A landlord who seeks to recover his premises from a tenant must comply very strictly with the provisions of the relevant laws. The slightest deviation from the requirements of the law will frustrate such attempt to recover possession, no matter how troublesome and terrible such tenant may be.
• TENANCY LAW OF LAGOS
In Lagos, the Tenancy Law applies for the recovery of both residential and non-residential premises.
However, the Tenancy Law in Lagos state does not apply to Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Victoria Island and Ikoyi. Section 1(3) Tenancy Law. Although the Tenancy Law is silent on what law should govern those areas, it is suggested that the Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises Edict will apply for the recovery of residential premises in those areas; while the Recovery of Premises Law shall be applicable for the recovery of non-residential premises in those areas.
• NIGERIAN TENANCY AGREEMENT
Tenancy agreements generally can be oral or written. For the avoidance of doubt, ambiguity and misunderstanding of the intentions of the parties (landlord and tenant) at the time of their agreement, it is better for a tenancy agreements to be in writing. This will aid both parties to outline their terms and conditions expressly.
The law makes the writing of tenancy agreements mandatory for tenancies above three (3) years while tenancy below three can be orally or written. Generally to be on the safe side parties are advised to put their agreements in writing regardless of the duration of the tenancy.
Tenancy agreements are to contain in details the names of a landlord and his tenant; as parties to the tenancy agreement. The land or house to be rented out ought to be described in details; showing its location and basic features. The duration of the tenancy, the rent payable and the date at which such rent would become payable should be stated. The modalities for reviewing rent price (increment in price) should be included.
Prospective tenants are advised to seek the services of their solicitors before signing or agreeing to any unclear terms of any tenancy agreement.
• NIGERIAN TENANCY LAW ON EVICTION
It is worthy of note that the length of notice to quit depends on the agreement between the parties since tenancy is a matter of contract and in the absence of such agreement, it would be determined by statute as follows:
• Tenancy at will – a week’s notice
• Weekly tenancy – a week’s notice
• Monthly tenancy – one month’s notice
• Quarterly tenancy – three months’ notice.
• Half-yearly tenancy (6months) – three months’ notice (this is in Lagos only)
• Yearly tenancy – six months’ notice
• Above one year – six months’ notice
Tenancy at will: this is a tenancy relationship created where the landlord permits the tenant to occupy the premises with no definite time. Thus, importantly the tenant occupies the premises with landlord’s consent but no definite time. However a person becomes a tenant at will where the tenant holds over possession of the property after expiration of his tenancy.
Periodic tenancy: this is a tenancy for a particular term which properly renews itself perpetually until it is determined by a notice to quit, i.e. upon the expiration of one term of a periodic tenancy, another term automatically begins unless it is terminated by a valid notice to quit. This tenancy can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, half yearly (bi-annually) or yearly
Fixed Tenancy: this is a tenancy for a fixed period or duration. This is an ideal tenancy as there is certainty of duration. Such fixed tenancy must not exceed a period of 1 year in Lagos, except for areas such as Ikeja GRA, Apapa, Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Fixed tenancy is usually determined upon effluxion of time. Once the term for which it was granted expires, that would bring the tenancy to an end.
• Notice to Quit
Notice to quit is usually applicable to periodic tenancy and tenancy at will. The notice to quit can be issued by the landlord or his solicitor or agent with the written authority. A landlord who intends to recover possession of his premises is under an obligation to issue a Notice to quit except if the tenancy has expired by effluxion of time or by operation of law. The notice will specify the period within which the tenant must quit and deliver up possession of the premises.
However there are certain instances where the notice to quit can be dispensed with. In such cases, only the seven (7) days’ notice of owner’s intention to apply to recover possession will be served. Those instances include:
i) Where the tenancy is a fixed tenancy and it expires by effluxion of time. No need to serve notice to quit, but notice of owner’s intention to apply to court to recover possession can be served on the tenant.
ii) In case of monthly tenancy where the tenant is in arrears of rent for 6 months. No need to serve notice to quit, but notice of owner’s intention to apply to court to recover possession can be served instead.
iii) In case of quarterly or h,alf-yearly tenancy, where the tenant is in arrears of rent for one year. No need to serve notice to quit, but notice of owner’s intention to apply to court to recover possession can be served on the tenant directly.
• 7 DAYS’ NOTICE OF OWNER’S INTENTION TO APPLY TO COURT TO RECOVER POSSESSION
On the expiration of the notice to quit, if the tenant or other person actually in possession of the premises (or part thereof) fails to quit and deliver up possession, the landlord (now owner) or his agent will serve, on such person, a seven (7) days’ notice of owner’s intention to apply to recover possession. It will state that the landlord intends to apply to recover possession on a date not less than seven (7) days from the date of service of the notice. Like it has been mentioned earlier, such notice can also be served on the tenant where the tenancy is for a fixed period, which has now expired.
• WRIT OR PLAINT OR SUMMONS
In Lagos by Section 24 Tenancy Law, upon the expiration of the seven days’ notice of owner’s intention, if the tenant fails, neglects or refuses to quit and deliver up possession, the landlord or his agent may contact a lawyer to help him or her institute an action against the tenant for recovery of possession of the premises in the Magisterial Court District or High Court Division where the premises is situated.
Finally, if any of the above grounds of eviction in Nigeria is breached, the court will hear the matter, make an order for evicting the tenant as long as the landlord is able to prove his case. The court may also award damages and mesne profit to the landlord.
It is advisable for tenants on the other hand to abide by the terms of his tenancy by renewing his rent when due or vacates premises when a reasonable notice is given to avoid unnecessary litigation. However, a tenant can also successfully challenge his eviction in court where a landlord has sought to eject him in contravention of the tenancy law.
Written by Real Estate Law Team at Resolution Law Firm, Lagos, Nigeria