Updated: Apr 14, 2020

A security deposit is any payment of money that landlords require tenants to pay including last month’s rent before they move in whose main purpose is to protect the landlord against non-payment of rent or damages to the leased or rental premises, common areas, major appliances, and furnishings.

Most landlords in Kenya require a security deposit equivalent to one months’ rent for residential unit and two month’s rent for business premises and offices. This is regardless of the number of tenants in the unit and should be evidenced by issuance of written receipt for the security deposit.

The receipt should include the date, the landlord’s signature, and the amount of the security paid. It should also expressly state that this money is for a security deposit.

Even though the Kenyan laws don’t have specific provisions on security deposit, the practical approach has been that landlords ought to return the deposit immediately after a tenant moves out (or after one month if the tenant did not give the required notice to vacate) along with an itemization of deposit deductions for unpaid rent or the cost of repairing damages to the rental unit.

A tenant may not use a security deposit as last month’s rent, unless the landlord agrees in writing or the lease or rental agreement states that the deposit may be used this way. Finally, a deposit is typically refundable and the landlords or their agents are expected to refund it immediately after the end of the tenancy.

As a requirement, landlords will require a security deposit before you move in. If you damage the property or leave owing rent, your landlord can use your deposit to cover what you owe.

Deposits can amount to several thousands of shillings and are a major source of friction between landlords and tenants as to the amount charged, whether or not it’s refundable, and how it’s used.

Unfortunately in Kenya, there are no strict rules on how landlords can collect and use deposits and how they must return them when tenants move out.

Since there are no laws in Kenya that specifically talk about security deposits for residential houses, its advisable that a tenant makes sure that this clause is well explained in the lease agreement and that the how much, if its refundable, what can be deducted from it and how soon after you vacate can you get - must be well defined.

TIP: It is important for the tenant to always remember that the relationship between him/her and the landlord is purely governed by the rental or the lease agreement that both sign. This sets precedence where the law is silence and key therefore is the tenant to seek a thorough understanding of the rental agreement or lease in question.

If a tenant finds it difficult to breakdown the legalese language into fathomable bites, the leading housing rights champions has always assisted tenants in Kenya in doing that. So the tenant has all the help they can get to understand what they are engaging themselves in.

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