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Parliament issues ultimatum on ground rent law

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah gave Lands Minister Betty Amongi a 45-day ultimatum on rent Bill. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah has given the minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Planning, Betty Amongi 45 days within which to table amendments to the annual nominal ground rent statutory instrument. The instrument stipulates circumstances under which a tenant can pay his ground rent in absence of landlord.

Parliament’s ultimatum follows a motion by Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South) seeking leave of Parliament to table a private members bill to bring amendments to the Land Act.

While tabling the Bill Thursday, February 20, Nsubuga informed Parliament that the amendments seek to provide avenues through which tenants can pay ground rent to magistrates in case of absentee landlords. He claimed some absentee landlords have been taking advantage of loopholes within the law to hide away from tenants and later accuse the bonafide occupants of the property of defaulting on rent obligations and evict them.

The legislator explained: “The amendment is to provide a section where tenants can pay rent in Grade One and Two magistrate courts because what is happening now is that people are being evicted especially in the Central Region because landlords have completely refused to accept ground rent… (meanwhile) someone is on someone’s land but has nowhere to pay ground rent.”

However, Amongi asked Parliament to stay the debate on Nsubuga’s motion arguing that her ministry is already working on amendments within this very direction. She instead asked Nsubuga to work with the technical team at the ministry and have one set of regulations brought before Parliament.

She explained: “Let the member work with us and you give us a time frame within which we can come to the House with an amended statutory instrument because beyond this matter, we are putting guidelines on eviction. If you are to evict somebody, people have been abusing this law. The law says if the magistrate or court is setting eviction order, they should state six months before eviction but these days you find that somebody is given an order today, tomorrow somebody is being evicted.”

Betty Among, the minister of lands. (FILE PHOTO)

The Deputy Speaker agreed to have a stay on the debate of the motion but warned that Parliament would proceed with giving Nsubuga leave in case the Lands ministry fails to table the proposed regulations within the stipulated time.

Oulanyah said: “In relation to what the minister has said that this amendment can be accommodated in the statutory instrument, which statutory instrument has to be approved by Parliament which the member is comfortable with. Therefore we stay the motion and should the minister be reluctant to deal with the issue of the members and communities grossly affected as the member has articulated.”

“We give you 45 days. If you aren’t able to come back, then we see how to articulate processes to grant the member leave because it is a substantial matter whose decision has to be taken by Parliament anyway,” the Deputy Speaker added.

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