Since the Lagos Tenancy law was promulgated in 2011, it remains to be seen if there’s been full adherence to the law. In this article we will take a look at some of the aspects of the law where landlords have been found wanting. These are offences that shouldn’t even arise with or without the law in place.
The problem with the Lagos tenancy law enacted in 2011 is the fact that the people that should be affected by it are not even aware of the provisions of the law while some of landlords and tenants don’t even know such a thing exists.
In a country such as ours where the average man does not employ the services of a lawyer until they have no other choice but to, there is so much to be done to bring this all-important law to the front burner of disputes between landlord and tenants. How many Nigerian can even afford the services of a lawyer to start with?
In this regard it is important that copies of the Lagos tenancy law be made available when a landlord is about to admit a new tenant into his property. However another challenge as regards that is the fact that some of these landlords are illiterates, more reason why they should have a real estate professional or lawyer always at their beck and call to ensure that they don’t err ignorantly during their interactions with their tenants.
In the immediate past and even in recent times many landlord have claimed ignorance of the law to act recklessly and non-cautiously in their dealings with their tenants without any fear of percussion. Some of the actions of these landlords should not even arise with or without the law; in some cases an erring landlord don’t need the law to tell him a particular act of his is unlawful.
More so, it’s bad for the tenants because most of them don’t even know there is a law that frowns at such behavior on the path of the landlords so most often than not they are defenseless. You can only defend your right when you know you have one.
Some of the acts that are perpetrated by landlords include;
- Unlawful Eviction: The Lagos tenancy law states that the landlord shall subject the tenant to:
(a) a week’s notice for a tenant at will;
(b) one month’s notice for a monthly tenant;
(c) three months notice for a quarterly tenant;
(d) three months notice for a half-yearly tenant; and
(e) six months notice for a yearly tenant
Therefore, a situation where a landlord locks out a tenant and physically throws him and his belongings off his property before the expiration of his quit notice is deemed unlawful. In fact only the court can order and carry out the eviction of tenants. A tenant who is unable to pay up his rent as at when due is still legally a tenant in that property until the expiration of his quit notice. In a situation where his rights are breached he can seek redress in a law court
2. Short Notice To Quit: On no account should a landlord give his tenant a short notice to quit his property. The normal duration as stated above should be adhered to strictly in other not to go against the law. Some landlords are fond of sending eviction notice to a tenant whenever they are led by the spirit even if it is a day before the expiration of their rent. The law frowns at such practices.
3. Interference In The Tenant’s Privacy: No landlord, even if he is the chief Justice of Lagos has any right whatsoever to walk into a tenant’s apartment or make use of any of his property without an express permission from the tenant. The tenant is by law in exclusive possession of the property he rented for the period stated in the agreement. Therefore he can sue the landlord for trespass if the landlord comes into his apartment without his permission. Another offence landlords are guilty of is regulating the number of visitors a tenant hosts or a landlord deciding who visits the apartment except there is a written agreement to that effect signed by both parties. If that’s not the case then the landlord has no legal right to decide who visits except there are security breaches or the visitors of that particular tenant constitute a nuisance to other tenants in the property
4. Deplorable Condition Of The Premises: It’s an implied term of tenancy agreement that a landlord who lest out a building must ensure that the building is in good conditions. When a tenant upon paying rent, discovers that the house is not as habitable as made to believe, he has every legal right to ask for a refund and if he refuses, he can as well sue the landlord for refund of rent and adequate compensation for the inconveniences caused. There are many instances where a tenant moves into an apartment during the dry season only to realize when rainy season comes that the house gets flooded whenever it rains because the roof leaks or any other unbearable inconvenience.
5. Repairs Of Facilities In Premises: This is quite common in Lagos. The landlord has no right to compel his tenant to carry out major repairs in the premises, that is solely the responsibility of the landlord.
In as much as the provisions of the Lagos tenancy law are clear, this tenancy rights is sometimes varied by landlords in the agreement they have with the respective tenants. There are instances that the tenant not fully understanding the terms of agreement relinquishes his rights thereby contradicting what has already been stated in the tenancy law. In such circumstance the tenant becomes bound to the signed agreement.
Therefore it is essential that every tenant reads and understands the tenancy agreement before atesting their signature to it even amidst the desperation that comes with finding shelter especially in a place like Lagos with a population of over 21 million people. To be forewarned is to be forearmed