In the absence of a National Policy on privately owned rented houses in Uganda,landlords are at liberty to cheat,harass and abuse the people who actually occupy their houses as tenants without the authority checking their powers.There are inadequate houses in the country put up solely by the Central government to accommodate those in need at affordable charges at the moment as it was in the previous political regimes.
This means that the people especially the teenagers who live Colleges and Universities add accommodation to the list of the problems they face as they look for employment or create their own income generating activities.Colonial governments and subsequent regimes in the country had identified this problem and build housing Estates they put under the administration of the Town Boards or Town councils- namely among the many housing estate build by the central government is Walukuba and Mpumudde housing estate in Jinja town,Nagulu, Bugoloobi and Ntinda in the city of Kampala.
With the population growth, the mentioned housing estates became inadequate and a liability to the administrative units where they are.Councils failed to maintain them by providing necessary amenities like public conveniences,roads and passages,community centers,playing fields and general rehabilitation of such houses.It become worse when the central government pulled out of the administration and ownership of industries in the country.” It became very expensive to provide meaningful services to the occupants of the housing estates under the administration of Jinja Municipal Council, that the authority decided to sale the houses to their sitting tenants with the conditions that the recipients build new houses according to the plans provided” Mawerere Peter,Walukuba/Masese division Town clerk said.
It is against this background therefore that people with enough money and land grabbed the opportunity and put up buildings in many parts of the country for accommodation and tap the available rent fees – became the known Landlords.Landlords build houses every where,in villages,towns and cities that became commercial buildings typically for business and residential purposes.Many houses were build at sub standards without latrines,toilets and other very important basic requirements,like kitchens and bathrooms but this did not deter them from renting them out.
These are the people who make life of their house occupants very difficult.They rent out houses expensively and like to collect money in American Dollars and always demand prompt payment of rent.These are the people who collect rent without formal documents,like receipts that are used as acknowledgement of payments of rental fees.These are people who keep the tenants especially women in fear on addition to demanding sex whenever female tenants take long to pay rent These are the people who do not want to hear that their houses do not have required amenities and lack water.They always burk at their tenants saying that if they ( tenants) can not bear with such conditions in what they call meantime they should live their houses empty to those who desperately need them. Many houses on market leak and owners do not care to rehabilitate the roofs provided the tenants continue to pay rent.
Such unholy conditions that house hold occupants go through under the angry hands of their Landlords notwithstanding,landlords use the Local council executive village members,the police,and the courts of law to rob and harass their tenants who seemingly become stubborn ” I stayed in a leaking house with four of my children,without a latrine and bathroom for ten years.Whenever I paid the monthly rental fees to my elderly landlord I was made to sign in an exercise book brought by him whenever he come to collect the money from me but kept the book without giving me a copy to acknowledge that I paid his rental fees even when I demanded for it severally.Matters become worse when my landlord demanded for sex which I refused.He lodged a suit in Njeru town council Magistrates court that I had defaulted 135000 shillings and demanded for a six million shillings for so called Damages.I am now pondering to use the services of women lawyers to help me out of this problem” Kigozi Gertrude of Buziika village lamented.
She added that landlords use the ignorance of their tenants and harass them in the courts of law ” they use the law and attach our hardly acquired property when we fail to pay the so called damages.What generally surprises us is that those in leadership positions keep mum when they actually see that their is no equity between the tenants and their landlords.” the law does not actually favor the poor and the vulnerable class of people” Kigozi Gertrude concluded.
Silence is now the order of the day when it comes to social issues and human harassment in a country like Uganda.People who are supposed to intervene are actually driven by the love for money and corruption.Unless the Parliament comes out this time with an Act governing the relationship between the tenants in privately owned houses and the landlords,the latter will continue to take advantage of its absence and make life of the former even more difficult.Meanwhile,local and central governments should once again invest in the building of rent able houses because it is a lucrative business.Lawyers,magistrates and any one working in the courts of law should not only look at the money that a suit lodged against a tenant bring but at the truthfulness of the matter and the financial ability of the accused as they pronounce judgement against the accused.What do you have to say about this commentary my dear reader?.