The Land­lord and Ten­ant Bill: what works, what was missed

By: Timothy Chemonges

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.