Court of Appeal orders businessman Lubega to pay Shs 300m for illegally evicting tenants
- Written by URN
The Court of Appeal has ordered Kampala businessman, Drake Lubega to pay up to the tune of Shs 300 million to tenants whose shop he illegally closed.
In a unanimous ruling, the court said Lubega had failed to prove that High court judge, Elizabeth Jane Alividza had erred in law and fact when she found him liable for causing financial loss to his tenants after closing their shop and selling their merchandise.
“The respondents discharged their burden to prove that the appellant was liable for the loss arising from his actions. Thereafter, it was incumbent upon the appellant to adduce evidence to prove his contention that his actions were in the capacity as an agent or officer of Tesco Industries Limited, the appellant completely fell short in that aspect. He neither pleaded nor adduced any evidence to rebut the respondents' evidence of personal liability, instead, the appellant opted to raise those issues in the written submissions filed before the trial court."
It further states that "the trial court cannot be faulted for finding the appellant liable for the closure of the respondents' shop and conversion of their merchandise…ln a nutshell, the appellant has no valid basis in law and fact to fault the trial judge for holding him personally liable. Grounds 1,2,3,4 and 5 would accordingly fail,” the judgment written by justice Muzamiru Kibedi reads in part.
The judges found that Lubega was able to show that the damages for which he had been ordered to pay were excessive. Hence, they ordered that instead of paying Shs 350 million in exemplary damages, he instead pays Shs 150 million. However, the judges didn’t reduce the Shs 150 million that was awarded as general damages.
“The circumstances of this case, the award of the general damages of Shs 150 million was not a manifestly erroneous estimate of the loss and damage suffered by the respondents, and neither was it arrived at based upon wrong principles of law. l, thus, find no reason to fault the exercise of the learned trial judge's discretion in deciding the way she did. I would accordingly reject the appellant's complaint in respect thereof,” Kibedi’s judgment reads in part.
Christopher Saazi who was also a defendant in the High court was a tenant on Plot 6 Nakivubo Road, Kampala. He sublet part of his premises to Teopista Nabbale who was also a defendant in the original suit.
Nabbale sold her space to Robert Lubega who was the first respondent as goodwill at Shs 30 million, she subsequently introduced him to Saazi. Lubega also let out part of the same space to Megan Joan Namutebi, Josephine Nassali, Emma Ndugwa, Musa Ndaula and Alex Bwanika all of whom were the respondents in the matter.
All the five used to deal in women's clothes and other goods, and would pay their rent to Lubega who would then pay Saazi who would also pay Anil Shamji, the owner of the building. However, on June 10, 2014, Shamji wrote a letter addressed to all tenants notifying them that the property was sold to Tesco lndustries Limited owned by Drake Lubega.
On assuming ownership, Lubega first closed the building and then increased the rent from Shs 2.5 million to Shs 5 million and asked that all tenants pay six months' rent in advance. The tenants said they couldn’t and asked that their shops be opened so that they remove their merchandise whichLubega refused.
Subsequently, their merchandise was removed and resold, prompting them to seek court redress. The High court ruled in their favour awarding Shs 500 million prompting Lubega to appeal the decision which he lost.
There always must be a kind of "symbiotic" living between the landlord and the tenants. By demeaning the tenants and taking the law in his own hands, Drake has realized that that action was ill-fated.
Now the tenants have won the case, then what for Drake? Shame? We should all try to live together in harmony, and this should serve as a lesson, not only to he tycoons with big arcades, but to any landlord. What you do to your tenants will be totally your success or your downfall. Drake has learn the hard way!