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Legal tussle over rent sees hotelier evicted from land

 Shade Hotel
Partly demolished buildings at the Shade Hotel, photographed February 9, 2019, that was at the centre of a court battle between the owners of the land and its proprietor over rent. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMH 

The multimillion shilling Shade Hotel in Karen has finally been closed, bringing to a bitter end a decade-long court battle pitting the investor and his landlord.

At the heart of the row was a five-acre piece of land, whose ownership passed on to the children following the death of their father, and upon which a 74-year-old hotelier, Mr David Thairu, had put up a hotel based on a lease agreement with the initial owner.

The vicious legal battle, spanning more than 10 years, over arbitrary increase of rent by the new owners has eventually ended up in a messy and forceful eviction of the investor with the demolition of structures put up by Mr Thairu.

The Sh650 million facility located at the border of Nairobi and Kajiado counties is no more after earth movers reduced the once-dazzling hotel to rubble. The proprietor is now counting loses running into millions of shillings while the fate of the more than 250 employees at the facility has been put in jeopardy.

Huge lorries block the entrance to the facility, established in 1982, while the once green and spacious lawns are now bare and lacklustre patches of grass. Where it was once vibrant and welcoming, visitors are now only met with an eerie silence.

The popular facility that was frequented by city bigwigs is said to have been turning in a tidy profit especially on weekends, according to the investor who also operates two other facilities in Ruiru and Machakos. Shade was said to have been serving between 250 and 500 customers per day with 20 self-contained rooms charged at Sh4,500 per night.

The investor has expressed concerns that the stand-off will cause him further losses as some of the bookings including several conferences and wedding receptions for the next one month which had been done, have had to be cancelled.

“The land dispute has left 250 workers jobless. Some had worked in the facility for more than 15 years. Some frequent clients who had signed contracts of being supplied with food and events including using the facility for weddings have complained and want their money back,” said Mr Thairu.

Mr Thairu said they had an agreement with the late landlord in the early 1980s who gave him the two acres to build a hotel and had even promised to sell the land to him but he died before that could happen.

“After he died, his children began arbitrarily increasing the rent every year for the past decade. They used to tell me that I should vacate if I am not able to pay the new rent. They eventually got an eviction order which I countered through my lawyer but they went on to evict me and destroy my property,” he said.

In court documents seen by the Nation, the landlord secured a vacation notice for the tenant dating back to 2015 and, after years of court battle, the landlord managed to secure an eviction order that was effected January 24, 2019, a matter the tenant has termed a total disregard of the law.

Through his lawyer, Oigoro Nyangito, Mr Thairu argued that he also managed to secure a court order to stop the eviction but the landlord defied the order dated January 25, 2019.

Mr Thairu argued that the January 25 order nullified the eviction order that had been secured a day earlier and security agencies were supposed to stop the eviction.

Nonetheless, the landlord’s children, through lawyer Rosemary Chege, countered that the vacation notice was long overdue as the tenant had been given up to May, 2018 to vacate but he did not do so.
Mr Thairu accused the police of taking sides, alleging that they stood by as his hotel was destroyed despite the massive looting that took place right under their noses.

"I have been a faithful tenant for the last 36 years paying rent as per our lease agreement without defaulting. I developed the land from scratch but it is painful to watch my investment go down in the drain. Law ought to be applied fairly as stipulated in the Constitution,’’ said the 74-year-old hotelier.

However, Karen OCPD Grace Wanja disputed his allegations saying due process was followed to during the eviction, adding that Mr Thairu’s order to suspend the eviction had been overtaken by events.

To salvage the brand name, Mr Thairu stated that he has now been forced to operate at a premise within Jamhuri Show Ground where he says that business has not been good and he has been incurring massive loses.

This, he stated, has forced him to lay off about 90 per cent of the employees he had and most suppliers contracts suspended. The hotelier has, nevertheless, vowed to seek compensation.

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