It is generally believed that landlords are belligerent, troublesome people who lord their properties over tenants and try to make life uncomfortable for them but this is not always true. Just as tenants have been at the mercy of landlords, landlords have also been treated with contempt and maligned by tenants. Frustrated with tenants who refuse to pay rent, damage their properties and cause conflicts amongst other tenants, landlords are often faced with the option of ejecting such a tenant. There are however rules by law that must be followed and a landlord needs to know these rules so as not to be in err of the law.
By law, it is wrong for a landlord to forcibly eject a tenant no matter how much rent he or she owes or how cantankerous such a tenant is. The recovery of property by law in most states in Nigeria and anywhere in the world really unfortunately for landlords is in the favour of the tenant. This is done by the different law making bodies of the states to curb the excesses of landlords and ensure that tenants are not entirely at their mercy to be treated anyhow. A landlord who therefore wishes to eject his tenant for whatever reason must use the method prescribed by law.
The law states that a landlord must give his tenant reasonable time to vacate the property by serving him a quit notice and this is dependent on the tenancy period. For a yearly, tenant, the law provides that he must be given a six months quit notice, a quarterly tenant, a quarter’s notice, monthly tenant, a month’s notice and a weekly tenant, a week’s notice. The quit notice must be written and served on the tenant. These provisions are however subject to the tenancy agreement between the tenant and the landlord. In a case where it is expressly stated in the tenancy agreement that no notice will be given to the tenant, the landlord can go ahead and eject such a person without notice as long as the tenant duely executed the tenancy agreement.
In the case where a quit notice has been served and the tenant still refuses to vacate the property after the notice has elapsed, the law still does not permit the landlord to take matters into his hand and forcibly evict the tenant. Rather, the law expects another seven days notice of owner’s intention to recover property to be served. This notice is usually from the landlord’s Lawyer or Agent’s Legal Unit, informing the tenant his intention of proceeding to court to recover the property on behalf of the landlord.
It is important to note that this seven days notice of owner’s intention to recover property can only be served on a tenant after the expiration of a valid “Notice to Quit”. If served before a notice to quit or during the life span of a notice to quit, it is invalid and discredited. Also, this seven days notice is counted seven days from the date the notice is served. If it is less, the court will most likely reject its validity.
In the case where the tenant is still in possession of the property after a seven days notice has been served, the tenant is referred to as a statutory tenant i.e. a tenant of the law. This is because the law is allowing such a tenant to maintain possession of the property without paying rent to his landlord. However, after the court hearing, the court can order the tenant to pay rent accumulated in the duration the tenant held the property after notice has been served or what is referred to as mesne profits to the landlord.