Noorani: Hotel chief executive caught up in lease right fight


Mr Mohammed Hasnain Shabbir Noorani when he appeared at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi yesterday to plead to the theft and malicious damage charges. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

A landlord-tenant relationship should be purely contractual.

There are cases, however, when this it develops into friendship as years go by.

The relationship may be good if the tenant adheres to the agreement and pays the rent as agreed while the landlord ensures that the property is safe, well maintained and all necessary legal requirements are approved.

There are instances too, when the relationship hits the rocks and the difference attracts third parties such as the police or the matter ends up in court.

Such is the case between the chief executive officer of PrideInn Hotel Mohammed Hasnain Shabbir Noorani and his landlord Imran Abdulsalman.

The two entered into a contractual relationship in 2009 for the hotel to occupy Mr Imran’s building on Raphta Road, in Nairobi’s Westlands. The hotel leased the premises between 2009 and 2015 and was renewed for another five years in 2016.

Mr Shabbir, who quit his promising engineering career in the UK to join the family’s business a few years ago, took over as the CEO in 2014 at the age of 28.

He started off with managing his father’s car hire business, a job he performed so well growing the fleet from 25 to over 140 vehicles in a span of two years.

“I worked at IMI Scott Limited in the UK for a year manufacturing cables, after that, I realised engineering and talking to machines was not the field I was looking for. It was going to get boring because I liked talking to people and interacting with them, I liked new challenges so I decided to come back to Kenya,” he told the Business Daily in 2014.

Mr Shabbir successfully navigated the family business, under Pride Group umbrella that includes PrideInn Hotels and Conferencing, Glory Tours and Safaris, Glory Driving School (later Pride Drive), Glory Rent a Car, Juice Factory, Cake City, Pride Exhibitions, Royal Kitchen and Pride Centre.

And all was well for the CEO until last year, when he fell into trouble with his landlord over the renovations of the hotel, which the owner claims cost him Sh210 million plus furniture and fittings, which each party claims to have financed.

The landlord says the CEO of PrideInn approached the management seeking money to renovate the premises. He says the premises was in a state of disrepair and the furniture and fittings was part of the sub-lease agreement.

He adds that at the time of handover, the building was in a state of disrepair and damage and could not be rented out until it was renovated, works he said cost about Sh36.6 million including purchasing furniture and fittings.

The state of disrepair, he says, was caused by Mr Shabbir’s act of stripping the premises of its valuable fixtures and fittings, which he (Imran) acquired using his funds. Mr Imran argues that the stripping was criminal and he reported the matter to the police.

Mr Shabbir has challenged the claim saying that before entering the second sub-lease agreement, the landlord agreed to renovate the premises on condition that rent would be increased. He adds that the hotel was supposed to purchase furniture and fixtures.

After differing on the renovations, the landlord reported the matter to the police and the furniture, which was part of the complaint was seized by DCI Gigiri. Then, Mr Imran obtained orders from a Kiambu court.

Mr Shabbir challenged the seizure and the High Court ordered the release of the property in March.

The CEO accused the landlord of misrepresentation that the furniture and fixtures in contention were acquired through funds he allegedly advanced to him, among other issues surrounding the sub-lease agreement.

The matter did not end there as Mr Imran reported to the police once again and on Wednesday, Mr Shabbir was charged before a Nairobi court with stealing and malicious damage to property.

He appeared before Nairobi chief magistrate Francis Andayi denied destroying the building where the hotel stands and stealing CCTVs, door locks, room equipment, furniture and fittings all valued at Sh36.6 million.

The court heard that he committed the offence between May 1 and July 1 last year, jointly with others not before court.

After denying the charges, Mr Andayi ordered him to deposit cash bail of Sh1 million or an alternative bond of Sh2 million, to secure his release.

Mr Andayi directed the case to be mentioned on September 8.