The sour relationship between tenants and their landlords over failure to honour tenancy responsibilities has been a major cause of concern. Tenants, both in residential houses and business premises, accuse their landlords of using illegal means to increase rent.
Landlords on the other hand say property value appreciates monthly and increasing the rent is, therefore, an overriding prerequisite.
Tenants also say that property owners serve them with eviction notices a week after the agreed grace period to pay them. Other landlords also stand accused of bullying tactics like disconnecting electricity and water before ambushing a tenant with auctioneers.
Property pundits agree that landlords have recently perfected the art of evictions even when the law requires them to go through tribunals.
Some landlords tell tenants to move out to enable them rehabilitate the premises, which is just a cover up before they bring in new occupants and charge them more.
Conveyances (property lawyers), however, say the tug of war between tenants and landlords exists over failure to enter lease agreements.
Lillian Kabatesi a worker at Rwandatel says she moved out of her previous house in Gikondo after her landlady made her life miserable.
“My salary had delayed for a week and the owner disconnected both the electricity and water supply,” Kabatesi says. She had explained her predicament to the landlady that salaries would delay.
“I used to pay frw80, 000 per month but she (landlady) insisted she wanted rent promptly and increased it to frw100, 000,” Kabatesi says. She moved out this month, and the new tenant is paying frw120, 000 for the three-bed roomed house.
Valerie Mukanyirigira, a widow who owns a commercial house, says she has evicted three tenants over the past two years over unpaid rent. Mukanyirigira says property owners are always at a fix when tenants fail to honour their part of agreements.
“There are tenants who are a thorn in the flesh as they are rarely seen at the end of the month before issuing a series of excuses for non-payment of rent,” she says.
Devothe Uwingabire who lives in Kanombe says she talked her husband into buying their current family house to escape the nightmare that is perpetual increments of rent.
“Rent kept increasing at an alarming rate and our calculations showed it was better to take a mortgage after paying 20 per cent of the sale price as deposit,” Uwingabire says.
She says their tenancy agreement had provisions that the landlord repairs and maintains the house, which were never honored. “Our expenditure in rent of frw120, 000 per month, which increased twice a year, was unimaginable as we financed repairs that were not part of the contract,” Uwingabire says.
She argues that it is better to use the amount on mortgage and eventually have the house for keeps.
“We are now free as a family from the hustles of explaining to the landlord why rent may delay or engage in verbal exchanges over unfair increments,” Uwingabire says.
The Landlord and Tenants Act imposes restrictions on a controlled tenancy if he/she increases the rent or terminates the tenancy at will. The landlord is required to issue a tenant with a notice and is essentially prevented from evicting him/her without referring the dispute to the local leaders.
Tenants also have a right to oppose evictions or termination of tenancy by opposing the application of the landlord. It is difficult for the landlord to terminate the tenancy as tenants are protected by the law.
However, both parties are required to have their agreement in writing for purposes or clarity and rules that guide the relationship.
Landlords should ensure that tenants enjoy their rights and protect them against interference by agents. It is illegal for landlords to demand to view the rented property before issuing reasonable notice to the tenant and at a convenient time, such owners are liable to complain for trespass.
Residential houses and commercial premises must be fit for the purposes, which they are rented and the owner must disclose defects the tenant cannot discover ordinarily.
Most property laws bestow on the landlord the responsibilities of maintenance of roofs, walls, drains, common passageways and installation.
Tenants should pay their rent as agreed before they moved into the property unless the house or premise is destroyed and inhabitable.
The law, however, offers no remedies to proprietors at the mercy of occupants who have defaulted on their monthly payments. The landlord should not break into the house unless the tenant has removed some belonging.
The parties (tenant and landlord) may sue for damages, seek injunctions especially if the breach is continuous or forfeit the tenancy agreement.
Occupants can terminate their tenancy by issuing an appropriate notice or by effluxion of time, when the agreed period expires.