My legal side of tenancy headache


Headache. My lawyer never submitted a defence — he was too drunk. Apparently, you can’t appeal a case you never defended. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

I have had cause, of late, to reflect on the dependency we can have on professionals, and lawyers more than almost anyone, and how we can protect ourselves when someone melts down on a personal crisis.

For earlier this year, I got snared by the kind of landlady I am led to believe will serve jail time once the new law on tenancies comes into effect. She wasn’t even my landlady anymore. I had rented a house from her on a fixed term agreement for 20 months that ended in July 2018.

However, just as I was leaving, the company I was working for was asked to vacate its own offices, so it asked if it could move in after me. My former landlady accepted. I left. The company moved in. All moved on. Until at the end of 2020, the company vacated those offices.

And that’s when the trouble started. Because that landlady had never issued a lease to the company, despite, I understand, its continuous nagging. So it just left. But I still had a dog there that the company had been happy to have remain, and some cats.

So when the landlady learned the company left, she called me, and I said I was coming. Stuck in some lockdown somewhere it took me three weeks to get there. Of course, that added some weeks of rent. But that landlady had never returned my three months deposit of Sh495,000, nor had she spent any of it on maintenance. So it seemed she owed me a lot more than three weeks rent.

Fake notice

Not so simple. The house was on the New Kitisuru Estate, which has a heavily guarded gate. Once I arrived, a guard came and said I could not leave until I paid her a lot of money. I was refused exit. No, not legal.

In fact, someone came after dark and took me out, but not before she had screamed on the phone that I had to pay for the extra weeks, and two months extra notice on top, and that the deposit didn’t exist any more and if I didn’t pay she would make sure I never left Kenya and my embassy would never be able to help me. That lady wanted money, and I was her sweetie bag.

But I got out. So then she posted a fake auctioneers notice on that gate claiming lots of goods inside that weren’t there and that they were due to her from me. She was threatening arrest. I went to a lawyer.

Oh dear. He was recommended. Because he used to be amazing. Only what I didn’t know is that he had fallen into extreme drinking.

He hashed the case completely. He pushed me to sign an affidavit because he wasn’t fit to write a correct one, and then she counterclaimed, by now Sh660,000. He never submitted any defence at all to her counterclaim and didn’t even attend court – while taking Sh115,000 from me for fees he never put on any fee note.

No agreement

So the court ruled I had to deposit Sh660,000, on top of my lost Sh495,000, on a property I left in 2018, despite there being no tenancy agreement with me, or with anyone, no evidence I had paid any rent since I left, no proof of any debt by me.

But no way, either, to appeal, because my lawyer never submitted a defence — he was too drunk.

Apparently, you can’t appeal a case you never defended.

So what do I do now? I can go to the Law Society. But this man already lost his wife. And where do I find that money? I am sure there ought to be somewhere in a legal system to stop me paying Sh660,000 for a notice period there was never a contract for on a house that wasn’t mine.

Instead, it seems, the landlady has got her sweets.