Renting a House in Kampala

Renting a House in Kampala

I’ve dealt with my fair share of difficult landlords here in Kampala. The first tried to raise my rent by almost a million shillings with only two weeks notice. Another refused to deal with security issues on her compound. “This place is never broken into” she kept repeating, as I explained to her that a man jumped the fence and got into my house the night before. The landlord of a friend of mine cancelled security services without notifying the tenants and when a thief sliced her window screen and stole her computer, it was insinuated that she’d be responsible for replacing the broken screen.

Most expats feel generally helpless when it comes to landlord woes. However there is a glimmer of hope. In a nutshell this advice could be boiled down to ‘know your rights’ and ‘bargain hard’. But let’s go in just a little bit deeper with real life examples and what you need to know before renting in Kampala.

The Importance of the Lease

First it is imperative that you get a lease in writing, signed, and dated. Ensure that this document includes clauses for pets, if you have them, and addresses rent hikes. A common tactic in Kampala involves prospective renters seeing a place they like, and simply offering the landlord more than the current tenants are paying. From here a slow eviction process often plays out as the land lord raises rent and unfair demands are placed on the current tenants. If you have a lease, you will be somewhat protected from this. If you don’t, your options are severely limited.

Another thing that ought to be included in a lease is security. The landlord should be responsible for providing a safe and secure compound or apartment complex. In compounds, it’s almost always up to the tenant to arrange an askari themselves, although proper lights and fencing is the landlord’s responsibility. However if you’re in an apartment check to make sure the askari payment is included in your rent.

Fixing Issues around the Complex

Most landlords are fairly even handed and will do what they can to make sure their property is well maintained and keeps a good reputation. At one point in my compound, thieves were climbing the trees near the fence and peering into our yard. We talked to the landlord about our options. The next day he hired an entire crew come out for the day and remove all the trees thieves had been hiding in. Security, and his tenants happiness, was important to him.

However, many landlords are not nearly this proactive. A good method to use here is asking the landlord if they’d be willing pay to fix the problem (water heater, barbed wire installation, new door handles) and most will say yes. Let them know you’ll arrange for the workers, give them a copy of the receipt, and have it deducted from future rent. For lazier landlords this method usually works best. Make sure this agreement is down in ‘writing’. The easiest way to assure this is to text the landlord the issue and solution and wait for their reply. That way if they try to say they ‘don’t remember agreeing to it’ you can whip out your phone and give a polite reminder.

What the Law Actually Says

Unlike most Western nations there is not a set of rights that covers tenants here. However, there are some legal protections. Chapter 231 of the Rent Restriction Act of Uganda deals with landlords charging over the capital cost of the building and site. Respectively it’s 10% over the gross capital cost for the building and 5% for the site. What this means for you is that if a landlord has suddenly increased rent exponentially, it could be an illegal move.

Chances are, showing and explaining to them the Rent Restriction Act will probably get them to back down. However, if you need free legal advice, I highly recommend using Barefoot Lawyers. They specialize in East African Law and their Ugandan site is both efficient and helpful. You can call them or email with any rent questions you might have.

So go find yourself a home here in this crazy city. Just make sure you agree and discuss the different aspects of the lease, and keep your wits about you. I know that when we’re excited to move to a new place sometimes emotions can take over and you just want the process to start. However, this can (and often) leads to issues down the road. So make sure you look out for your own interests first. After all, you’ll be the one that has to live with your decisions, good or bad.

Barefoot Lawyers Facebook:
Chapter 231 of Rent Restriction Act:


About Lizabeth Paulat

Hi, I’m Lizabeth, a freelance writer whose been stomping around Kampala for the better part of two years. I came here while pursuing a story and decided never to leave. I’m originally from Seattle and have found refuge in both the sun and the culture of Kampalans (plus I still get the rain when I’m feeling homesick).I’m always trying to unearth new and interesting stories about Kampala’s culture and development and am so exited to have an amazing platform to explore the city with. I hope to bring a bit of know-how and a bit of fun to Living in Kampala. Feel free to contact me any time at