These private neighbourhoods are often perceived as symbols of wealth, with many working class people branding gated community dwellers as the rich elite.
In post-apartheid South Africa, gated communities were broadly classified as â€œsecurity villagesâ€. They mushroomed as a response to the high levels of violent crime.
Gated communities in Kenya are characterised by restricted access at their entrances, with some requiring dwellers to give specific details to security guards to identify friends or relations coming to visit.
Pedestrians, cyclists, and service vehicles are also subjected to security checks.
Apart from this, other features of gated communities are the closed perimeter walls and fences, backup power supply, sanitation, and community centres.
They are secure high-value properties set up as homes for the upper and middle class or as retirement villages.
â€œThe value and uniqueness of such premium products go down when homeowners have to be compelled to comply with payment of the service charges that sustain the look,â€ says Mr Charles Kabiru, the chief executive officer of Thika Greens Limited.
The requirement is a grey area that may require legal action if breaches occur.
Service charge is what maintains the fully independent and self-contained infrastructure which includes as learning institutions, water and power facilities, security personnel, medical facilities, swimming pools, tennis courts, clubhouses, golf courses, restaurants, playgrounds, gymnasiums, spas and so on.
Mr Mwenda Thuranira, the chief executive officer of My Space Properties Limited, says several laws that encompass sectional properties have been passed by Parliament.
He cites the Local Government Act, Cap.265, Sec. 201.(1), which stipulates that the local authority has been empowered from time to time to make by-laws in respect to matters necessary for the maintenance of the health, safety, and wellbeing of the inhabitants of an area.
The Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), No. 8 of 1999: Section 3 provides that every person in Kenya is entitled to a clean and healthy environment and has the duty to safeguard and enhance the same environment.
It also provides, under Section 50, that the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has the mandate to undertake measures intended to integrate conservation and sustainable utilisation of ethics in relation to diversity in existing government activities and activities by private individuals.
If an owner, tenant, or another person residing in a residential unit contravenes a by-law, the corporation formed to manage the gated community may take proceedings to the tribunal to recover what is owed from the owner or tenant.
This could attract a penalty of not more than Sh25,000 in respect of that contravention, says Mr Thuranira.
Mr Leonard Ithau, the group chief executive officer of Petu Properties, believes that relationships relate to acceptable or unacceptable behaviour and for communities of like-minded people.
â€œIf that is the case, it ought to be easy for them to adopt and live with policies and regulations governing such a society,â€ he says.
The exclusivity and prestige associated with such communities should take the combined effort of homeowners to maintain.
Members should sign an agreement to see that the rules and regulations are adhered to for accountability.
He, however, would not put the blame squarely on homeowners because there are developers who do not provide information on service charge when an investor is signing the sale agreement.
â€œWhen a homeowner parts with money he or she had not planned for when buying the property, they will feel cheated and this may be the reason some default on payments,â€ he says.
Mr Ithau maintains that a legally binding contract between the two parties with the terms and conditions of living after buying into a property ought not to be an afterthought.
This also prevents developers from increasing service charge at will. A developer may have quoted a service charge of Sh5,000 only to increase it to Sh10,000 above what had been agreed on.
Mr Kibiru says when some homeowners refuse to pay service charge, they create tension, miscommunication, and lack of harmony.
â€œSome believe it is their right to access the various facilities when they buy into gated communities. They ride on others who pay the charges and this creates acrimony in a community where status is crucial,â€ he says.
Gerald Taylor, the director of Willmary Estate, believes that peer pressure should work as a court for cases that tend to split the community.
He believes that it is a â€œKenyan thingâ€ as you can never get everyone to pay. He says homeowners who believe they have a right not to be denied services can cooperate when the other homeowners coerce them into paying.
â€œIt makes no sense if a defaulter is locked out of his or her home because they have not paid the security guard fee or their garbage is not collected as this negatively affects everyone,â€ he adds.
A service charge of Sh30,000 or Sh40,000 a month would not cause financial ruin for a person living in a house bought for millions. He says that this is an attitude problem.
Defaulters know that if they were to live in standalone houses, they would have to individually foot the service charges, which would be high.-Nation