Pain of Nairobi residents living in apartments that have no lifts

Three years ago, the county government revealed an elaborate plan to find out if the city’s high-rise buildings adhered to the Building Code.

Key among the goals was to establish whether buildings adhered to the requirement that those with more than four floors should have lifts.

The county’s planning chief Tom Odongo had promised to give developers timelines to adhere to the building code by demolishing extra floors or installing lifts.

Janet Were, who lives in a building that has eight floors in Pipeline Estate, has never heard of such a requirement.

“I have lived on the top floor of the apartment. The landlord has never mentioned anything to do with elevators. We find our way up the stairs even with heavy luggage,” said Janet.

Ascending to her house is like climbing a mountain. She plunges into her sofa to catch her breath for at least 15 minutes before stretching for the remote control to switch on the television.


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The story is the same for many other residents.

To entice tenants to the upper floors, landlords charge less than the rates for houses on the lower floors.

Challenges galore

This is how Janet and thousand many other tenants ended up living on the top floors despite the challenges of getting into their houses.

Philip Karani, a caretaker and agent of one of the houses, says it is hard to convince people to live on the top floors.

“The landlords had to get creative to get tenants for top  floors of their buildings. The rent charged is usually lower,” reiterates Karani.

Going up the stairs is hectic.

Most tenants find it hard to carry heavy luggage to their houses. Many are forced to pay handymen to do the job.

Hanging washed clothes is another problem as the space is limited and in case some clothes fall off the line, one has a hectic time going all the way to the ground to pick them up.

“My clothes fell down the line a week ago. I cannot explain the trouble I underwent going downstairs and washing them again considering I am a bachelor,” said Dennis Kiptoo, a tenant.

Emma Miloyo, president of the Architectural Association of Kenya, supported the building code, adding that it is a requirement that must be adhered to by all buildings.

“Only about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of houses in the city are compliant with the law. Some of the houses with poor lighting and no lifts lack legal approval. A report was issued and those buildings will be reviewed for proper rehabilitation,” said Miloyo.

Gad Opiyo, the chairman of the Architecture Association of Kenya, said there is no shortage of laws to regulate building and construction.

Mr Opiyo cites the building act. Despite the existence, he says, enforcement has taken a little too long.

Opiyo said all buildings are approved after it is established that they meet all the requirements of the code.

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