Top Reasons Why Nigeria’s Landlords and Tenants are at War
Are you a landlord or a tenant? If you are not a landlord, then you must be a homeowner or a tenant in a property that belong to another individual. And if you are not currently a tenant, you must have been one in the past. Except a landlord does not reside in the same property he or she rent out to tenants, there are chances for disputes and confrontation. However, some landlords and tenants are privileged to have very cordial relationships. But many are not as lucky.
What is the relationship between a landlord and tenant supposed to be? Tenancy laws are enacted in order to avoid potential disputes between tenants and landlords. It serves to protect the rights of both tenants and landlords. For example, the Tenancy Law of Lagos State clearly spells out the rules and regulations to guide landlords and tenants. According to Lagos State official gazette of 26th of August 2011 (Notice No. 77) the Lagos tenancy law serves to regulate rights and obligations under tenancy agreements and relationship between the landlord and the tenant including the procedure for the recovery of premises and for connected purposes. To some landlords and tenants, the tenancy law only exists on paper and meant nothing in the real world. A world where a tenant could choose to owe rent for multiple years with clear understanding that the judicial system in Nigeria is moribund, where things move at snail speed. Or a world where a landlord turns a compound to worship center every Sunday morning.
In order to understand the reasons why disputes are common between landlords and tenants in Nigeria we randomly examined over seventy incidents of landlord and tenants disputes in different parts of Nigeria, with more of the records coming from Lagos State. Eleven of the landlord-tenant disputes resulted in deaths, while twenty-eight of the cases resulted in physical injury or pain. This is a clear indication that landlord-tenant disputes are potentially fatal or may result in physical injury.
According to information in the chart above, the main reasons why landlords and tenants in Nigeria are at loggerheads has to do with issues of unpaid rent by tenants, disagreement over sharing of electricity bills, issuance of quit notice to tenants and breach of terms of tenancy agreement by one of the parties.
The tenancy law of Lagos State, as reference, clearly states the steps a landlord must take in event a tenant fail to pay rents. But many landlords resort to self-help with some using thugs or family members to physically force out tenants from their property. Likewise, there are cases of tenant’s physically assaulting their landlords or caretakers after they are issued a quit notice. The best way to avoid disputes related to electricity or utility bill payment is to deliberately avoid properties where utility bills are not separate for each flat or apartment; or to clearly spell out how bills are to be shared based on the number of occupants and/or type of appliances in each apartment prior to signing a tenancy agreement. It is also advisable that both parties consult a lawyer if there are aspects of the tenancy agreement they do not understand. If a tenant or landlord realize that things are not improving, approaching a Citizen Mediation Centre would be more helpful in resolving disputes than resorting to self-help or the last resort of heading to a court.