How city traders are trapped into paying high rental fees

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KAMPALA. Business at Mini-Price arcade in downtown Kampala came to a standstill yesterday as traders closed shops, protesting the new 30 per cent rent increment announced by their new landlord, Drake Lubega.
The building formerly belonged to city businessman; John Ssebalamu whom the tenant said never increased rent without consulting them.
Traders who spoke to Daily Monitor said it was unfair for Mr Lubega to increase rent yet he has just bought off the building.

“I have been paying Shs3m for a shop on the third floor. However, Mr Lubega has increased it to Shs3.9m. This excludes other bills such as electricity, garbage collection and toilet fees. We shall have our shops closed until he revokes this increment,” said Ms Jane Natukunda, one of the traders dealing in women’s clothes.
Yesterday’s demonstration comes barely two weeks after other traders at Qualicel Arcade, which is also owned by Mr Lubega, closed their shops protesting increment of electricity bills by 100 per cent.
However, after the traders threatened to march to State House to meet the President, he scrapped the new rates and maintained the old ones.
The Miniprice Arcade Manager, Bruhan Mayanja, said he couldn’t comment on the matter, but his boss will come up with a statement.
For the last couple of months, Kampala City traders have been embroiled in a bitter relationship with their landlords over the spiraling rental charges, which they claim could eject them from trading.

Last month, the demonstration against such rental disparities left one person dead and five others injured as traders on Superior Complex Arcade located on Ben Kiwanuka Street, closed their shops in protest of the hiked rental fees by Mr John Bosco Muwonge, the owner of the building.
Daily Monitor has learnt that although Mr Muwonge halted his plans of doubling rent shortly after the protest, he has since made a U-turn and maintained the increment. However, traders have defied him, vowing not to succumb to his new demands.
“We are tired of this mistreatment and we call upon government to urgently intervene before tension erupts in the city. Landlords are taking us for granted yet we give them a lot of money, but we shall not stop our struggle against this unfairness,” said Ms Rosemary Nantale, one of the traders.

How do landlords hike rent?
The tricks employed in charging dubious charges have left many traders counting losses and others have abandoned the city to rent in city suburbs.
Almost all city buildings are sublet and when landlords charge standard fees for shops, they do not come in to regulate how much middleman, with whom they made an agreement charge tenants.
The middleman, who rents a given shop from the landlord, also sublets it to traders at varying charges depending on the number of stalls. Most middlemen double the charges depending on the agreement with tenants to maximise profits and at times without the knowledge of the landlords.
Mr Samuel Lutaaya, a trader at Grand Corner Arcade, accuses land lords of failing to monitor shops that they rent out.
“Whenever we express our concerns to the landlord, he tells us that he doesn’t know us since he rented out the shop to some other person. As a result, we are left with no option but to pay heavy rental fees,” he said.

Mr Lutaaya proposes that government must come up with measures to streamline the payment of rental fees instead of leaving this at the hands of landlords and middlemen whose sole aim is to make abnormal profits.
For the landlords that deal directly with traders, they are often asked to leave when the landlord gets a better tenant who offers them more money.
But Mr Charles Sserumaga, a city landlord, said at times they are forced to increase rental fees because of the change in the economy.
“We are also forced to increase rent to cope with the current financial situation. However, at times we increase rent when we want to make some renovations on the building and other expenses which of course require money,” he says.

Regulation
Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago blames the impasse between traders and city landlords on the poor legislation, which he says, is giving privilege to the latter to continue oppressing the former. He said if the law is implemented, there would be a win-win situation between both parties without causing uproar, which he warned, might erupt into anarchy in the city.
The Rent Restriction Act was enacted in 1949 to consolidate the law relating to the control of rents of dwelling houses and business premises.
According to Section 2(1) of the Act, no owner or lessee of a dwelling house or premises shall let or sublet that dwelling house or premises at a rent which exceeds the standard rent.

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