- When a tenant pays via M-Pesa or AirtelMoney, the system updates itself in real time.
- The property managers and agents using the platform pay two per cent commission on the value of the monthly rental income.
- For properties that kenyasoko.com manages directly, landlords and developers pay them five per cent commission on the value of the rental income.
For many years, Mr George Kamunge, a landlord in Nairobi’s Tassia Estate, used to receive proceeds from his apartments late in the month.
“I was using an agent to manage the apartments. The rent would be wired into my bank account on the third week of the month, yet I knew that tenants were religiously paying within the first week. There was little that I could do about it,” Mr Kamunge said.
His is a narrative shared by many other landlords.
Mr Kamunge’s big break came in 2017 when he joined kenyasoko.com, a web-based platform that manages data for rental houses including rent collection, payments and any vacant houses. The platform brings together landlords, real estate property managers, real estate agents and tenants.
“Right now I automatically know how much was paid today and yesterday. I get updates on my phone whenever a tenant deposits rent,” Mr Kamunge said. “Besides, all the money comes straight to my account then I pay kenyasoko.com property managers their commission,” he added.
“In case a house falls vacant, the kenyasoko.com team actively looks for a new tenant. They advertise online. They also follow on their agents to ensure the apartments remain clean and are well-serviced,” Mr Kamunge added.
Mr Francis Wanjohi, a property agent at Frawa Agencies in Donholm is one of the agents using the kenyasoko.com platform to ease property and rent management undertakings. “Tenants use a Paybill number to pay their rent via M-Pesa,” Mr Wanjohi said. This, he added, saves time for both the tenants and the agents.
“Neither do tenants go to queue in the bank to deposit their rent, nor do I go collecting deposit slips,” he added.
He said the fact that the system updates itself automatically whenever money is deposited to the Paybill number makes it more convenient. “I know who has paid without visiting the premises to enquire.”
Mr Victor Mungai, the owner of the kenya.soko.com business is also a landlord residing in the United States.
Together with his two Kenyan friends in the US, Mr Mungai, a landlord in Nairobi, decided to develop a digital platform to ease their woes.
“Our rent proceeds were being mismanaged. It was difficult to even net 50 per cent of the total rent collection by the end of the month as agents always lied about vacant houses. We had to do something,” Mr Mungai said.
It is then that Mr Mungai and his three friends engaged a software developer to create the rent management system. “We are happy now that the system has enhanced transparency and accountability as it updates all the payments automatically and wires them straight from Paybill to the respective bank account,” he added.
The platform has three user interfaces — for tenants, landlords and property agents/managers.
“Each landlord, tenant, property manager or agent has a pin number, which they key in alongside their phone number and a password to access the platform,” explained Mr Njuguna Kinundu, the business development manager at kenyasoko.com.
Each of the users is only able to see their interface. This, he added, enhances the security of the platform.
When a tenant pays via M-Pesa or AirtelMoney, the system updates itself in real time. “They receive a notification from kenyasoko.com that their rent payment has been received,” said Mr Njuguna. They then log into the platform and key in the transaction number, which takes less than two minutes. This is done to confirm proof of payment.”
Since kenyasoko.com is a tenant-led platform, it rewards users with airtime. “Once a tenant enters their rent payment details, they get free airtime as a reward. Tenants who pay before fifth of every month are rewarded with Sh500 airtime instantly for rent payments above Sh5,000 and Sh250 airtime for rent payments below Sh5,000. This has encouraged early rent payments, loyalty and compliance,” said Mr Nick Ngatia the client-relationship manager at kenyasoko.com.
Once this confirmation is made into the system, the tenant, agent and landlord receive an e-mail notification that the system has updated rental status. “So, the landlord doesn’t need to call the agents and the agents do not have to keep on pushing the tenant,” said Mr Ngatia.
This frees property agents from banking hall queues, the monthly door-to-door collection of rental deposit slips and unnecessary movement, he noted.
Besides, the fact that the incentivised free airtime earned through early rent payments makes at least over 80 per cent of tenants to pay their rent by the fifth day of the month, it gives property managers time to reconcile their accounts.
“This means that property managers and agents earn their commission a bit earlier than when collecting rent or deposit slips physically,” Mr Njuguna added.
Further, the app allows tenants to access quick loans against their rent deposit.
“We give up to 75 per cent of their deposit,” said Mr Ngatia. The unsecured quick loan does not attract any interest. “It functions like a Sacco — the faster you pay, the higher your limit will go,” he added.
Tenants who pay their rent on time and demonstrate some financial stability can be considered for the loan, said Mr Njuguna.
Considering that normal repairs in any vacated rental house take up to 25 per cent of the rent deposit, it is safe to only loan the tenant up to 75 per cent, he adds. This too, Mr Ngatia stated, acts as an incentive to tenants to pay their rent on time so they can be considered for the loan going forward.