have defaulted.

Some have pulled off the roofing of the houses while others have been reported to remove the doors to force the unpaying tenants out.

Other landlords have disconnected water meters for their tenants while others have approached the rent tribunal for the orders.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been pleading with landlords to be merciful on their tenants and reach amicable agreements, including waiving or reducing the rental fees.

The ICJ said besides coming to the rescue of the tenants hit by the economic times, the Ministry of Labour should update its list of beneficiaries of the Inua Jamii Programme to accommodate as many vulnerable senior citizens who qualify to alleviate their suffering.

“[We] urge the Labour CS to incorporate the use of cashless fund transfer to ensure that elderly persons who are vulnerable are able to access their monies without having to travel to banking halls,” it said.

 
 

It also wants the government stimulus package to cater to persons both in the formal and informal sector, noting that the current package only benefits those employed in the formal sector.

The lobby also wants safe houses and shelters established to cater to homeless persons who are affected by the demolitions and street families.

ICJ also wants the Interior ministry to halt all demolitions and instead allow for dialogue between the parties to ensure Kenyans are not left homeless and exposed to Covid-19.

In fact, it said, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19 Situation should summon Interior CS Fred Matiang'i to explain the demolition exercises in Ruai, Kariobangi and other parts of the country. 

Edited by R.Wamochie