Usually, landlords are the ones who hold power over tenants, after all a quit notice can be issued when they feel like it, want to increase the rent or just want you out of their house. Tenants are usually at the mercy of house owners since the flock of people looking to take your place are many and never-ending because of the greater demand for houses than supply.
A lot of times when there are scuffles between landlord and tenants, tenants are usually at the receiving end but that is not the case with Mrs Okonji, a landlady who resides in Festac Town and was assaulted by her tenant.
From the proceedings on the case which is currently arraigned before the Magistrate Court, the 65-year old landlady had rented her apartment out to Mr. Ikenna but as is the usual case in Lagos and most places, Mr Ikenna brought in his brother Mr. Chuks to live with him.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ikenna got a transfer in his office to another town and left his brother Mr. Chuks in the flat without informing his landlady. Chuks began to misbehave and cases of misconduct and inappropriate use of the territory reached her ears. Also, Chuks failed to pay the rent after the previous one expired and has been served a quit notice which he failed to comply with.
Mrs Okonji said she spoke to him several times in a motherly fashion because she did not want to take the case to court but it all fell on deaf ears. Tired of the numerous misconduct of Chuks, she called for a meeting with his brother, the person she rented out the flat to on the 9th of July, 2013. Although Ikenna had violated the Lagos Tenancy Law by assigning or sub-letting a part of the premises without the written consent of the landlady, she decided to settle things amicably by discussing the state of her house and the eventual eviction of Chuks if there were no changes.
While the meeting was going on, Chuks walks in drunk and belligerently demands to know why the landlady was holding a meeting with his brother without his consent. All hell went loose when he slapped the landlady and in a fit of anger, the landlady’s daughter hit him in the head.
Chuks sustained a bit of an injury and decided to take the case to the police. He wanted Mrs Okonji arrested on the grounds of assault, stating his brother Ikenna has his principal witness. In his statement to them, he conveniently left out his part about slapping her but was found out when the landlady was brought in for questioning and hand marks were found on her face. Chagrined by the whole situation, Mrs Okonji’s children decided to take the case to court, charging Ikenna for wrongfully letting out the apartment without the consent of the landlady and aiding and abetting while Chuks is charged for assault and failure to evict even after a notice has been served.
Although the Tenancy Law clearly states that anyone who threatens or molests a tenant by action or words, with a view to ejecting such tenant shall be guilty of an offence and is liable to a fine of up to two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250, 000) or up to six (6) months imprisonment and any other non-custodial disposition, no penalties were clearly stated for tenants who assaults or molests landlords which raises the controversy of who really the Tenancy Law is protecting: the tenant, the landlord or both.
The case has been adjourned to February 4th 2014 for further hearing and observers are curious as to what the verdict will be especially on the count of assault to the landlady.