The ordeal of a tenant


IT was too many rules from the beginning. If it was not about the water, it had to be about the electricity. Many of my friends, who used to visit me before, started dreading coming to my house. They complained about the dour look that my landlord gave them. I did not understand it until I saw it myself. The night that I arrived late from work and found the gate locked was the first time I felt my freedom stripped away from me. I felt I had imposed myself on my landlord. I was torn between thinking that I had the right to shelter and that I was under somebody else’s roof. That night was rather a short night and I wished the earth could open up and swallow me. The next day further drenched my spirits because my landlord gave me a long and hard talk. He went on and on about giving me a lecture about respect and security which really did not make sense to me. I just could not understand why my landlord could treat me like a secondary school student, after all I paid rentals. When the same thing happened again, I felt belittled. It motivated me to build my own house where I would not hesitate to prepare the food I preferred and come home when I wanted. It felt like I was in a boarding school where the matron must mind everything that I did. One needs to loosen up a bit especially after a long and busy week. A night out once in a while would definitely do the trick for me. The question, however, would always be how I could go out and come home late? This was impossible unless of course I slept at a friend’s place. With rentals needed on a set date, missing such deadlines would almost be suicidal. It would either mean a stern warning or definite eviction. This is common almost everywhere with many reasons underlying such situations. It is unfortunate, however, that I do not own my own house and have to make do with what is there. While I appreciate the need for landlords to protect their property, the probability of overdoing it rises above the normal. The sense of ownership and taking pride in that which belongs to me honestly should not overshadow my need for the extra dollars in my pocket to help me either pay utility bills or buy groceries. I do believe my landlord had a genuine desire to protect his property which I do understand perfectly well. However, it seemed strange to me that he could let me into his compound to rent his house and yet not trust me. The little interview he carried out before he allowed me to rent his house surely should have been thorough enough to allow for any mishaps. It is true that there was need for careful and conservative use of water and energy, proper disposal of waste and less noise. Noncompliance would reflect negatively on my reputation as well because it would mean I was not responsible. I knew it would be a long time before I could build my own house so I had to be on my best behaviour. The experience nurtures one into a good manager of various resources. For some tenants, however, it is not worth the trouble. As long as the rentals are paid, the rest is history. It has therefore become a stereotype that the relationship between a landlord and the tenants can never be cordial. Most tenants would never understand the way landlords operate, automatically labelling them with the term “malandlords anonetsa”. Any good relationship between the two that is found is treasured dearly and safeguarded from any would-be enemies. Most tenants and landlords generally complain about each other and unfortunately the cold war whether declared or not exists. Whatever situation it is, one must find a solution which requires both parties to solve their problems amicably and with respect. In situations where you live in a cottage just behind the main house, you are under surveillance. It’s like in the Big Brother House where what you say or what you do is all in the viewer’s eyes. The difference, however, being that in a cottage you are totally under the control of your landlord. It must be fewer visitors, less paper bags coming in or else the rentals go up. You cannot afford to be seen carrying Spar or OK paper bags. I remember always carrying a black bag if I had to go shopping because I knew nothing I put inside the black bag would be seen. If I did not have the opportunity to do this, I had to come home late when I knew it would be difficult for the landlord or his children to peep through the windows to see what I was carrying or who was coming in with me. I know you must be saying that others still do wait up to see what you will have brought. You are right; there are landlords that just have the guts to do this. It is also worse if you stay within the main house. Can you imagine waking up early in the morning to clean the passage that everyone uses, contributing toilet detergents, toilet paper, floor polish and you know the rest. If you get a landlord who is very smart, thanks to your presence, you really are in big trouble. I know it can be irritating but if they could remote control you, you would spend the whole day cleaning the floors. I always wonder why someone would bother having a tenant when they always complain about that person. This is happening and it is a quick way of making money though not the best and convenient way, I must say. How I long for the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing could construct as many houses as it can to cater for the demand for accommodation. If there is not much land for it the little space that is there should be utilised to build houses. Other countries are doing it, there is no reason why we should not do it. I even wish that I could reside in those shabby houses as long as I have a roof over my head. This is the sole reason why so many of us stay where we would wish we had never set foot on, we just have no choice. You must live with the strict terms whether you like it or not, after all beggars are not choosers. Whether you are married or not, with children or not, you must fit in. Your children are only free at school or outside the yard because the landlord cannot tolerate his or her garden being trampled on or the deafening noise of your children as they play outside and there is just no way one can stop them from making such noise. So the children become timid and are easily taken advantage of because they are used to being brought up in areas where they feel inferior . Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it, we must live with it. It is a phase that we must all go through at some point and it gives us an opportunity to develop our country because it forces us to acquire our own assets. The pain that you feel after being treated badly, gives you the strength and courage to work extra hard to build your own house . I have been thinking as I have been writing this article that since I am looking for a place to rent and if my potential landlord were to read it, he or she would probably be thinking of how to make me pay for all I have said. I hope that I will not taste the bitter treatment that others go through though. I hope to have a great landlord-tenant relationship with them full of respect and love.


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