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Landlords decry ‘tenant power’

Paul Nyakazeya

THE current rent laws which give so much power to the tenants should be changed if property owners are to realise value on their investment, a property consultant has said.

Stanley Kufa, who has been in the real estate industry for over 20

years, said the rent law which gave too much power to tenants was frustrating property owners and costing them billions they could otherwise be getting.

“It is not easy (to evict the tenant) and many people found this out to their cost. Our rent regulation and inefficiency of our court system combined, put tenants of residential properties in a powerful position than the landlord,” Kufa said.

He said the rent laws had become the biggest threat to investors in real estates who feel frustrated when they want to hike their rent or sell the buildings.

Kufa said while leasing was a viable alternative to selling, especially when prices are depressed, a wait-and-see attitude could backfire as tenants might later refuse to vacate. 

Kufa said at times careless tenants could also lead to the depreciation of property value as they fail to maintain it due to inflation. 

“Such people (tenants) could be a problem when you want them to vacate.”

“In some incidents when the owner decides to sell in frustration, they refuse to allow agents or prospective buyers’ access,” said Kufa.

“The house would in the end become unsaleable except at a give away price, resulting in the owner losing a lot of income if the house is evaluated,” added Kufa.

The economic situation has resulted in many tenants neglecting routine maintenance.

It has also seen an increase in disputes over rentals between landlords and tenants. Other cases have spilled into court.

It is against this background that most estate agents have been advising prospective landlords to tread carefully and make themselves fully aware of the implications of the rent regulations before they decide to let their properties.

It is illegal to increase rent on residential property without a rent order.

“With the current inflation levels, landlords have ignored such regulation. With the shortage of accommodation, tenants in most cases suffer in silence,” Kufa said.

He said the Rent Board was known to disallow increases even when the tenant agrees.

“Imagine how difficult it can be to have an increase enforced when the tenant resists. One cannot ask a tenant to vacate a property other than on very specified and limited grounds,” said Kufa.

He said it now appears that if one decides to let his property, they would no longer be in control, but the tenant would be.

“Even if you are lucky enough to have grounds to evict a tenant who you no longer wish to occupy your property, it might take you months or years to have your rights enforced,” said Kufa, who said a review of the whole
process is long overdue.

Some property analysts last week told businessdigest  that the reason why most blocks of flats in Zimbabwe have been sold on an individual flat-by-flat basis is that the original owners found that the rent regulation had destroyed their investment.

They were getting unreasonable returns, yet they were the proud owners of the diminishing asset — property.

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