Tips on renting a house in Nairobi

Posted on November 29th, 2010
Categories: News

Finding a new home anywhere can be intimidating, and especially if you don’t know your way around town. It is also extremely important, because happy homes make happy families and happy families make happy employees so your spouse’s company benefits too!

With traffic getting increasingly congested in Nairobi, location is becoming more and more important. Most people start by choosing a school for the children and then choosing a home not too far away. The husband often has to deal with the commute – preferable to the kids spending their lives in a bus! If you are lucky enough not to work in the CBD or the industrial area, you may get the benefits of everyone being close to home. All suburbs have good shopping centres and restaurants these days, and most have good access to medical care, so these are less important considerations than distance to the school and the work place.

Once you’ve established the area/s you want live in, it’s time to start house hunting. Your company or organization may have guidelines as to which areas they recommend and what their security requirements are, and you need to have all this information at hand before you start, to avoid disappointment and time wasting. For example some organizations prefer to centralize all personnel in a specific suburb or suburbs for security reasons. Some companies will only rent double-story properties and some insist on an electric fence. Some will only rent houses in gated communities whereas others are happy with stand-alone properties, provided that security measures are in place.

House hunting can be very frustrating in Nairobi as advertising is often misleading and standards of housing vary hugely. It is therefore advisable to remain flexible in your requirements, and calm in temper when the agent is yet again late / doesn’t turn up / the house you’ve gone to see has actually already been let out / the caretaker has disappeared with the keys… all facts of life, but you can minimize some of these hassles by using reputable estate agents and / or relocation agents. A relocation agent will vet houses on your behalf based on a brief, and since relocation agents get paid by you or your company they will show you houses through any agent, whereas individual agents get paid by landlords so will obviously only show you what’s on their own books. Also remember that there are some small agencies which specialize in specific areas, and it’s very worthwhile looking through them as they normally know the houses in their specific areas better than some of the big companies who do lots of commercial lettings.

When looking at a property, there are things to keep in mind apart from how many bedrooms the house has, what the garden looks like and how the security measures up. Important issues are water (some areas have shortages so it’s good to make sure the house has large storage tanks), electrics, plumbing and problems with damp. If you are lucky enough to find a landlord who really cares about his/her house, problems will get fixed, if you don’t it will remain up to you or your company, so it is good to try to establish what will or won’t be done in advance. It is also always advisable to ask for a draft lease contract and run it past a lawyer. Kenyan leases tend to be long, full of “legalese” and quite pro the landlord. It is fairly standard to have to pay a 2-3 month deposit and to pay rent quarterly in advance, although these terms are negotiable. Standard notice period is 3 months and standard length of contract 2 years. You should be handed over a house in a clean, newly painted state with all locks, fasteners, bathroom taps etc. in working condition, and it is your responsibility to return the house to the same condition when you depart. It is also good to know that houses generally come completely bare, i.e. without fridges, cookers or lamp shades, in some cases you even have to provide your own light bulbs!