President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on Saturday, April 25, announcing more measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Kenyatta extended the nationwide curfew and the cessation of movement within Kwale, Nairobi, Kilifi and Mandera by 21 more days. He also announced the appointment of 26,000 more medics in the health program. However, many Kenyans felt dissapointed as Kenyatta failed to address the key and contentious rent issue.
"Dear President Uhuru Kenyatta, kindly suspend all the mortgages and household bills/rent until people can go back to work. That is taking care of your citizens," Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut tweeted as Kenyatta's speech was underway.President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the nation at State House, Nairobi on Wednesday, March 25, 2020PSCU
"No news on rent, electricity, and water bills," one JN Shine also lamented.
Kenyans, from politicians to civil groups and common mwananchi have been urging the government to set up laws that would direct landlords to waive rent payments, as many of them faced the reality of a harsh economy.
Cases of landlords kicking out tenants have been on the rise, with reports of some landlords waiving rent and also providing food for tenants. However, no clear strategy has been set up yet.
On Tuesday, April 14, a report by The Standard detailed that Treasury CS Ukur Yattani affirmed that the state would not compel landlords to waive rent but they were free to do it on their own will.
The CS explained that in so doing, the real estate industry would slow down yet it served as a source of income for the landlords and other clusters of workers.
"We decided that a (rent waiver) could destroy the industry," stated Yattani.
President Uhuru Kenyatta also reiterated the same in previous addresses, lauding landlords who waived rent while playing coy with the issue.
"I note with appreciation that some property owners have reduced monthly rent to help provide a roof over the head of our vulnerable brothers and sisters. In that regard, I urge others to emulate these acts of personal and financial sacrifice. This is a time for compassion and understanding," Kenyatta stated in April 2020.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja moved a bill in the Senate dubbed the Pandemic Response and Management Bill that will look towards cushioning tenants during pandemics. He, however, clarified that the bill does not mean Kenyans would be exempted from paying rent.
"Where a pandemic has affected the financial capacity of a tenant to meet their obligations, the tenant shall give notice in writing to the landlord or contracting party that they are unable to meet their obligations because of the pandemic.
“Upon receipt of a notice, the contracting parties shall enter into an agreement on how the tenant shall meet their obligation at the end of the pandemic,” Sakaja stated in an interview with Citizen TV on Wednesday, April 15.
Analysts, however, argue that without a clear directive, the rampant cases of tenants turning against landlords may rise as Kenyans also seek alternative ways of paying rent, for example, through securing loans.
"Kenyans are taking massive loans to pay rents for over five months, in places where their landlords have not eased terms. Remember the government is playing cagey with the rent issue, not offering an open solution but letting landlords decide whether to waiver rent or not," Financial analyst Nicholas Gachara had earlier on informed Kenyans.co.ke while raising a cause to worry on the rate Kenyans were borrowing loans.
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