Kampala, Uganda | URN | Tenants in Kampala’s commercial buildings are calling on President Yoweri Museveni to quickly assent to the Landlord-Tenant Act 2018, saying it would help resolve the current conflicts over rent and other issues.
This comes as the two sides fail to agree on whether to have the rent arrears accumulated during the four-month COVID-19 lockdown paid in full or waived. The tenants say that leaving the decisions to individual landlords is not tenable and that there should be a government policy that would create harmony between landlords and tenants.
Efforts by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives as well as President Yoweri Museveni to resolve the impasse have not born much fruit because the negotiations ended prematurely.
During the negotiations between the tenants and landlords, as the two parties were waiting for the second session with the president, he issued a directive that no landlord should evict anyone over rent arrears accumulated during the lockdown.
But the tenants say that while this caused some relief to them, it was not comprehensive because it does not address the concerns of the landlords, yet they have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which they never foresaw.
Kwebiiha Muzamiru, the public relations officer of Kampala Arcaders Advocacy Forum, KAAF, says landlords who have waived rental fees for that period have restored good relations with the tenants because it enables the traders to continue operating, while those who maintain the demand for the arrears are losing their tenants.
The law passed last year is aimed at regulating the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, including providing for a written agreement where the value of rent is more than 500,000 Shillings.
It also provides that in case of failure to recover rent arrears, the landlord must seek court redress, before evicting the tenant.
Kwebiiha says if the law was operational by now, it would go a long way in resolving some issues, but that the current laws cannot apply to today’s housing environment.
Many landlords say they have to recover the rent arrears because they have bank loans they are servicing. The recent Bank of Uganda reductions in its base lending rates have not helped much, as many commercial banks have maintained high-interest rates, making loan servicing hard.
However, Kwebiiha notes that many owners of commercial buildings and other large business got loans from foreign banks, which do not have the kind of policies like loan restricting as is the case with Uganda.
Last month, businessman Hamis Kiggundu announced that he was writing ff all his tenants’ outstanding rental arrears to zero. According to Ham, the move was intended to give chance to his tenants to regain stability in their businesses after enduring months of no work and no earnings as the country was locked down to forestall the spread of the pandemic.
But several landlords have remained silent, many of them demanding rent from traders even for months when there was no business activity.