President Yoweri Museveni on April 12, 2022 assented to The Landlord and Tenant Act, 2022.
Among the things that have been introduced in the landlord-tenant relationship, is the power of the landlord to evict the defaulting tenant on short notice. The landlord is also empowered to confiscate the tenant’s property and through court processes sell it and make good of the debt.
What is not clear is what happens if the value of the property confiscated does not suffice or is more than the amount of money owed. What happens to the balance? The law does not indicate what kind of property is exempt from sale.
For instance, if the defaulting person is a company, is the landlord entitled to confiscate all property, even tools of trade such as tables, in company possession in order to recover the rent owed? What happens to government agencies where certain property is exempted from sale?
Can the landlord sell a defaulter’s plates, spoons and necessities of life in order to recover the debt? The minister responsible must come up with the necessary regulations to guide on what can be confiscated and not.
Whereas the law states that the landlord may repossess the premises in the presence of the local council member and police, it is common knowledge that these enforcement agencies are not agents of justice and usually they dance to the tunes played by the paying piper.
The law is too rigid in the sense that it does not envision unpredictable disasters like the outbreak of unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, which led to national lockdown of business and limited movement of persons. If this law had been approved during the Covid-19 lockdown, many tenants would have been evicted or lost property for failure to pay rent in time.
Whereas the preamble of the law claims that it is a law intended to regulate the relationship between a tenant and landlord, the law is mainly skewed against the tenant. There are telltale signs that the landlord lobby group carried the day.
This law should borrow a leaf from the Mortgage Act, which does not give possession powers of the mortgagor’s property to the lending bank straightaway.
The person who stakes his property for a bank loan as security is allowed several notices before a bank can proceed to sell the security in order to repay the loan. There are also several remedies in between before execution proceedings are carried out.
Therefore, the parliament should revisit, and amend some of the unfair provisions of the Act. Or the minister should come up with regulations which should modify some of the provisions, given that some of them may deprive people of their property.
We need a law that takes care of the socio-economic circumstances of those it intends to govern or regulate.