Landlord And Tenant Law In Nigeria: Understanding Your Rights

Landlord And Tenant Law In Nigeria
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Finding and renting a property, whether as a landlord or a tenant, involves a complex set of rights and responsibilities. Understanding Nigerian tenancy law is crucial for both parties to navigate this process smoothly and avoid potential conflicts.

This guide provides an overview of the key elements of Nigerian tenancy law, focusing on the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants. We will examine the legal framework governing these relationships, go into the different types of tenancy agreements, and address frequently asked questions (FAQs) that often arise in tenancy situations.

By understanding your rights and responsibilities under the law, you can ensure a secure and harmonious tenancy experience anywhere in Nigeria, be it Lagos or Abuja. Whether you are a seasoned property owner or a first-time renter, equipping yourself with this knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and navigate any challenges that may arise.

Definition of “Tenancy” and “Tenancy Agreement”

  • Tenancy: A legal relationship between a landlord, the owner of a property, and a tenant, who is granted the right to occupy and use the property for a specific period in exchange for rent. This grants the tenant a possessory interest in the property, but not ownership.
  • Tenancy Agreement: A formal agreement, either written or oral, outlining the terms and conditions of the tenancy. It defines the rights and obligations of both the landlord and the tenant, including:
    • Rent: Amount and frequency of rent payments.
    • Term: Duration of the tenancy (e.g., monthly, yearly).
    • Use of the property: Permitted and prohibited activities within the premises.
    • Maintenance responsibilities: Who is responsible for repairs and upkeep of the property.
    • Termination: Grounds and procedures for ending the tenancy.

Types of Tenancies in Nigeria

Nigerian tenancy laws recognize various types of tenancies, each with specific characteristics:

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  • Fixed-term tenancy: A tenancy for a predetermined period, such as a year or two years.
  • Periodic tenancy: A tenancy that automatically renews for a specified period (e.g., monthly) unless terminated by either party with proper notice.
  • Tenancy at will: A tenancy with no fixed term, terminable at any time by either party with reasonable notice. However, some states in Nigeria have limitations on tenancies at will.
  • Statutory tenancy: A tenancy created by operation of law, arising when a tenant continues to occupy the property after the expiry of a fixed-term tenancy without the landlord’s objection. Specific rules govern statutory tenancies, including rent and eviction procedures.

Explanation of Frequently Searched Terms

  • Rent control: This refers to government-imposed regulations on the amount of rent landlords can charge for certain types of properties, particularly in high-demand areas. However, it is important to note that rent control is not currently implemented in all parts of Nigeria.
  • Notice period for eviction: The legal period a landlord must provide a tenant with before terminating the tenancy and evicting them. This period varies depending on the type of tenancy and state laws.
  • Tenant’s rights and obligations: These include the right to peaceful enjoyment of the property, repairs and maintenance, privacy, and security of tenure. Conversely, tenants have obligations to pay rent on time, maintain the property in good condition, and comply with the terms of the tenancy agreement.
  • Landlord’s rights and obligations: Landlords have the right to receive rent on time, regain possession of the property at the end of the tenancy, and inspect the property with reasonable notice. However, they also have obligations to provide a habitable property, comply with the tenancy agreement, and follow legal procedures for eviction.

Tenancy law

Rights and Obligations of Tenants

Tenants in Nigeria possess certain crucial rights and obligations outlined in tenancy laws and agreements.

1. Right to written agreement

Every tenant in Nigeria has the right to an agreement. The agreement can be oral or written. However, it is advised that agreements between both parties should be written to remove any form of doubt and uncertainty.

It is advisable that before signing any tenancy agreement, the tenant seeks the service of a solicitor for advice.

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2. Right to issuance of receipt of payment

It is an actionable offence to refuse to issue a receipt for rent paid and received. It is your right as a tenant to be issued a receipt upon payment of rent. Where the payment is only a part of a whole, it should also be receipted and stated.

3. Right to Occupy Rented Property in Peace

When a tenant pays his rent and is issued a receipt, it is expected that the landlord will by extension, grant him the right to peaceful enjoyment of the property. Once this is done, he determines the entrance, usage, and safety and can even sue for trespass against any trespasser; strangers, the landlord, and his agents.

4. Right to valid quit Notice

A Recovery of Premises Law provides that a valid “quit notice” of a landlord’s intention to terminate/quit the tenancy of the tenant must be written and served on the tenant. The amount of time given to the tenant to quit albeit weekly, monthly, or yearly, depends on the type of tenancy created and the rent paid. Thus, it is advised that a tenant thoroughly read through the Tenancy Agreement before signing as some tenants in signing without a thorough reading may sign away their rights for a ‘quit notice’. Remember, ignorance is not an excuse under the law.

5. Right Of A Compulsory (7) Seven Days Notice To Recover Premises 

The “Seven (7) Days’ Notice of Owner’s Intention to Recover Premises” is a notice from the landlord notifying a tenant upon whom a “Quit Notice” had been served and same had expired; that the lawyer will after seven (7) days from the date of the service of the Notice proceed to court to recover the over- held premises on behalf of the landlord.

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Rights and Obligations of Landlords

While tenants have significant rights, landlords also possess certain rights and obligations:

1. Right to receive or Collect rent.

A landlord has a right to the collection of rent on the apartment that has been rented out to a tenant. The rent to be paid is as agreed by both the landlord and the tenant. The amount payable is mostly stated in the tenancy agreement executed by the parties.

2. The right not to renew a tenancy

A Landlord has a right not to renew the tenancy, most especially when the Tenant has violated the provisions/clauses stated on the face of the tenancy agreement. The law cannot impose an unwilling Landlord on a Tenant. The landlord has the right to evict the tenant in the occupation of renting his property.

3. Right to Not Issue Quit Notice

It should be known that the Landlord has the right not to issue a quit notice when the tenancy agreement is for a certain term. The effect of the tenancy agreement having a provision for a certain term means that the Tenant has waived his right to being served a quit notice. So, an intending tenant needs to review the tenancy agreement before signing it.

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4. Right to have the apartment maintained in good condition

The Landlord has the right to have his house maintained in good condition by the tenant. The tenant is to take good care of the rented apartment and prevent avoidable damage to the apartment. This right does not however extend to damages caused by acts of God.

5. Right to Compensation from Compulsory Acquisition

By the Land Use Act, the government has the right to mandatorily acquire property for public purposes and infrastructure, however, the landlord has the right.

Eviction Process in Nigeria

Eviction, the legal process of removing a tenant from a rented property, should only be undertaken as a last resort and strictly follow established legal procedures.

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Grounds for Eviction:

Nigerian law allows landlords to evict tenants under specific circumstances, including:

  • Non-payment of rent: This is a common ground for eviction, and the specific process may vary depending on the amount of rent owed and the type of tenancy.
  • Breach of tenancy agreement: This can encompass various violations, such as damaging the property, using the property for illegal purposes, or subletting without permission.
  • Expiry of the tenancy: Once the tenancy period ends, the landlord can legally evict the tenant if they do not vacate the property.

Notice Requirements for Eviction:

Landlords must serve the tenant with a formal notice to quit before initiating legal eviction proceedings. The required notice period varies depending on the type of tenancy:

  • Fixed-term tenancy: Notice is not required unless specifically stated in the agreement.
  • Periodic tenancy (e.g., monthly): The landlord must provide at least one month’s notice.
  • Tenancy at will: While some states have limitations, generally, a reasonable notice period is sufficient.

Legal Process for Eviction:

If the tenant fails to vacate after receiving the proper notice, the landlord must file a court action for possession. This process involves:

  • Filing a court case: The landlord submits a claim against the tenant, outlining the grounds for eviction and any evidence supporting their claim.
  • Court hearing: Both parties present their arguments to a judge, who will determine whether an eviction order should be granted.
  • Eviction order: If the court rules in favour of the landlord, an eviction order will be issued, authorizing the bailiff to remove the tenant from the property.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms:

Before resorting to court, both parties are encouraged to try alternative dispute resolution mechanisms:

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1. Negotiation and mediation: Direct communication between the parties, often facilitated by a neutral third party, can help find a mutually agreeable solution.

2. Arbitration: An impartial arbitrator hears arguments from both sides and issues a binding decision, similar to a court ruling.

Conclusion

Understanding the legal framework surrounding tenancy is crucial for both tenants and landlords in Nigeria. Navigating issues like eviction requires following proper procedures and respecting each other’s rights.

[i] See section 9 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos State

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[ii] The Nigerian Land Use Act 1978

[iii] See section 3 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos State.

[iv] See section 5 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos State

[v] See section 6 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos State

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Source: Trusted Advisors Law

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