Accommodation is of fundamental importance to humans, thus; drastic increase in population over the past few decades have occasioned a more formal and generally acceptable set of principles governing tenancy, tenant-landlord relations as well as ejection of a tenant from a property.
In the struggle to keep pace with the growth in population, it is worthy of note that the law in doing this often leans more towards the tenant as he is presumed to be in a disadvantaged position going into the agreement.
Who is a tenant?
A tenant is any person occupying a property or a piece of land in exchange for the payment of rent or some other consideration as may be determined by the parties. This does not include an occupier of a property or a piece of land under bonafide claim to be the owner of the property.
A tenancy relationship is said to have arisen when a leasehold is created by the landlord in favour of the tenant for a term certain or upon the happening of an event for such rent fee as may be determined by the parties.
It is however worthy of note that the relationship of landlord and tenant does not arise in case of a trespasser, i.e. any person on a property without the consent of the party with the right of ownership on the said property. The aforementioned relationship also does not exist in the case of a licensee and a servant.
It is also of immense importance to mention the fact that tenancy may be statutory or customary with the latter having been substantially phased out. However, a customary tenant is a mere grantee who holds determinable interest which may be enjoyed in perpetuity subject to good behavior. A statutory tenant on the other hand is a person with a structured set of rights enjoyed by virtue of the tenancy law applicable at the material area. A statutory tenant therefore is a person who has been in lawful possession of a property and wrongfully remains a holder after his interest has expired.
Section 47 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos state defines a tenant to include a sub-tenant or any person occupying a premises whether by payment of rent howsoever or by operation of law.
The main feature of tenancy is that the tenant, be he a customary or statutory tenant has exclusive usage/possession of the estate. This is a feature also enjoyed by a licensee.
The Inter jurisdictional Nature of Tenancy Practice in Nigeria
It is worthy of note that various states in Nigeria have their Tenancy Laws which apply to tenancy transactions/relations in their respective states. However, Lagos; being Nigeria’s commercial nerve center attracts a lot of interest as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
Recovery of premises, being a very important aspect of tenancy has fundamental similitude across various jurisdictions in Nigeria. That is, any statutory tenant irrespective of the location is entitled to a six month notice to quit as well as seven days owner’s intention to apply to recover possession. This in essence means that impunity by landlords is not allowed in any jurisdiction within Nigeria. However, the mode of calculating the six month notice to quit varies between Abuja and Lagos.
Tenancy in Lagos
Relationship between landlord and tenant in Lagos state is governed by the Tenancy Law of Lagos state (2011). This law so cited is limited in application to the following:
Premises owned or operated by an educational institution for its staff and students; i.e. students hostels and residential staff quarters of educational institutions.
Premises meant for emergency shelter, hospitals as well as mental health facilities.
Premises situated in Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Victoria Island and Ikoyi.
However, the Tenancy Law of Lagos state prohibits landlord from demanding or receiving rent in excess of one year. Punishment for such is a N100,000 fine or 3 month jail term.
In Lagos also, if the consent of a landlord is sought and obtained for repair works to be carried out on the premises, the landlord cannot terminate the tenancy, if he does, such tenant is entitled to a claim to the extent of the repairs carried out on the premises.
Notice to quit in Lagos is calculated with 6 clear months. This in essence means that calculation of the gestation period of the notice to quit starts to count from a fresh month irrespective of the time it was served.
The question that begs for response at this juncture is that; those aforementioned areas to which the Tenancy Law of Lagos state is limited in application, what is the applicable law to those areas? Does it mean Landlords in those areas are given liberty to deal in the demise premises in any manner that suits them? The Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises Law of Lagos state 2003 applies; thus, the minimum threshold of six month notice to quit as well as the Seven days owners intention to Apply to recover possession still applies.
Tenancy in the Federal Capital Territory
The Applicable law to tenancy relations in Federal Capital Territory is the Recovery of Premises Act 1990. The fundamental difference between the Tenancy practice as explained above in Lagos jurisdiction and Abuja jurisdiction is the mode of calculation of the six months notice to quit. Notice to quit in Abuja can only be valid only if it terminates on the eve of tenancy. That is, the date of maturity of the notice must be the eve of the anniversary of the tenancy. The principle of seven days notice of owners’ intention to apply to recover possession is the same with Lagos.
Other Inter Jurisdictionally Applicable Principles:
A weekly tenant or a tenant at will is entitled to a week’s notice.
A monthly tenant is entitled to a month’s notice.
A quarterly tenant is entitled to a quarter’s notice.
A half yearly tenant is entitled to three month notice.
A yearly tenant is entitled to half a year’s notice.
In the case of a quarterly or half yearly tenant, once he’s in arrears of one year rent, the tenancy shall be deemed as lapsed.
On no account is forcible eviction from a property justifiable under any law in any jurisdiction.
Any Landlord that forcibly evicts a tenant without the procedures as stated above will be liable in damages.
Ensure that agreements you enter into with your landlords are reduced to writing; be it the tenancy agreement proper or any contract flowing there from. Agreements ranging from repairs on the demise premises to mode of refund of amounts to be spent on the said repairs.
Consult a Legal Practitioner.
Written by Muideen