Parliament will on Tuesday sit to debate on the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2018 after it was deferred last evening following mixed reactions on the currency in which rent should be paid.
During the Tuesday plenary, controversy on the draft law was mainly on the provision that required that all rent obligations be recorded and settled in Uganda shillings unless parties to the agreement decide otherwise in a lawful manner.
While a cross section of MP's led by the Nakifuma County MP Robert Ssekitoleko and the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga opposed the provision on grounds that Uganda is a liberalized economy and therefore, market forces of demand and supply and also freedom of agreement should be left to work, others said otherwise.
According to Ssekitoleko, who is also the Physical Infrastructure Committee Chairperson, the committee’s recommendation that a new provision is inserted in the bill to include that parties may mutually agree on settling rent obligations in any other convertible currency should be considered.
But, the Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko insisted that due to fluctuations in foreign exchange, there is need to protect tenants from paying rent in foreign currency, arguing that he was presenting the interests of Kampala City Trades Association (KACITA) and tenants in the city who want all rent transactions made in Shillings.
Speaker Kadaga warned legislators against policing choices of business people and that tenancy agreements shall protect tenants from arbitrary rent increment. Nsereko argued that Kadaga’s submission is idealistic because tenants who pay in foreign currency are expected to do so according to the prevailing market rates.
Army representative, Brigadier General Felix Kulayige and Kyankwanzi woman MP, Anne Maria Nankabirwa together with Kawempe North MP, Latiff Ssebagala agreed with Nsereko, arguing that rent must be paid in Shillings to protect the tenants from the volatile foreign exchange rates.
The Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister, Betty Amongi also explained that much as the BOU Act provides for transactions in other currencies, government wants a provision that all rent must be paid in Shillings unless agreed to by both parties in order to protect tenants from landlords who collectively agree to charge in US Dollars.
Guster Mugoya, the Bukooli North MP concurred with Amongi saying said that using the BOU provision without amending it to suit the interests of tenants in the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2018 will be abused by landlords who want to cheat tenants by charging rent in foreign currency.