More than 200 homeowners in Athi River’s Sunset Boulevard Estate risk losing their investments as auctioneers hired by I&M Bank look to sell the gated community to recover more than Sh400 million in unpaid loans.
On Monday, Leakey’s Auctioneers advertised the sale of the 222-unit Sunset Boulevard, a strong pointer to the hard times the real estate sector is undergoing.
On July 31, the auctioneer’s hammer will fall on 204 houses, inconveniencing individuals who have already paid for their apartments in full, unless the developers resolve their dispute with I&M Bank before then. Sunset Boulevard is battling I&M Bank in court to stop the sale.
High Court Judge Maureen Odero on June 13 issued an order that the warring parties maintain the status quo as she determines an application by Sunset Boulevard.
The developers have threatened to have I&M Bank’s officials jailed if they do not publish an advertisement cancelling the July 31 sale.
STATUS QUO ORDER
“We have noted that, despite the status quo order made by Justice Maureen Odero, your clients have proceeded to advertise the 204 apartments again in today’s (Monday) Daily Nation. We demand the immediate publication in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) daily, an advert cancelling the said contemptuous advertisement, failing which we will be moving to court immediately to cite your clients for contempt of court,” a letter from Ogola Okello & Company LLP to I&M lawyers Walker Kontos Advocates states.
The calm at the estate Monday gave no hint of storm over the development, estimated to cost about Sh2 billion.
The development is approximately 500 metres off Mombasa Road, and has one, two and three-bedroom houses. It also has a playing field.
Though cagey, some of the ‘homeowners’ spoke to the Nation in confidence.
One said this is not their first time to encounter a problem since several residents have previously received such notices from auctioneers despite having paid for their houses in full. She referred us to an office within the estate for more information.
The houses at Sunset Boulevard cost between Sh3 million and Sh6 million. For rentals, one-bedroom houses go for Sh16,000 a month. Two-bedroom ones go for Sh23,000, a notable drop from the Sh40,000 charged when the development opened its doors.
One tenant said he was ready to move out at short notice. “I’ve seen the news but I’m not worried because I’m just a tenant. If things are not resolved, I’ll move out,” he said. Sunset Boulevard Director Samuel Mirie did not pick several calls we made in an attempt to find out the firm’s next course of action.
But aside from the battle with I&M, the developer has also been struggling with internal wrangles that saw its board — comprising representatives of the developer and homeowners — r suspend the chairman earlier this year.
Sunset Boulevard’s failure to issue homeowners with title deeds several years after they paid has also fuelled tension between the two parties.
Some of the 204 homeowners told the Nation earlier this year that those affected by the planned auction have collectively paid Sh800 million. At the time, Mr Mirie was adamant that 196 of the affected houses had been paid for in full, and that the bank had received funds from their purchase.