NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 15 – The Senate Ad hoc Committee on COVID-19 has proposed a Bill which if passed will exempt vulnerable Kenyans from paying rent, their utility bills and servicing bank loans.
The Pandemic Response and Management Bill (2020) sponsored by the Committee chaired by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja provides that the Housing Cabinet Secretary shall with approval of Parliament, outline measures to cushion landlords and tenants.
The proposed law provides that where a pandemic affects the economic or purchasing power of the public, Treasury Cabinet Secretary may, with the approval of Parliament, introduce tax measures to cushion the affected persons for the duration.
The Bill further states that where citizens are not able to service their loans and mortgages, the individual borrower shall notify and enter into an agreement with the lending institution on how to make the payments after the pandemic.
The Senate Bill seeks to have tenants give a notice in writing to their landlords or contracting party that they are unable pay rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Upon receipt of a notice, the contracting parties shall enter into an agreement on how the tenant shall meet their obligation at the end of the pandemic,” reads the draft.
In situations where those affected are incapable of servicing their loans and mortgages because of the pandemic, borrowers shall notify and enter into an agreement with the lending institution on how to make the payments after the pandemic, the draft law proposes.
The Senate team also wants borrowers saved from the burden of paying penalties with the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) barred from listing those who default during the period.
“Lenders shall not charge fees, interest or any other penalty for non-payment or late payment of obligations during the pandemic period,” it states.
And where a contract was entered into before the declaration of a pandemic and the pandemic affects the performance of a contractual obligation, commencement of levying of execution, enforcement of security over movable and immovable property used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession, repossession of any goods used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession or termination of lease or license shall be prohibited.
The Bill also states that employers shall not terminate a contract of service or dismiss or coerce an employee to take a salary cut.
“Despite sub-section (1), where an employer is unable to meet his obligations to pay salaries or wages, the employer shall permit an employee to take leave of absence without pay for the duration of the pandemic,” it says.
The Labour Cabinet Secretary shall develop measures to protect the employer and the employee during the pandemic, it further proposes.
During this period, National and County governments will be required to put in place social safety schemes designed to support vulnerable persons, households and informal sector workers whose incomes have been disrupted.
The schemes include unconditional cash transfers to support the identified groups to meet their daily basic necessities.
The governments may also waive water and electricity charges for identified vulnerable persons and households or adjust tariff rates in order to reduce utility charges to individuals and businesses.
There shall be no disconnection for non-payment of utility bills, the law envisages.
County governments may suspend fees payable on renewal of trade licenses and payment of property rates during the pandemic.