A landlord is the legitimate owner of a landed property, real estate or an apartment which is leased or rented out to an individual or corporate organization.
In the case of ABEKE V. ODUNSI, the Supreme Court, relying on its old case of Oduye v. Nigeria Airways Limited decided in 1987, held as follows:
''Who then is a tenant? Under the Rent Control and Recovery of Residential
Premises Law - Section 40(i) provides thus:- "Unless the content otherwise
requires "tenant" includes a sub-tenant or any person occupying any premises
whether on payment of rent or otherwise but does not include a person
occupying Premises under a bonafide claim to be the owner of the premises"
The qualification, therefore, for becoming a tenant under the Law is lawful occupation. Maintaining healthy landlord-tenant relationship in a residential property is a pre-requisite for societal advancement and growth. Good tenant employee relations back-up by a comprehensive tenancy agreement and timely payment of rents are required for a cordial relationship to exist between the landlord and tenant, and to also boost tenant satisfaction.
RIGHTS OF A TENANT:
« RIGHT TO A WRITTEN AGREEMENT
The law makes the writing of tenancy agreements mandatory for tenancies above three (3) years while tenancy below three can be orally or written. Generally, to be on the safe side parties are advised to put their agreements in writing even if it is for a week tenancy. The tenancy agreements are to contain in details:
· the names and addresses of the Landlord and the Tenant
· the address of the property
· the start date and end date of the tenancy
· how much the rent will be
· other applicable amounts including – legal fees, agency fees, security deposits, service charges/fees etc. as applicable
· the obligations of both the Landlord and the Tenant
· an outline of bills the Tenant is responsible for
The above list is not exhaustive and in fact there are more terms that are frequently included in well-drafted Tenancy Agreements. Before renting a property, it is important that a well-drafted Tenancy Agreement is signed by both parties as it is the most important document in the tenancy relationship.
« RIGHT TO SUE LANDLORD FOR TRESPASS
A tenant has the right to sue a landlord who pays deaf ears to the provisions of the law and goes on to throw him out. The above-detailed rules are not mere academic literature rather valid and subsisting procedure for the eviction of tenants in any part of Nigeria. Once a tenant is in the occupation of premises then he has all rights over the premises and the law will not allow his landlord to trespass against such.
A tenant has the right to sue a landlord who pays deaf ears to the provisions of the law and goes on to throw out him out. The above detailed procedures are not mere academic literature rather valid and subsisting procedure for the eviction of tenants in any part of Nigeria. Once a tenant is in occupation of premises then he has all rights over the premises and the law will not allow his landlord to trespass against such.
The court will not hesitate to slam the hammer on a landlord that throws the laws to the winds. Let a tenant seek remedy in court by consulting a lawyer. He should equally complain to the Nigerian Police of such trespass, to investigate such and prosecute the landlord for criminal trespass. All persons are equal before the law and a landlord is not in any degree a master or lord unto his tenant; not a “tenant-lord”.
« RIGHT TO ISSUANCE OF RECEIPT OF PAYMENT.
Payment of rent is a vital part of tenancy albeit not proof of existence of a tenancy. It is often one of the covenants of a tenancy agreement. Payment of rent can help a court in calculating the duration for a valid Notice to Quit, where there is no agreement. Prove of payment (receipt) is needed in the calculation of a mesne profit (rent incurred by a tenant after the expiration of a valid “Notice to Quit” served on him) and even arrears of rent (rent incurred by a tenant while in a valid tenancy with his landlord). It can equally clear off any allegation of contravention of a valid rent clause (timely payment of rent). Hence, a tenant is entitled to the receipts of payment of his rent; for it is a proof of payment therein.
The receipt of payment is an acknowledgement from a landlord (or his agent) that he has received rent from a tenant. It must contain the name of the landlord and the tenant, the amount paid and the date of such payment. The property for which such payment is made, the duration that such payment will cover and the signature of the receiver must also be on the receipt.
It is an actionable offence to refuse to issue a receipt for rent paid and received. It is your right as a tenant to be issued a receipt upon payment of rent. Where the payment is only a part of the whole, it should also be receipted and same stated. Remember a written agreement endorsed by the landlord before a witness that he has received a rent from his tenant will suffice. No matter how familiar, friendly, corporative and caring your landlord is, please always demand for receipts of your paid rents to safeguard your tomorrow.
« RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ENJOYMENT OF PROPERTY.
A tenant pays his rent to his landlord for the landlord to grant him a peaceful and serene enjoyment of the landlord’s property within an agreed period to the exclusion of all other persons; the landlord inclusive. No tenant pays to be offered an uninhabitable apartment, dilapidated property, unsecured environment or a contentious accommodation. Once payment is made and tenancy commence the tenant has both legal and equitable rights over the said property. Hence the tenant holds and occupies the property to the exclusion of all other persons and even against the landlord since he holds a better and higher title than the landlord.
Consequently, a tenant has an absolute right over his paid flat, room, apartment or building. He determines entrance, usage, safety and can even sue for trespass against any trespasser; strangers, landlord and his agents. The landlord can supervise and maintain the property generally, but with the knowledge of the tenant and within reasonable hours of the day. Once a landlord rents out his property he has also rented out his supreme powers over the property although he still has reversionary interest (right to take back property at the expiration of tenancy). So why should a tenant upon his rent worship and tremble before his landlord like a semi-god? Why should a tenant tolerate a landlord who breaks and enters without into the tenant’s premises without consent?Why should a tenant be enslaved and turned into a sanitary attendant by his landlord whom he pays rent as at when due? The above happen when and where the tenant is ignorant of his rights as a tenant! Let such a man/woman consult a lawyer and report cases of criminal trespass to the nearest police station.
« RIGHT TO A VALID NOTICE TO QUIT.
Generally, going by the dictates of our law no landlord can evict his tenant whether he is in debt or not by throwing him out of his premises.The legislatures in consideration of our conservative Land Use Act have enacted series of tenants-friendly Acts and laws.A tenant cannot be thrown out of his apartment unless there is a strict compliance by his landlord with of relevant Recovery of Premises Law.
Recovery of Premises Law provides that a valid “Notice to Quit” (Quit Notice) of a landlord’s intention to terminate/quit the tenancy of the tenant must be written and served on the tenant. The law went on to provide durations for “Notice to Quit” for varying tenancies. It provides that a one (1) year or above tenancy will require at least a six (6) months notice.Monthly tenancy requires one (1) month notice while a weekly notice requires one (1) week notice. Note that by tenancy agreements the landlord and tenant can agree on a different duration for Notice to Quit. By the agreement of both parties a yearly tenancy for which the law provides a six (6) months “Notice to Quit” can be reduced to a week or a month notice. Some tenants can even sign to a tenancy to be evicted without a “Notice to Quit”. The law honors and respects the agreements of parties and will implement it to the last of letters.
A diligent tenant before agreeing and signing to a tenancy agreement should carefully read and understand in details the provisions of his agreement documents. Better still, the service of a lawyer can be sought to help in perusing and interpreting the contents of the agreement. Remember the law does not and will not care to know that a tenant did not understand or never knew the law before signing his agreement; “ignorantio legis non excuse” (ignorance of the law is no excuse). When a tenant signs a lawful agreement that limit his rights he will be bound by such same agreement; “violentia non fit injuria”. And such party cannot be allowed to plead that he never signed such agreement (non est factum).
Please, do note that when a tenant owes his landlord for (3) three consecutive months, the landlord can dispense with the issuance of a “Notice to Quit” on such tenant. Where tenancy has expired by time and there is no new and subsisting tenancy, the landlord can also recover his property without issuing a “Notice to Quit”, although he is expected to adhere to other conditions.
A valid “Notice to Quit” must contain the name of the landlord, the name of the tenant, the address of the property occupied by the tenant, date the notice will commence and date it will end. It must not end when a tenancy is still running and valid. Such notice must be calculated in a way that it ends on the eve of the anniversary of a subsisting tenancy, for yearly tenancies. Where it is a monthly tenancy it must expire on day of the anniversary of a subsisting tenancy.A “Notice to Quit” that those not contain all the above necessary information; can be vitiated by a court of competent jurisdiction. A tenant who is not clear on the contents of any Notice served him should see his/her lawyer.
« RIGHT TO A COMPULSORY (7) SEVEN DAYS NOTICE TO RECOVER PREMISES.
“Seven (7) days Notice of Owner’s Intention to Recover Premises” is a notice from a landlord’s lawyer notifying a tenant upon whom a “notice to quit” had been served and same had expired; that the lawyer will after seven (7) days from the date of the service of the Notice proceed to court to recover the over- held premises on behalf of the landlord.
In the light of the Law’s determination to protect the often humiliated tenants in Nigeria, it went on to provide that aside the service of a valid “Notice to Quit” on the tenant, the landlord must go on to serve a “(7) Seven days Notice of Owners Intention to Recover Premises”. The law would not encourage a scene where surprises are sprang upon tenants; hence a tenant must at all times be accorded adequate time to quit possession.
A “(7) Seven days Notice of Owner’s Intention to Recover Premises” can only be served on a tenant after the expiration of a valid “Notice to Quit”. Where a seven (7) Days Notice is served before a “Notice to Quit” or during the life span of a “Notice to Quit”, such is invalid and goes to no issue. A seven (7) days notice is to be calculated from the day after the service of the notice on the tenant and not from the day of service. If the notice is short or less by just a day it is a good ground for the court to reject the legality of such. Let no one threaten you by serving a defective Notice on you or a court order that you should vacate premises without all the above statutory notices. Just speak to you lawyer first.
« RIGHT TO A STATUTORY TENANCY.
A tenant after the expiration of a valid “Notice to Quit” on him and he still maintains possession without the revocation of such notice or paying of rent, he is said to be holding such against the rights of the landlord. Even at this stage the laws will still frown at a landlord who goes on to throw out his tenant without proceeding to court for such an order. The law still allows such a tenant to maintain possession although no longer as a tenant of the landlord rather as a tenant of the law (statutory tenant). As a statutory tenant he is not mandated to pay rent to his landlord although a court can order him to pay up all rent (mesne) he accumulated within such period after determination of a suit on such.
« RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING.
The law in its fullness and supremacy has provided all persons in Nigeria with some inalienable Fundamental Human Rights of which one of them is a Right to Fair Hearing. No person (tenant) can be tried in a competent court without his/her own part of the matter being heard before judgement is passed. So no tenant can be evicted by court without hearing from the tenant. Some landlords in their wickedness and criminality do procure strangers to pose as sued tenant to deceive the court and procure judgement. If a tenant suspects that his landlord has gone to deceive the court; let him immediately seek the services of a lawyer.
RIGHT OF A LANDLORD
« RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY IN ANY PART OF NIGERIA.
The organic law of Nigeria; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 provides for the “Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.”Hence, all citizens of Nigeria have the right to buy, purchase, acquire, inherit and retain, own, maintain and use a land located in any part of Nigeria. It does not matter whether one is Igbo or Hausa, Efik or Yoruba, indigene or Non-indigene.
Like any other fundamental human right provided for under our constitution you can seek for its enforcement in a High Court or Federal High. All landlords are entitled to their property and the safety of their property in any part of Nigeria. Don’t let indigenous revolting tenants intimidate you. You owe them just nothing. Don’t decay in ignorance; believing fundamental human rights to be only on life, movement, speech, fair hearing and issues alike.
« RIGHT AGAINST COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, being aware of the dreaded powers of government and the selfish interest of its prospective wielders, provided certain protection for landlords. Our Constitution provides for a right against compulsory acquisition of property. By the above provision, no land or interest on it can be compulsorily taken away from its owner in any part of Nigeria.
The provision went further to provide that on exceptional situations land can be compulsorily acquired but in the manner and for the purposes prescribed for in any of our laws. The law went further to entitle the landlord to receive a prompt payment of compensation from the government. To complement our constitution, the LAND USE ACT 1978, went on to provide the sacrosanct manner and purpose for which a land can be compulsorily acquired by government. By the Land Use Act a governor can only compulsorily acquire a land for overriding public interest. The law went further to explain that “overriding public interest” means
i. The requirement of the land by government for public purposes within the state.
ii. Or for mining purposes or oil pipelines or building materials extraction or similar purposes.
iii. The transfer of land or interest in it by landlord without obeying the regulations over such transaction. (it’s a punitive measure).
It is crystal clear that our laws did not provide for compulsory acquisition by Governors’ for their own businesses rather for public purposes or better still for state use. Hence, no Governor can rightly, acquire your land to erect his personal house, hotel, hostel, school or private parks. Don’t succumb to the agitations of a Governor that wrestles to compulsorily acquire you land, for anything short of “for public use” instead get a lawyer.
« RIGHT TO COMPENSATION
The law cannot allow the efforts of a landlord to go in vain, hence the law equipped him with a commensurate right that comes to birth in the event of compulsory acquisition of his land. Our grundnorm; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides for payments of compensation to landlords.Aside the provision in the Constitution, our Land Use Act equally provides for compensation of a landlord upon compulsory acquisition of his land. Take note that, a landlord is not compensated for a land itself rather for his improvements, advancements and investments on the land, like buildings, mechanical installation, drainage system, irrigation system, fence, reclamation works, economic crops and any paid land rent for the year of such acquisition.
Before compensation could be paid, evaluators from government would calculate, evaluate and fix prices to all improvements on a land, short of depreciation. A documentary evidence and proof works and investments on a land (like invoices and receipts) would aid the computation. Know you all men that no compensation can ever be paid to a landlord for an undeveloped, bare land for he has expended nothing on it!
A Compulsory acquisition of a land can never come like “Jesus Christ”, whom the Scriptures say would come like a thief in the night. There are notices, letters and reminders that must be sent by government to a landlord before a compulsory acquisition of his land. A landlord whose land is to be compulsorily acquired must receive a written notice from a duly authorised public officer on behalf of the Governor. If such notices are not served on a landlord he can legally contest the invalidity of such acquisition.
« RIGHT TO ISSUE A NOTICE TO QUIT.
One of the greatest powers of a landlord is “right to rent and un-rent” his property. He has the right to hire and fire a tenant. No willing tenant can force himself or herself on the property of an unwilling landlord. Put it this way, every landlord has a right to say NO. But in saying or doing such, a landlord must do it within the provisions of the prevailing tenancy agreement and laws. The first step towards the removal of a tenant is the service of “Notice to Quit” (popularly termed “Quit Notice”). Generally, the law allows a tenant and his landlord to agree as to rent, duration of rent and notices to be issued. Hence, both can agree that the tenant be issued no “Notice to Quit” at all or a “Notice to Quit”, that is shorter than the statutorily provided periods. Since tenants are often desperate to sign agreements and pack into buildings, shylock landlords add draconic terms that may even waive tenants’ right to be issued a notice to quit. But where a landlord and his tenant fail to agree as to the duration of a notice to quit in their agreement, the law will take its course. Going by the law, where there is no tenancy agreement as to notice to quit, a landlord is to issue 6 months notice to quit for a yearly tenancy or a tenancy above one year and 1 month notice to quit for a monthly tenancy.Finally, a week tenancy requires one week notice to quit while a daily tenancy requires a day notice to quit. Where a landlord and his tenant failed to agree on the type of tenancy to run and the court would determine such through the periods for demand and payment of rent.
Landlords can serve valid “notice to quit” on their tenants without the aid of lawyers. A notice to quit cannot be orally delivered rather it must be written. A written notice to quit must contain the name of the landlord and his tenant. Address of the house/property, duration of the notice and date of expiration must be included in a notice to quit.Writing of a notice to quit is not an exclusive work of a lawyer, a landlord, his caretakers, estate managers and other agents can do such. A landlord must calculate and serve such notice to end on the eve of the anniversary of the subsisting tenancy of his tenant. Hence, for a tenancy that would end on 31st of August 2011, its valid notice to quit must end latest on the eve of 31st August 2011 for if it crosses over to 1st of September it would be invalid. A notice to quit that runs into a new tenancy period is invalid. A landlord must make sure his notice to quit is served personally on his tenant while an acknowledged copy of service of same is collected from the tenant. Please note that refusal to collect or receive rent is not a Notice to Quit. Even the acceptance of arrears of rent or rent itself from a tenant does not put an end to a subsisting notice to quit served on. A landlord need not issue a notice to quit to a tenant that has owed rent for 3 consecutive months or whose tenancy has expired or who has contradicted any of the conditions and terms of tenancy. For the sake of the above technicality, a landlord should engage the service of a lawyer.
« RIGHT NOT TO ISSUE A NOTICE TO QUIT
Ignorantly, most tenants argue endlessly with their landlord over his non issuance of a “Notice to Quit” on them. On the other hand, some landlords do issue “Notice to Quit” when they need to so. The truth is that a landlord has a right to issue a notice to quit and also a right not issue a notice to quit.
First of the instances where a landlord need not issue a “Notice to Quit” is where a tenancy agreement contains such. By tenancy agreement between a landlord and his tenant both can waive the issuance of a notice to quit on tenant. The law allows such and will honour same, for both parties have the right to determine the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement. Practically, most tenants are always in a haste to move into houses/properties at all cost and would hurriedly sign anything. Hence, landlords can insert “Notice to quit Waiver Clauses” in tenancy agreements to afford them its consequential right. With such a clause a landlord need not serve even a day notice to quit on his tenant. Once the tenancy agreement was signed wilfully the court will honour it and assist in its execution.
The second instance is where a tenant contradicts a written term or condition of his tenancy agreement. In such circumstance his landlord need not issue him a notice to quit before embarking on further steps to evict him. For example, where a tenancy agreement provides that a building be used solely for residential purposes and a tenant turns such a building into a commercial, business or industrial use, his landlord need not serve him a “Notice to Quit”.
Thirdly, where a tenant has been in debt of arrears of rent for three (3) consecutive months, he requires no “Notice to Quit”. The 3 months must be together and not having a new paid month(s) in between them. The rent must have been demanded for by the landlord or his agents.
Lastly, where a term, tenure, duration of tenancy has expired and a new one is not renewed a landlord need not serve a “Notice to Quit” on his tenant. It plays to logic, because you need not give a notice of your intention to terminate what had already terminated. So at the lapse of a tenancy by effluxion of time a tenant requires no “Notice to Quit” from his landlord.
In all the above four instances, landlords can dispense the service of a “Notice to Quit” upon their tenants while they employ other eviction processes like the service of “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention”.
« RIGHT TO ISSUE 7 DAYS NOTICE
A landlord is the perpetual owner of his own property, being occupied by a tenant for a certain term. Upon the expiration of tenancy or occurrence of certain events the property reverts back to the lawful owner; landlord. Tenants are not owners of the buildings they occupy no matter how much they pay or how long there have been on it. Hence, a landlord has the right to recover back his property from any tenant.
In the process of evicting and recovering premises, a landlord has the right to issue a “Seven Days Notice” of his intention to recovers such premises to its occupier. In the legal chronology of processes for eviction and recover of premises, a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” comes after a “Notice to Quit” must have been served and had expired. Although like I had explained earlier in Right No. 5, they are instances where a landlord need not serve a “Notice to Quit”. In such instance, the landlord may just serve a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” straight away on the tenant.Unlike a “Notice to Quit” a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” can only be drafted by a lawyer. The “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” will state that the landlord’s lawyer (solicitor) will proceed to court to evict the occupant of the premises if such occupant fails to give up his possession within the specified seven days. Upon the expiration of seven days, the lawyer will pray the court to evict the occupant and order any unpaid rent and mesne profit to be paid.No tenant can take away the building of a landlord from him or occupy his building without paying for such. Every period of occupation of a building must be paid either as rent or as mesne profit (mesne profit is a legal terminology for the amount owed by a tenant to a landlord from the date his tenancy expired till the date he packs out of the building and gives up possession to the landlord)
« RIGHT TO ENTER A LENT PROPERTY
Tenancy is not alienation, assignment or sale of ownership from landlord to his tenant rather it is the leasing, renting, giving of some certain term, period, tenancy or lease to a tenant. It does not matter if such was done for a price called rent or not. Consequently, the all-time ownership of a property rests on the landlord who only gives right to a tenant to occupy same. Hence, a landlord has a right to enter upon his lent property at will. Yes, it is his property for life against his tenant; once a landlord always a landlord!
A landlord is equipped with this right in law to afford him the opportunity to supervise and monitor his property to avoid unnecessary damage in the hands of destructive tenants. A landlord needs to know what goes on his property to make sure tenants abide by their binding tenancy agreement. Squel to this right, some smart tenant would demand the landlord to sign in their tenancy agreement that he would only enter upon the property in the day time and not at odd hours of the night. Well that is okay. Besides, landlords need to respect tenants’ fundamental human right to private and family life as enshrined in the constitution. Landlords should not result to self-help, like breaking tenant’s door, loosening tenant’s doors, windows and roof, beating tenants or locking them up in their flats or rooms in order to forcefully gain access or recover rent or possession. For any of above acts, a tenant can sue the hell out such a landlord, both in civil and criminal law.
« RIGHT TO RENEW TENANCY
It is not mandatory that a landlord must renew his tenancy with a tenant; a landlord can decline without reasons. This right is one of the measures a landlord can use to offload a non-conformist or compliant tenant. A tenant cannot force himself upon a landlord. It is the exclusive rights of a landlord to determine his tenants. Hence, a landlord can only renew tenancy for his good old desirous tenants.
All landlords should include their rights to renew tenancy in their tenancy agreements. A “Tenancy Renewal Clause” should contain the time within which a tenant can apply to his landlord for renewal and also the mode of such application. This may look absurd but I bet you it clears off any air of assumption. All these are good foundation for an enjoyable “landlordship”!
« RIGHT NOT TO REIMBURSE A TENANT
A landlord owes a house and not a tenant. While a landlord owns a house and a tenant uses same, some repairs are for the landlord and some for his tenant. The nature of repairs can be clearly contained in a tenancy agreement to avoid doubt and unfounded assumption and problems. In practice, landlords for the sake of averting depreciation carryout repairs that should have been done by their tenant. Sometimes, tenants carry out repairs that are due to their inhuman landlords who care only for their rents.Some tenants after make repairs on building do subsequently seek to deduct their expenses from the rent due to their landlords. In some circumstances, the tenants may even demand for an outright defrayment of cost of repairs on the building.
A landlord is not a master of his tenant neither is a tenant an agent of a landlord. Each of them is independent and none represents the other in profit or in loss. Hence, a landlord is not bound to reimburse his tenant for expenses incurred from repairs neither is a tenant responsible for a landlords cost of repairs on his building. Even if a landlord orally agrees to have such cost deducted from his tenant’s rent it still does not stand.A landlord can only be legally responsible to repay the expenses of his tenant if there is a written agreement between the landlord and his tenant as to such repayment. Equally, a landlord has a duty not to demand his cost of repairs from his tenants after they had paid their rent.
« RIGHT TO REVIEW RENT
The only thing that does not change is change itself. Landlords are in business, for their buildings are their investments while a quality rent is their rightful expectation. As policies, time and economics change landlords change their rent price. Unfortunately, the change is always an increment and never a decline, not minding depreciation on buildings. Well, it is the right of a landlord to review his rent price although within the percentage range in the “Rent Review Clause” of his tenancy agreement. Although a landlord can review his rent, he cannot do such during an existing tenancy and demand his tenants to pay up the difference. A rent review must be for a fresh tenancy and not for a subsisting tenancy.
In conclusion, The relationship between tenants and landlords In Nigeria has reached a very significant stage in the modern day society in Nigeria, thus there is a need to know and review the effect of the relationship between the landlord and the tenant on residential properties, and respectively parties are to understand the rights available to them in order to enjoy the above rights in its fullness, as it is quite unfortunately, that some landlords and tenant don’t enjoy half of their rights due to ignorance.
1. According to Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data the population of Nigeria as of Saturday May 16, 2020 is 205,444,156. In 2018, Nigeria population was 195.9 million.