In a letter addressed to Ambassador Rose Makena Muchiri, the Permanent Representative to the Kenya Mission for United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON), the staff claim that their landlords have been raising unjustified expense claims to hold their house rent deposits whenever their tour of duty in the country comes to an end.
Most UN staff live in Nairobi’s upmarket neighbourhoods such as Runda, Spring Valley, Gigiri and Kilimani where they pay between Sh150,000 ($1500) to Sh400,000 ($4000) in house rent per month.
“It is now widely-acknowledged that one of the key negative reasons expats and UN staff are apprehensive of serving in Kenya is this threat. I believe this is causing serious reputational damage that could be unwarranted if addressed properly and transparently,” says UN Nairobi Staff Union president Martin Njugihu in the letter.
Nairobi landlords ordinarily require that they pay the equivalent of two months’ rent as deposit at the beginning of their lease periods. The money is meant to be refundable at the end of their tenancy. However, the UN tenants claim that landlords are in most cases hesitant to refund the deposits at the end of their stay in Kenya.
The staff are now seeking diplomatic intervention to have their house rent deposits refunded whenever they vacate their houses, accusing Kenyan landlords of extorting them.
Mr Njugihu terms the trend as being injurious to Kenya’s reputation as a host country to the prestigious international organisation.
The union now wants the Rent Tribunal to visit the UN complex in Gigiri to assess some of the outstanding cases for guidance.
“UN Nairobi Staff Union will form a committee that will explore various options available to tackle this issue. We believe the matter has reached such a level that requires immediate action,” says the letter.
The United Nations contribution to the Kenyan economy is estimated to be in excess of $350 million (Sh35 billion) annually, which is four times more foreign exchange than coffee brings in.