Nobody can say he is settled anywhere forever: it is only the mountains which do not move from their places.
- Masai Proverb
Most UN employees are expected to find their own homes from commercially available properties. You will pay rent directly to your landlord and negotiate the costs of repairs and maintenance with them. Kenyan lease agreements usually have landlords be responsible for the maintenance of the house’s infrastructure and the payment of rates and taxes, while the tenant is expected to take care of routine maintenance and ‘wear and tear.’ The tenant is also responsible for paying all utility bills. Before seeking housing, staff members are advised to approach the UN’s Security and Safety Service in G-Block to get the latest information on residential security conditions. As well as advising you on the nature of a particular area, the Security and Safety Service can inform you about the local coverage of private security firms, the availability of water and electricity, the nature of the commute from Gigiri and your children’s schools, and what measures you might need to take to make a property secure for your family Staff members are usually advised to arrive in Nairobi before their dependents in order to have time to find suitable accommodation.
Finding a House
Popular areas for expatriate housing include the area around Gigiri and the Runda Estate, as well as the upmarket suburbs of Muthaiga, Spring Valley, Loresho, Westlands, Riverside Drive, Nyari Estate and Lavington. Reasonable and pleasant housing is also available in Hurlingham, Kilimani, Kileleshwa and the State House area. Some people prefer to live in the green neighborhoods of Karen and Langata, which are located to the south of Nairobi - roughly 15 km from Gigiri - and enjoy close proximity to Nairobi National Park and several other natural attractions. Keep in mind Nairobi traffic when choosing a location. Commuting from Karen to Gigiri can take over an hour (or more) during rush hour.
The best way to find housing is either by word of mouth or by looking at the noticeboards at the UN Gigiri Complex or at popular shopping centres, particularly the Sarit Centre, the Yaya Centre and Village Market. It is also worth looking at the Nation and Standard newspapers, the monthly Focus on Property magazine, and the website www.theexpatriate.org, which provides practical information and contacts for new residents.
Rental Costs and Conditions
Rents are quite high in Nairobi especially in the UN “Blue Zone,” ranging on average from KSh 90,000 to 150,000 (approximately US$900-1,500) for an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment or small cottage, KSh 150,000 to 220,000 (approximately US$1,500-2,200) for a two- or three-bedroom townhouse, and KSh 250,000 to 850,000 (approximately US$2,500-8,500) for a three- to five-bedroom house with a large garden in one of the more upmarket suburbs. Most rental agreements involve the signing of a 1 to 2-year lease, with renewal clauses allowing for a rental fee increase – usually around 10%. UN staffers are encouraged to request a ‘diplomatic clause’ that permits the tenant to terminate the lease with 1 to 3 months’ notice in the event of a reassignment or transfer. Most landlords request 3 months in advance rent and arriving staff should apply to their agency for a salary advance to meet this requirement.
Short Term Housing
Nairobi also has a good number of furnished and/or serviced apartments for rent, which are ideal for those on short-term contracts or newcomers who are still in the process of finding permanent housing. Most of these apartments are located in two main areas: the Hurlingham/Kilimani area, which has some of the city’s most comfortable serviced apartments, and Westlands, which has several new apartment developments, particularly in the vicinity of Rhapta Road.
The sensible selection of a house and good security awareness by everyone in it are key to strong residential security. The UN’s Home Security Scheme entitles all internationally recruited staff to the services of a private security firm at their agency’s expense. The following tips will help you in protecting you and your family at home:
Choosing a House
Try to find a house that is not too isolated and has other occupied properties around it.
Try to avoid houses that back onto forest or farm areas, which could allow intruders a concealed approach and easy getaway.
Avoid opulent and ostentatious homes that look like they contain a lot of expensive personal goods.
Making Your House Secure
The following should be considered as minimal security provisions for your house:
A 24-hour guard service with a reputable security firm (as recommended by the Security Office).
A security alarm system with backup service.
A siren on the roof with a flashing light connected to the alarm system.
A perimeter fence and solid gate, which cannot be seen through.
Good perimeter lighting.
Security bars on the windows, preferably fitted to the inside and set into the walls.
Solid exterior doors, with strong quality locks and padlocks.
A ‘safe haven’ area in which all residents can fit in the event of a robbery, with a telephone point and a radio alarm panic button.
Consider also installing an intruder alarm system linked to your backup alarm system.
Security Within the Home
Try to get to know your neighbours and their house staff.
Keep dogs, no matter how small, as a deterrent to thieves.
Keep cash and valuables locked in a safe or another secure place, to which only you have the keys.
Retain all ‘safe haven’ keys in your possession, and never leave them where others can find them.
Change locks if a key is lost or you have to dismiss any of your house staff.
Make sure all your staff and babysitters are well acquainted with door-opening and telephone-answering procedures.
Do not admit unscheduled tradesmen or other strangers onto your compound and make sure your staff inform you of any visitors they are receiving.
Keep trees and bushes trimmed to make it more difficult for intruders to hide themselves or to observe your movements from outside.
Never leave the house unattended and always lock up when you are out, even for very short periods.
Keep your main gate locked at all times.