Challenges of landlord-tenant relationship

Tenancy agreements have largely been accorded less attention by tenants. Most times, it has been found that these agreements are usually infused with clauses that may be injurious to tenants’ occupation of an apartment, Assistant Editor, OKWY IROEGBU-CHIKEZIE, reports.
The altercation between landlords and tenants is mostly a result of ignorance. It’s so bad that some landlords out of biases strictly outline who they will want to have as a tenant from the point of view of ethnicity, job or religion.

That the struggle between landlords and tenants is a common occurrence and mainly because each party does not know their rights and those of others, it is believed that this ignorance is the bane of this transaction. Some landlords under pressure have had to use unlawful means to eject recalcitrant tenants

Unfortunately, some landlords have insisted on profiling certain people from certain geo-political zone as bad tenants and will not, on a good day, allow them in. They argue that they can pay you the initial payment even if it’s far above the going rate for such house but you will need to employ several tactics to get subsequent rentals.

Also in that light, some landlords believe that they can never give out their houses to people they refer to as not naturally given to keeping their environment clean and might also wear down their houses with such reckless and careless living and reducing the value of such houses.

Tenants also tend to choose where to live by making enquires on where the landlord is from and size of his family. Some tenants also profile their prospective landlords by asking questions on the ethnicity of the landlord believing that some don’t respect timelines and can ask for rent even when it is not due because of their social lifestyle that ordinarily cannot fund and also not mindful of their tenants other commitment. Naturally, the tenancy agreement shouldn’t lead to controversy if both parties understand the nitty gritty of the laws guiding or binding them.

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Tenants possess the entitlement to inhabit the rented premises and benefit from its amenities in accordance with the terms specified in the tenancy agreement. It is impermissible for landlords to evict tenants in an unlawful manner, without adhering to the appropriate legal procedures and due process.

The struggle between the landlord and tenant is a common occurrence. Their relationship would have been better if they knew their rights.

Speaking with The Nation, Mr Abdul Jimoh, a lawyer, stated that in Lagos State, the government has the Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011, being the law that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants.

He cautioned that it is always preferable to resolve disputes amicably and without recourse to legal action. According to him, the Lagos State Government has a simple mediation service for resolving minor tenancy issues without recourse to legal action.

He said: “Specifically, where dispute arises, the tenancy law obligates the landlord to issue a six-month notice (in the case of a yearly tenancy). At the expiration of the initial notice, the landlord or his counsel must issue a further seven days’ notice of owner’s intention to seek possession by court action. At the expiration of that notice, the landlord must, then, file an action in court. It is, therefore, only a court order that can give a possession order against a tenant.

Jimoh maintained that the law frowns at self-help and that there could be very severe consequences for any landlord who indulges in self-help. He referred to the Supreme Court case of Ojukwu vs Governor of Lagos State. The lawyer stressed that the Tenancy Law of Lagos also criminalises pressures mounted to evict tenants, e.g. removing the roof, disconnection of water or power.

In addition, in a document by Chaman Law Firm Team, it stated that it is impossible for landlords and tenants to cohabit in peace in the country, noting that the ignorance of the parties involved is to blame for this. According to the document, many landlords and tenants know their rights. The tenant has the right to rent any property anywhere in the country, notwithstanding his state of origin or nationality.

Right to a well-written tenancy agreement

It is the right of every tenant to have a well- written tenancy agreement, not just a verbal one that might result in dispute. The agreement should contain the full name of the landlord, the full name of the tenant, the full description of the property, the payment information (amount, account to make payments, expiration date of the tenancy, duration of the rent, next renewal of payment). The tenant also has the right to read before signing and seek the advice of a lawyer on the terms of the contract.

Right to receipt of payment

The tenant has right to be issued a receipt of payment by the landlord after he has made payment for the rent. The receipt should contain the full name of the landlord, the full name of the tenant, the amount paid, the date of the payment, property for the payment, duration the payment covers, and signature of the receiver.

Right to valid quit notice

Where a landlord wishes to evict a tenant, he must follow due process by issuing a valid quit notice to the tenant which will contain the full name of the landlord, name of the tenant, address of the property occupied and duration.

Right to harmonious relationships

The tenant has the right to enjoy the property in harmony, especially where he has fulfilled his part of the bargain. Therefore, the tenant can choose his preferred usage of the property and can sue for trespass against anyone, including the landlord. However, the landlord still has the right to supervise and maintain the property with the knowledge and permission of the tenant.

Right to a compulsory seven-day notice to recover possessions:

All tenants have the right to a seven-day notice to recover their possessions after the valid quit notice expires.

The rights of a landlord are: Right to property: The landlord has the right to own property in any part of the country. Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the ‘Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria’. So, every Nigerian, no matter their ethnicity, can own, buy, sell, acquire any property.

Right to renew tenancy

They have the discretion to renew tenant’s agreement or not. He has the right to refuse to renew the agreement, especially where he was not comfortable with having the tenant occupy his property.

Right to not issue quit notice

He has a right to issue or not issue quit notice, especially where he waived his right to quit notice in the agreement.

Right to review rent

They have the right to review the rent in line with the Rent Review Clause and not during tenancy.

Right against compulsory acquisition of Property

Section 44 of the Constitution provides for the right against compulsory acquisition of property. Section 28 of Land Use Act provides that the government can only compulsorily acquire a land for the public interest.

Right to compensation from compulsory acquisition

The government can compulsory acquire property for public purposes. The landlord has the right to be compensated.

Right not to reimburse a tenant

Where a tenant carries out repairs in the property, the landlord has the right not to reimburse the tenant. They are mandated to reimburse the tenant only where the repair is covered in their agreement.

From the aforementioned, it is evident that both the landlord and the tenant have their rights. So, if they are aware of these rights, there is no doubt that they will co-exist peacefully.

Another lawyer who didn’t want his name on paper, responding to how much notice a landlord have to give a tenant to move out? He said it is in this order, one-month notice for a monthly tenant; three-month notice for a quarterly tenant; three-month notice for a half-yearly tenant; and six-month notice for a yearly tenant.

On how long a tenant stays after the rent expires in Lagos, he stated that once the fixed term has expired, the tenant must vacate the property unless the landlord and tenant agree to renew the tenancy agreement. If the landlord does not want to renew the tenancy agreement, they must serve the tenant with a notice to quit at least one month before the end of the fixed term.

How long can a tenant stay after rent expires?

The rule is that for a landlord to file and maintain an action to evict a tenant, he shall first issue and serve two notices on the tenant.

It is important to note that the length of “Notice to Quit” required to be issued on a tenant is determined by the nature of tenancy maintained by the tenant.

These notices are a condition required by the law upon which the landlord shall fulfil before filing an action against a tenant in a court to recover his property.

Interestingly, the position of the law before 2021 was that, a landlord must comply with these notices before he could file an action against the tenant in court.

But, this position has changed recently in terms of strict compliance with notices, as the position of the Supreme Court is that no irregularity in statutory notice(s) shall defeat an action for recovery of possession as long as the case has been filed and served on the tenant (defendant)

He said a landlord has no right to disconnect tenant’s electricity, remove his roof or block his entrance simply because the tenant is in arrears of rent, and similarly, he also has no right to use the Police, Civil Defence Corps, Army, local vigilance group etc., to evict a tenant regardless of how many years the tenant is owing rents.

According to him, any landlord who uses any of the above means to evict a tenant other than going to court after service of the required notices as highlighted above, is in violation of the tenant’s rights and the tenant can sue the landlord for such violation.

Source: The Nation Newspaper

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