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Traders caught in City Hall fight with rates defaulters

Dozens of traders in Nairobi’s central business district were on Monday forced to temporarily close their businesses as City Hall moved in against building owners who have defaulted to pay annual land rates.

City Hall officials descended on seven buildings, put up banners and asked tenants to pay their monthly rent directly to the county to offset amounts owed by their landlords.

Businesses were shut for more than half an hour as the tenants were assembled to be informed of the new directive.

“We are not parties to the conflict and we don’t have any rent arrears, so why should our businesses be affected?” complained John Kioko of Hantech Services, a stationery shop.

DISRUPTING BUSINESS

He added that City Hall should find a better way of enforcing collection of rates arrears rather than disrupting businesses.

Tahmeed Coaches workers continued to book travellers outside their premises as they awaited re-opening of their doors.

The company’s booking office is in Zahra House, whose owner, Isaac Kuria, allegedly owes City Hall Sh366,000 in rates arrears.

Among the buildings affected are Embassy Cinema that hosts the Maximum Miracle Centre and two adjoining buildings owned by Nairobi Theatres Ltd, with the three owing Sh1.5 million in land rates.

“All tenants of these three buildings whose landlord has failed to pay land rates are from today required to pay their rent to City Hall. Failure to do so will see their businesses shut,” announced Fidelis Mwanza, a City Hall communications officer.

RENT DISCOUNT

At the Nyota Hotel, an eatery on Latema Road, the manager was forced to close the doors even as patrons continued eating inside until he paid the February rent to City Hall.

The building had been clamped in December last year but despite producing a receipt showing he had paid January’s rent to the county, the manager was asked to pay February’s rent before re-opening.

Other tenants affected include Pastries Emporium, Mololine Shuttle and Chicken Grill, located at the Embassy Cinema building.

City Hall is giving the tenants a 25 per cent discount on rent as it looks to encourage landlords, who stand to lose out on rental income, to pay the amounts owed.

The clamping of buildings is expected to move outside the CBD and will go on till April as governor Evans Kidero’s looks to recover a sizeable amount from rates defaulters.

Finance executive Gregory Mwakanongo said they could take the drastic measure of auctioning properties of those who have failed to pay up despite repeated notifications.

“There are five properties that we have earmarked for that (auctions). We are actually waiting for the necessary approval from the court and then go ahead to auction them,” he said.