The relationship between landlord and tenant traced its roots from the colonial period when land became commercialized, and tenants were required to give consideration commonly termed “busulu” to their landlords. Otherwise, people owned land communally, and the kings and chiefs were the overall regulators (for maintaining order, peace, and security) of land. They were not landlords per se though they had a significant influence on land matters.
Due to colonialism, land became commercialized hence the establishments of landlords (landowners) and tenants (pay the landlord money to occupy their land). As a result, Uganda has developed a legal system to handle landlord and tenant relationships issues. However, defects in the existing laws still exist, leading to disharmony between the landlord and tenant.
On 24th September 2021, the Bill was gazetted hence became law. The Bill regulates the relationship between a landlord and a tenant, consolidates and reforms the law about letting out premises, provides for responsibilities of the landlord and tenant during the period when the tenant occupies the landlord's premises.
The landlord and tenant bill 2021 aims at establishing a comprehensive legal framework for the proper development of the landlord and tenant relationship.
The Bill provides for the following:
Part I clause 2 defines a -landlord" as a person who lets premises under a tenancy and includes their duly authorized agent or a person who is in lawful possession of the premises and has the right to let them.
On the other hand, a tenant means a person to whom premises are let under the tenancy.
Part ii deals with tenancy agreements; thus, clause 3 (l) states that tenancy agreements may be made in writing, or by word of mouth, or partly in writing and partly by word of mouth, or by data message or may be implied from the conduct of the parties.
This clause allows flexibility when entering into a contractual relationship between tenant and landlord. However, whichever way you choose to make your contract, it is binding thus enforceable.
However, a tenancy agreement of twenty-five currency points (500,000/=) or more must be in writing or in the form of a data message to be binding and enforceable unless the party admits that they signed such an agreement. The landlord should give a copy of the signed contract to the tenant as provided under clause 5 of part ii of the Bill.
Terms and conditions are provided under part iii; for example, residential premises must fit human living. The landlord repairs the premises whenever damages occur except under circumstances when the tenant is negligent. The landlord must pay installation charges of utilities as well as wastes. However, the tenant incurs utility bills and gas charges as stipulated in part iv. Part v provides for responsibilities and duties of the tenant and landlord; for example, a tenant shall not use premises to conduct illegal activities, be of nuance to the neighbors, do not damage common areas like the water source, and keep premises clean. In return, a landlord shall ensure the tenant's quiet enjoyment of the premises.
This section is essential because rental apartments are occupied by more than tenants in most cases. Therefore, the law regulates how a tenant enjoys their right of occupancy without necessarily interfering with the neighbors, consequently creating harmony in that particular location.
Part vi provides for rent and security deposit, where rent shall be paid in Uganda Shillings as mutually agreed in the tenancy agreement. However, if the tenant defaults in rent payment, the landlord shall seek a court order to recover the rent and other court costs. In addition, the tenant may pay security costs to the landlord as agreed.
The law is unclear about what amount of security a tenant should pay. Also, when does the tenant recover that money, or are they entitled to recover it at all?
Part vii provides that a tenant can sublet the premises as long as they obtain consent from the landlord, and for that purpose, the landlord shall not unreasonably deny such permission. This clause allows people who cannot afford to construct their premises to have an opportunity to be sub- landlords to tenants interested in renting part of their leased premises.
Termination of tenancy is dealt with under part viii, that a tenancy agreement is terminated by an agreement between landlord and tenant, abandonment, and where the tenant vacates the premises.
Part ix deals with eviction, vacation, and related matters; for example, where the Act terminates a tenancy, the tenant shall vacate the premises on the date specified in the notice of termination or such other date set for the vacation of the premises.
The landlord shall vacate the promises.
With these provisions, I can conclude that the new landlord and tenant Bill highlights the legal rights and responsibilities during the existence of the tenancy agreement.
The Author Ms. Beatrice Mbabazi is a lawyer and an enthusiastic reader. Email: [email protected]
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