Covid-19 disruption puts tenants between a rock and hard place

Tuesday June 9 2020

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Tenants who lost income due to coronavirus outbreak are facing evictions. Photo ~ Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Several Kigali tenants who lost income due to coronavirus could be evicted from their houses if they fail to clear rent arrears that accumulated for more than three months.

While there were no reported cases of landlords kicking tenants out for failing to pay rent during the lockdown, Rwanda Today established that those who were not lucky enough to keep their sources of income were evicted soon after the country partially opened up on May 4.

This has affected most vulnerable families in the Kigali’s low income areas whose employment in the informal sector was disrupted by Covid-19 restrictions since late March.

A section of them have been surviving on food relief from the government during the lockdown.

“Although there was help in terms of food, our major problem has been paying rent. It is more difficult now because the landlord wants me to pay or prove that I will pay him soon. I’m selling a few items to clear arrears and join my family upcountry,” said Emmanuel Hasingizweyezu,38, who lost his job at a Nyarugenge-based restaurant.

Mr Hasingizweyezu puts total arrears at Rwf260,000 accumulated in three months for a one bedroom house he used as his accommodation while using another section as a shop.

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Like Mr Hasingizweyezu, many rural-urban migrants and other tenants with ties in in rural districts rushed to board upcountry buses at Nyabugogo terminus on June 1, to only find the much awaited reopening of movements between provinces suspended again.

Home tenants share eviction concerns with several retail shop owners in Kigali’s popular mall and commercial buildings who neither paid nor managed to convince property managers about their plan to clear arrears in installments.

Despite The government’s partial lifting of the lockdown weeks ago, many decried difficulty in raising enough money to meet the rental costs.

According to Thoenestine Mwamikazi, who leased shop and retail space for subletting at CHIC building this led many customers to vacate space.

“Some clients have bid me farewell saying that they would resume in October, but even the few who are still around are not paying yet.

We are not kicking out anyone but that does not mean that rent is not due, because even as we speak CHIC management is serving us with bills, the good thing is that they are yet to put us on pressure to pay,” she said.

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