In Summary
  • In an attempt to find a lasting solution to conflicts between landlords and tenants, government has introduced the Landlord-Tenant Bill, 2018.
  • Tenants have been surviving at the mercy of landlords.
  • There is a clause in the Bill that seems to be more contentious. It states: “All rent obligations or transactions shall be expressed, recorded and settled in shillings, unless otherwise provided for under any enactment.’’

In an attempt to find a lasting solution to conflicts between landlords and tenants, government has introduced the Landlord-Tenant Bill, 2018. Tenants have been surviving at the mercy of landlords. Some landlords, especially in Kampala, in the absence of a law, have been to exploiting their tenants by charging them rent in dollars. There is a clause in the Bill that seems to be more contentious. It states: “All rent obligations or transactions shall be expressed, recorded and settled in shillings, unless otherwise provided for under any enactment.’’

There is a section of property owners in Kampala that are opposed to this clause and one of the reasons they give is that they borrow money in dollars to build arcades hence they demand rent in dollars to take care of inflation. With some of the property owners vehemently opposed to the cited clause, government is beginning to ‘speak in tongues’. There have been media reports that indicate that government is likely to succumb to the demands of these property owners, implying that the clause that demands all obligations to be settled in shillings is likely to be amended.

Drafting a law requires a lot of resources - time, getting a nod from the Ministry of Finance a process known as Certificate of Financial Implication (CIF), etc. Before, coming out with a final position, government should consult widely. More so, it should gather more views on the tenants side given that the Bill came out as result of the outcry by tenants against landlords’ exploitation.

Any decision government takes will have a big impact on the economy. Therefore, government should not succumb to the selfish interests of a section of businessmen/women and the rich in the country.
In case government comes out with a position that leaves landlords to determine which currency they should be paid in rent, it will have exacerbated the problem that the law seeks to cure. The fear is, even property owners who were initially reluctant to charge rent in dollars, will also start to demand rent in dollars.

Lastly, if government leaves the landlords to determine rent as well as the currency they should be paid, this is likely to set a bad precedent where every time government comes out with a position that is unfavourable to a section of business people, they will be coming out to demonstrate and hold government on tenterhooks to submit to their whims.
The question is, who will be making crucial decisions that have a national outlook? Won’t this degenerate into what is akin to the phrase ‘State capture’ that we used to hear when Mr Jacob Zuma was still president of the Republic of South Africa?
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