In less than a month, the lives of many Kenyans have changed dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the entire world. People are losing their jobs, others are struggling to buy basic foodstuff. It has gotten to a point where some don’t even know how they’ll pay rent.
Many people are feeling the effects of coronavirus in different ways. When it comes to real estate and renting, there is a sense of fear. People might not be able to raise rent money for the coming months. Will landlords reduce their rental prices or will they consider giving a waiver for a specific period?
#SinaRent on Twitter
Last week, there was a #SinaRent trend on Twitter where people were sharing stories on how the pandemic has affected their livelihoods. With the government’s directive of staying home, some people don’t have that luxury because their jobs don’t allow them to. Others have been let go from their jobs because companies are unable to pay salaries. Tenants are getting evicted. Some landlords are threatening to auction their belongings.
Here is what you need to know with regards to paying rent.
The Government Must Step In
Yes, you have to continue paying rent as you normally would. The only way this will change is if the government steps in and withdraws certain tenancy laws. The Landlords and Tenants Association of Kenya, sat with the landlords and property owners of Kenya to try and see whether it was possible to reduce rent.
They have petitioned the government to consider withdrawing the relevant laws that govern tenancy. Once the government withdraws that law, then only will the willing landlords consider a three-month rent waiver for tenants, this is according to the Secretary-General of the Association. They have not received official communication from the government hence you will continue paying rent as usual unless you have a generous, kind landlord.
Landlords Pay Residental Rental Tax
Landlords submit 10% Rental Tax to KRA on or before the 20th of every month. They pay this tax once after receiving rent either monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or at the end of the year. However, they need to file their returns monthly. For the landlords who pay their taxes religiously, they might not be in a position to allow you to live rent-free because they won’t be able to pay this tax.
Alternatively, the other option would be for the landlords to reduce the rent price to an amount which will enable them to still pay the KRA taxes. All this depends on the agreement you make with your landlord.
Property Owners Have Loans to Pay
There are stories of generous landlords who have reduced rent for their tenants and others who are allowing them to live rent-free until things get better. But not every landlord is in a position to do so. Most property owners have mortgages to pay and they use your rent money to service the loan. They are arguing that if tenants don’t pay rent, how will they finish paying their mortgages?
Banks then need to step in as well and extend payment periods for paying the loan. However, this means higher interest rates. Some banks are already offering different payment plans to their customers. NCBA Bank Kenya Plc, for instance, is giving an extension of loan repayment by up to 12 months and absorbing the bank-levied restructuring charges.
Other Expenses Apart from Mortgages
There are property owners who don’t have bank loans to service but they do have other expenses to pay. They rely on the rental income to survive and are not able to provide free housing because this will affect them negatively.
Communicate with your Landlord in Advance
At the end of the day, the relationship you have with your landlord matters a lot. If you are having financial constraints and you are not in a position to pay your rent, speak to the landlord. Explain your situation before the due date not after it has passed. Find a plan of how you will settle it and by when. Some landlords are more lenient than others and having a conversation can come in handy at such times.
Good tenants can receive this kind gesture from their landlords. A good tenant is one who pays their rent on time, maintains the house in good conditions, does not complain every time and follows the rules stipulated on the contract. It is hard for a landlord to consider reducing your rent if you are a rent defaulter.
Many people are feeling scared and wondering when this situation will come to an end. Others are worried they might not be able to pay their monthly rent moving forward. We don’t know how the coming weeks and months will look like. This matter requires mutual understanding from all the parties involved, starting with the government, landlords and tenants.