By Max Patrick Ocaido
Parliament: A new Bill is in the offing to punish landlords who deliberately reject tenants’ ground rent.
Kassanda South County MP Simeo Nsubuga on Wednesday sought leave of parliament to bring a private member’s bill entitled the Land Amendment Bill. The Bill is meant to amend the Land Act, Cap. 227 to allow a tenant to deposit ground rent with a Magistrate Grade II or Magistrate I Court where a land lord refuses to accept any sum in payment of ground rent or where it becomes impossible for the tenant to find the land lord and make a payment.
While addressing the press on Thursday, Nsubuga in his justification says that most landlords are jeopardizing the right of tenants through deliberate refusal to accept ground rent or by evading the tenant to the extent that it becomes impossible for the tenant to pay the landlords with intent to evict the tenant.
Nsubuga said that the issue of evictions has become rampant especially in areas of Kassanda, Mubende and Mityana to the extent that in the past 10 years, 17 villages have been evicted in Kassanda.
“When we reach out to the public they say landlords have refused to take up the money. Within the law there is a gap. In case a landlord refuses the ground rent, then where should one go? Tenants have been left at the mercy of landlords. This amendment will provide that in case the landlord refuses the rent or tenant can't trace the landlord then he or she can take the money to the nearest Magistrates court for that case magistrate grade I or II,” Nsubuga said.
The House chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah has given MP Nsubuga 45 days to harmonise the Bill with the Ministry of Land after Lands minister Betty Amongi supported the motion saying her ministry is equally coming up with a similar amendment. However, Minister Amongi is proposing that the ground rent is deposited with the Sub County rather than court-a position that Nsubuga has rejected. The two parties are set to harmonize their position in 45 days as given to them by parliament.
Currently, Section 32 of the Land Act stipulates that a lawful or bona fide occupant shall only be evicted for nonpayment of ground rent commonly known as Busulu.
Nsubuga says that this amendment will help tenants from unfair treatment from their landlords who want to unnecessarily evict them before the expiration of their lease.
Henry Makumbi (Mityana South), the seconder of the motion says that these unnecessary evictions from the landlords have adversely affected production thus affecting the economy.
“What we are fighting for is a popular move and our people will be proud of it. These evictions have even affected the economy, people cannot produce food because they are not certain about tomorrow for fear that they could be evicted any time,” Makumbi said.
In the event that such ground rent is deposited in Court, the money will go to the Consolidated Fund before it is accessed by the landlord. This is a tedious process that landlords who reject the ground rent may have to bear with in case the proposed Bill is passed into law.
Similarly, the parliamentary committee on Physical Infrastructure is currently scrutinizing the Landlord Tenant Bill 2018 that among others seeks to jail landlords who annoy tenants.