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Tenants in Nairobi grapple with high service charges

By Metro Reporter and Xihnua
Barely six months since relocating to a new apartment in Nairobi, Kenya, Joseph Odhiambo is already shopping for another house.

The father of three had hoped to stay in the apartment in South C for as long as he can, since he had found it secure and a nice place to raise his children.
However, high service charges levied by the landlord have pushed the clinical officer away. Odhiambo pays rent of 454 U.S. dollars for the three-bedroom flat
in the upper middle-income suburb.
 "I was also to pay electricity and water charges. Then, I was told the service charge, which caters for security and garbage would be 17 dollars," he said.  The clinical officer had no problem with the charges. "All my expenses were coming to about 488 dollars per month. I was fine with that until recently when the landlord doubled the security charge from 11.4 dollars," he added. 
The landlord told them he had hired a new team of security guards.
  "At first I understood because most tenants had complained of the previous guards who were inefficient and irresponsible. However, when he doubled the garbage fee from 6 dollars, I could not take it anymore," Odhiambo said. 
The new charges have unsettled
Odhiambo, the reason why he is looking for a new house.
   "What angered me is that the other day I returned home and found my name and that of other five
tenants written on a board in the compound as defaulters." 
 His plight is shared by many Nairobi residents who are grappling with high service charges.
With no standard way of setting the fees, landlords are charging as they please.  The charges range from 17 dollars to 51 dollars in many middle- income suburbs. On the other hand, residents in low income suburbs are paying between 6 dollars and 14 dollars.  While some property owners add the fee to the rent, the majority prefer charging it separately, which gives them the leeway to increase as they please.  "We know we need security and garbage must be collected, but do you need to pay 17 dollars for the service. Landlords are fleecing tenants when the services do not even cost half the amount," noted media worker Grace Surya.
Antony Kuyo of Avent Properties, an agency that
manages various rental houses in Nairobi, said while they are directed by the landlord on the cost of the charges, agents are responsible for delivery of the service.  "Landlords give us a figure we should charge, but it is the
property agents who have the final say since they determine who collects garbage and offers security services."  
He noted that the service charges have
been on upward trend in the capital because of the increased demand of security and garbage collection services. 
"But I cannot rule out the fact that some landlords and property agents collude to charge tenants high fees of up to 45 dollars, yet the services go for less than half the amount."

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