In Summary
  • Ms Cynthia Oduor decided to rent out her four-bedroom house in Umoja to boost her monthly income. But it was more difficult than she had imagined.
  • Apart from the language barrier, foreign tenants sometimes pay in foreign currency, and if the tenant comes from a war-torn country, irregular cash flow from their country can lead to late payments.
  • One of the tenants moved out in the middle of the night unnoticed. She had two months’ rent arrears and was a foreigner so we could not trace her easily.

After moving from Nasra Estate in Umoja to Westlands, which was more accessible and convenient to and from work, Ms Cynthia Oduor decided to rent out her four-bedroom house in Umoja to boost her monthly income. But it was more difficult than she had imagined.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

“Finding a Kenyan who was willing to pay Sh45,000 a month was almost impossible,” says Ms Oduor, a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). With no potential client in sight she was desperate, and was considering lowering the rent when a foreigner came by looking for a house.
“Within two weeks, they had signed a contract, and the tenant had paid rent plus a month’s deposit. I thought I had found the right tenant and was overjoyed, little knowing that my happiness would be short-lived,” she says.

Three months later, trouble started: the tenant paid only the rent, but not the electricity or water bills, apparently believing that the Sh45,000 she was paying was inclusive of all other expenses, except food. And this even though there was an interpreter during the signing of the contract to explain things to her.

But apart from the language barrier, foreign tenants sometimes pay in foreign currency, and if the tenant comes from a war-torn country, irregular cash flow from their country can lead to late payments, says Ms Oduor.

She says the terms of engagement were clearly stipulated in the contract but for some reason, the tenant did not understand them.
“ Sometimes I had to go for the rent in person, contrary to the mode of payment we had been agreed upon, “she recounts, adding bitterly, “by the time we agreed that she vacate the premises, I was left with huge outstanding electricity and water bills to settle.”

Ms Oduor says that despite many foreigners’ ability to pay for houses, housing them is a big gamble. “This is because if the tenant decides to pack up and leave, tracing them is a nightmare because with a passport, they can easily move to another country,” she says.

SKETCHY TENANTS

Marie Koech, 22, a student at Kenyatta University whose mother is a landlady in Eldoret, also knows the risk of renting out a house to a foreigner.

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