The Landlord and Tenant Bill: what works, what was missed
When Parliament passed the Landlord and Tenants Bill, 2018, I was reminded of the nature of the Busullu and Envujjo Law, of 1928 passed by the LEGCO under Her Majesties Government. This law was intended to mend the relationships between the mailo owners and the peasants that had not been defined in either the Buganda Agreement of 1900 or the Land Law, 1908 that subsequently, resulted in unfairness and injustice to the tenants by the landlords; which then prompted the colonial government to enact the said law in 1928, to protect the tenants from land owners’ unfairness.
In many ways the Landlord and Tenants Bill of 2018 and the “Busullu and Envujjo Laws, of 1928” are alike. The enactment of both laws was to substantially mend existing relationships, and create new ones between the landowners and tenants. The two laws also focus on protecting the tenants from the exploitation of the landowners.
There is indeed a need to regulate and harmonise the relationship between the tenants and the landowners, but it is also necessary to identify with certainty the sources of conflict. The manner in which the landowners manage their property is what I suppose should have been the principal of the law, bearing in mind the informal nature of the transactions in the sector. One of the most controversial provisions in the bill is that which provides that all rent shall be settled and recorded in Ugandan shillings. Whereas this has been and still is a big challenge in the sector , an even bigger one is the manner in which landlords exorbitantly and irregularly, without warning or consideration increase the rent probably emboldened by the knowledge that no one is likely to question their decision.
The other contentious provision in the Bill is that which provides that landlords must give their tenants an eviction notice of six months and they can only evict tenants after securing court order to do so. A friend even intimated that upon the assent of the bill by the president, he would default on his rent and wait to benefit from the 6 months’ notice. This provision protects the tenant, but we also must appreciate that most of the landowners are battling with loans and mortgages which they accrued while constructing and renovating their Protection of tenants should not come at this expense to landowners.