The rent restriction tribunal renders an important service to the public by attending to rental issues surrounding landlords and tenants of protected tenancy. In particular, the tribunal offers arbitration services relating to disputes in these tenancies. A protected tenant is one who lives in a ‘controlled house’ which are those residential buildings that have been put under the Rent Restriction Act, Chapter 296 of the Laws of Kenya. The criterion of placing a residential house under the Act is those with a standard rent of Kshs. 2,500 per month and below.
The Rent Restriction Act is meant to protect tenants from exploitation by landlords while guaranteeing the landlord reasonable profits from his investment in housing. The ultimate aim of the Rent Restriction Tribunal therefore is to facilitate stability of rents especially for low-income earners and ensure that capital invested in housing yield reasonable returns. To achieve this, the Department coordinates the functions of the Rent Tribunals which have been established for the purpose of administering the Rent Restriction Act. The Act allows the minister responsible for housing to establish Tribunals where he/she thinks are needed both in urban and rural areas.
In order to give effect to the Rent Restriction Act, the Tribunals hear and determine suits filed by both tenants and landlords. The Tribunal also determines applications for assessment and review of standard rent. Applications brought before the Tribunals by the aggrieved parties arise from the disputes between landlords and the tenants. These disputes include among others: – unlawful evictions, unlawful rent increases and rent defaults. Most of these complaints are resolved administratively but in some circumstances, the police are involved to investigate alleged wrongful acts that border on criminal act.
Ten Rent Tribunals have so far been established by Legal Notice No. 212 of 21st May 1990 as amended by Legal Notice No. 431 of 3rd November 1994. These include: – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyeri, Kakamega, Eldoret, Embu, Garissa and Lamu. These Tribunals also serves their adjacent zones.
A landlord or Tenant can file a suit in the Tribunal which can be commenced by a plaint, Notice of Motion or Chamber Summons as prescribed in the Civil Procedure Code. When a case is heard, the Tribunal makes an order which may be enforced as a decree through a civil court.
The Procedure of instituting a matter in the Rent Restriction Tribunal is as follows:-
- Report the matter to Rent Restriction Tribunal.
- The complainant is advised to institute proceedings in the Tribunal Court.
- The matter is allocated a hearing date and hearing notices served to the respondents.
- The matter is heard in the Tribunal Court and the necessary orders/rulings are issued.