Nairobi family-oriented tenants kick out noisy Airbnb renters

Mary Anzere bought a three-bedroom unit in the posh Kilimani neighbourhood and has been living quietly for the past couple of years.

However, in the past one year, her quiet private life has been ruffled by new neighbours—apartment units in the same complex that are housing short-term furnished rentals popularly known as ‘Airbnbs.’

“There is too much commotion and noise coming from the short-term rentals. There is also too much traffic and incidences in the apartment block especially on weekends and especially with a certain class of guests,” says Ms Anzere.

“The tranquil and calm living that drew us to buy the apartments is gone. A number of tenants who are renters have moved out, and some of those who bought have also sold or are selling their units and moving out. The others who bought the units and have converted them to ‘Airbnbs’ seem to be making some good money.”

Ms Anzere is not alone in the disruption that has come with the entrance of short-term rentals into the Kenyan market.

Vacate notice

Early this year, property developer and manager Tsavo gave notice to all who have rented units in their developments and are running short-term furnished rentals business to move out by last month.

In the carefully worded letter, the focus was aimed at investors who had rented spaces to carry out the now-popular short-stay business. Tsavo cited insecurity and noise as the main concern.

A similar directive was given to a unit in Lang’ata and Kilimani.

Most of the short stay rentals investors closed businesses and moved to adjacent blocks to continue to ply their trade.

A spot check on the previously fully booked Tsavo units indicated one vacant unit after another. Those who bought their units however continue to successfully run their furnished rental units as the apartments are theirs.

Property experts say that what is at play is a classic case of a market caught up in the early stages of a disruption circle, just like Uber disrupted the taxi business.

The disruptors

The disruption, which is mainly affecting new modern apartments across the country, has the quiet family life on the one hand and increased rental returns which come from leasing out units in the same apartment blocks as Airbnb on the other hand.

A studio unit at Tsavo earns a rental income of Sh12,000 to normal renters while as an Airbnb unit, a similar unit can fetch up to Sh45,000 if fully booked for a month—a figure that is more than three times the normal rental return.

Joseph Karuga of Manis Real Estate says that with proper management and planning these conflicts need not be there.

“While it is true that managing mixed ownership apartments can be a challenge, property managers have tools at their disposal to address some concerns,” says Karuga.

Way forward

“Strict vetting of tenants and clients is a place to start. Property managers need to clearly communicate the calibre of clients that are allowed into the building and the consequences of flaunting the guidelines clearly spelt out.”

According to Mr Karuga, there is a need for more deliberate planning at the time of building such that a property is built with a certain purpose in mind.

“To address this issue in totality, purpose-built projects where usage is directed from conceptualisation, where buyers know exactly what they are buying into and there is the harmonisation of usage by tenants is the solution. If building for exclusively Airbnb, let it be obvious. If the building is for normal renting, let it be obvious. It is clear that Airbnb as a concept is not going anywhere, just like student housing or retirement homes for the elderly,” points out Mr Karuga.

Dropping property values

Johnhenry Okumu of Supreme Residences which manages a number of Airbnb units reckons that many a good properties that previously housed Airbnbs have had their market value drop after property managers slackened on standards and security.

“Whether normal renting or renting for Airbnb, if your standards are not set you will soon be out of business and tenants will vacate the building. We have seen a number of such incidences here in Kilimani where a property that was previously held in high regard suddenly witnesses the mass exodus of tenants to a point of being empty for not setting standards,” says Mr Okumu.

The Airbnb disruption debate is not only in Kenya. Across the world, it is raging with no clear solution on the way forward. In some states in the US, there are proposals to ban Airbnb units from some neighbourhoods or restrict them to a particular space.

“I love the Airbnb concept and I know it has higher rental income with the right clientele flow and proper management,” says Mr Karuga.

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