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Can landlord increase rent unilaterally?

By Bamidele Kolawole

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The Tenancy Law across all the various State Jurisdictions does not allow reckless rent increase by property owners. Usually, it is expected at the commencement of Landlord/Tenant relationship, that an agreement is made and duly executed by both parties there to, the agreement will state the terms and conditions of the Tenancy, one of which is expected to be rent increase, which must be BILATERAL in nature.

Jerry Adeyogbe Esq

No, he can’t. The Landlord has to give Notice of Increment to the Tenant before increasing the rent. Then it is up to the tenant to accept or decline.

First, the concept of “Rent Review” is what explains the poser of whether landlord could increase rent unilaterally without the consent of a tenant.

“Rent Review Clause” is usually upwards and enables the Landlord to keep up with the prevailing market rates. This is usually because the value of land appreciates over time.

The right to review may or may not be incorporated in a Tenancy Agreement. When the Tenancy expires.

Where there is a Rent Review Clause in Tenancy Agreement, it must contain the method of initiating the review such as a notice in writing to be given by the landlord to the tenant and the time within which the notice is to be given.

However, where it is not contained in the Tenancy Agreement, Notice of intention to increase rent must be given in writing within a reasonable time e.g at least 2 months before the expiration of the rent so that the tenant might opt to renew his rent or not.

However, if a landlord fails to give notice of intention in writing to review rent before the expiration of the tenancy, he cannot be heard to complain later because it would be unconscionable to the tenant. He must maintain the status quo especially, when the tenant shows intention of renewing his rent.

The essence of giving notice of intention in writing is to assist both the landlord and tenant in the following ways:

1. Firstly, It makes the landlord to be armed with proof of the steps he took by him to review his rent.

2. Secondly, It gives the tenant the opportunity of be aware of the landlord’s intention to increase his rent. This is in line with the principle of fair hearing i.e giving a party the opportunity of being heard and not taking the tenant by surprise.

In a nutshell, a landlord cannot unilaterally review a rent without giving the tenant the opportunity of being accepting the offer or not.

Adetoro Awojobi Esq

The amount payable as rent is a matter of agreement. That being the case, it cannot be altered by a party without the agreement of the other. Unless the parties agree, a landlord’s decision to unilaterally increase rent is ineffective. When a tenant receives a letter of rent increase from their landlord, what is stated in the landlord’s letter is at best an offer or a proposal made to the tenant.

 The tenant is left with the option to either accept it or make a counter offer. The courts have said that the matter of rent increment must be supported by an agreement to that effect. The landlord-tenant relationship and the issue of rent payable is a contract. For a contract to exist, there must be a meeting of the minds (landlord and tenant agree on all the terms of the contract), that being the case, the landlord cannot unilaterally alter the terms of the agreement and increase the rent. A landlord’s unilateral decision to increase the amount of rent payable by the tenant is ineffective.

A tenant who receives a letter from the landlord informing him of an increase in rent, should approach the landlord and try to negotiate an agreeable rent, if he feels that the landlord’s increase is unreasonable. If the parties (landlord and tenant) are unable to agree on what the new rents should be, then the landlord is required to follow due process in evicting the tenant from the property, i.e., he can only do so by an order of court.

Under the Lagos State Tenancy Law, 2011, specifically Section 37, a tenant can apply to court for a declaration that the increase in rent is unreasonable and the court has the power to determine whether or not the same is reasonable, taking due cognizance of the rent payable in similar apartments in the locality. If the court is satisfied that the increase is unreasonable, it can change it to a specific amount.

Suffice to state here that under the tenancy law in Lagos State, if an action is pending in court challenging the reasonability of an increase in rent, it is unlawful for the landlord to eject the tenant pending the determination of the action.

In essence, there are two options available to a tenant whose landlord has jacked up the rents. You either try to negotiate the rent with the landlord; or institute an action in court, challenging the reasonableness of the said rent, and urging the court to fix the rent on a specific amount, based on the assessed value of the property.

Barr Femi Adetula

An increment in rent is a prerogative right of a landlord. Therefore, the question of whether a landlord can unilaterally increase rent should not be in contention between parties. This is because when a landlord increases rent and a tenant refuses, fails or/and neglects to pay the new rent, the tenant may be served a notice to quit and the tenant has to vacate the apartment.

Ordinarily, there should be a tenancy agreement between a landlord and a tenant where terms and conditions would be clearly stated. In this tenancy agreement, how and when rent can be increased would be one of the clauses and a tenant should be given room to negotiate the new rent even if it is not stated as a clause in the tenancy agreement.

Most times, an increment comes up once in 2 or 3 years or based on the economic reality of the country. However, a tenant has to be informed or given a notice at least 3 months before the expiration of the current tenancy.

Segun Oni, Esq

A landlord has absolute right over his property but however, when it is rented to users called tenants, the right of the landlord takes a different dimension, for instance, when you rent out your property to tenant, you cannot just  enter the apartment, it has to be by invitation of the tenant, otherwise the landlord will be sued for trespass and infringement on the right to private life of the tenant but it is imperative that parties must be governed by the laws governing landlord/ tenant relationship.

The right of a landlord to own property is entrenched in Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria but however, the Land Use Act in Section 7 disallows or disqualifies a minor to own property in Nigeria unless somebody who is 21 years old, so in simplicity not everyone can own a property in Nigeria.

However, the landlord builds his house for the purpose of getting returns / proceeds from the rent, meaning that it is an investment, this suggests that the renting out of apartments to tenants is solely for the purpose of making money. Therefore, since, you do not help to build, there will be no need to consult the tenant if the landlord wants an increase in rent, humanly speaking, no tenant will want increase in rent.

The landlord has a rent clause that is always inserted in the agreement form between the landlord and the tenant, therefore, this allows the landlord to increase the rent; not downward but upward periodically, painting the scenario of a landlord who is a retiree who builds for the purpose of getting money after retirement, will it be wrong to review upward his rent considering the inflation in the prices of goods.

It is the right of a landlord to increase his rent periodically, few months’ notice must be given to the tenant, that is, before the rent expires, he/she must be notified ahead of time but not that a tenant had paid for the rent, then, you are just asking for additional money as a result of increment, that is, during the subsisting year, this is wrong and the law frowns at it.

The upward review in rent should not be strange, nothing is constant in life and the only constant thing is change, rent is reviewed upward and not downward. It is saddened that some Nigerians are fond of owing landlords/landladies their rent, this is very wrong, this is not possible in the developed countries and there is a need for our statutes or laws to prohibits this and makes it an offence. A caveat for landlords/ landladies don’t become shylock be considerate in the review of your rent.

For better management of your properties (rent) employ the services of a lawyer, we can solicit for you and I look forward to helping you.

David Ebriku Esq

Often, Landlords unilaterally (without consulting tenants) increase rent and thereafter send “Notice of Rent Increment” to tenants. Such landlords consider tenants as mere inferior parties and as such, they (the landlords) do not need consent of tenants to increase rent.

Tenants are dismissed by landlords with comments like; “If he cannot pay, let him pack out or it is my house and I decide how much to charge as rent.”

Well, below are the words of the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal on this issue;

“The issue of rent between the landlord and tenant is a matter of agreement. The Agreement may be express or implied. The relationship between them too is a contractual one. And being a matter of contract its term cannot be altered by either party without the agreement of the other. See Udih v. Izedonmwem (supra). Unless the landlord and the tenant are ad idem a landlord’s unilateral decision to increase the amount of rent payable will be ineffective.

A unilateral increase of rent is an offer or a proposal made by the landlord. Where as in this case the tenant refuses to pay the landlord the proposed rent, it is left for the landlord who stands to gain where the new rent is accepted by the tenant, to promptly take necessary steps as required by law to terminate the tenancy. Appellant’s (Tenant’s) refusal to pay increased rent is not in anyway tantamount to an obligation to pay the increased rent.

 Where a tenant does not vacate a property after a unilateral increase of rent by landlord, a continued stay on property by tenant is not an acceptance of the unilaterally increased rent.

 A landlord should seek consent of tenant before increasing in rent and where such is denied, landlord can continue with the normal agreed rent or seek to legally evict the tenant in order to engage new and willing tenants. Simply, rent is part of tenancy agreement, cannot be forced on a tenant but must be agreed on by both landlord and tenant at all times.

Utenwojo Femi Salihu Esq

In case of COBRA LTD & ORS v. OMOLE ESTATES & INVESTMENT LTD (2000) LPELR-6809(CA), it was held that “The issue of rent between the landlord and tenant is a matter of agreement. The Agreement may be express or implied.

The relationship between them too is a contractual one. And being a matter of contract its term cannot be altered by either party without the agreement of the other. See Udih v. IzedonmweUdih v. Izedonmwen (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 132) . Unless the landlord and the tenant are ad idem a landlord’s unilateral decision to increase the amount of rent payable will be ineffective.

A unilateral increase of rent is an offer or a proposal made by the landlord. Where as in this case the tenant refuses to pay the landlord the proposed rent, it is left for the landlord who stands to gain where the new rent is accepted by the tenant, to promptly take necessary steps as required by law to terminate the tenancy. Appellant’s (Tenant’s) refusal to pay increased rent is not in anyway tantamount to an obligation to pay the increased rent.

Consequently where there is no agreement on an increase in rent the status quo ought to be maintained and this means that the agreed rent should therefore subsist. See Are v. Ipaye (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 132) P.298 at 313 G-H; Mba- Ezev-Okufo (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.135) P.787 at 795 F-G.”Per GALADIMA ,J.S.C ( Pp. 18-20, para. B). 

In JOVINCO NIGERIA LTD & ANOR v. IBEOZIMAKO (2014) LPELR-23599(CA) the court held, “… I am of the humble view that the matter of rent increment must be supported by an agreement to that effect. The landlord-tenant relationship and issue of rent payable by a tenant to a landlord being one of a contract, the landlord cannot unilaterally alter the terms of the agreement, to increase the rent. In Cobra Ltd vs. Omole Estate and Investment Ltd (2000) 1 NWLR (Pt. 655) 1, this Court per Galadima JCA (as he then was) following the decision in Udih vs.

Izedonmwen (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 132) 357 at 366 has held that unless the landlord and the tenant are ad idem a landlord’s unilateral decision to increase the amount of rent payable is ineffective.” Per, AMINA AUDI WAMBAI ,J.C.A ( Pp. 35-36, paras. E-A ).

Technically, through the duration of the tenancy, a landlord cannot increase rent unilaterally. In the instance where rent is to be increased, adequate notice must be given as the tenancy cannot roll over by implication as the terms have been altered and differs from the provisions, expressly or implied, of the prior tenancy.

Oluwaseun Adeleye Esq.

The tussle between landlords and tenants in Nigeria is worrisome. Some landlords are fond of increasing rents payable by their tenants so much these tenants start thinking of whether to commit daylight robbery in order to pay rent. Tenants now suffer heartache from their landlords and landlords as well rush to court to express their innermost desire to evict their tenants.

Based on their sole discretion, landlords often times unilaterally increase rent. This qualifies for a sole arbitrary decision.

Tenancy is in the nature of agreement between parties. the amount of rent payable and the periodicity of rent is purely contractual between the landlord and tenant. Any decision made without a consensus ad idem between the contracting parties will be a breach of contract. A unilateral increase by a landlord best qualifies as an offer made by the landlord.

Where there is no agreement as to new rent payable, the agreed rent already being paid subsists and where the landlord is still desirous of changing the status quo, he can proceed to terminate the tenancy under the prescribed mode of termination provided in the laws or seek a legal practitioner to guide him. In Yahaya V Chukwura, the court held that once the landlord and the tenant have previously agreed on a fixed rate as rent, the landlord cannot unilaterally increase that rate as that would amount to breach of contract.

The tenant is also entitled to a notice of rent increase. Thus, unless parties agree, a unilateral increase of rent by a landlord lacks its desired effect and very incompetent.

Suffice to say that in order to prevent tussle and disagreement, it is advisable that parties enter into a written tenancy agreement before the commencement of tenancy. The option to renew and rent review clause in the agreement prevents the landlord from increasing rent indiscriminately and unilaterally.

Clement Falana Esq

The Landlord can not unilaterally increase rent, the Landlord will make an offer of increment which is subject to the acceptance of the tenant, the tenant have the right to accept the offer, refused the offer or vary the offer (negotiate the amount), when the tenant refused the offer that will severe the tenancy agreement between the duo and vice versa when the tenant vary the offer, it amount to counter offer, which is subject to the acceptance of the landlord.

Olubunmi Akinseye Esq

The Tenancy Law across all the various State Jurisdictions does not allow reckless rent increase by property owners. Usually, it is expected at the commencement of landlord/tenant relationship, that an agreement is made and duly executed by both parties thereto, the agreement will state the terms and conditions of the tenancy, one of which is expected to be rent increase, which must be BILATERAL in nature.

The landlord will have to give due notice of the proposed increase at least 6months into the current rent, telling the tenant to respond, by either paying the proposed new rent, negotiate the proposed new rent or move out at the end of the running current rent.

 Please note, that the notice on rent increase will not be equivalent to QUIT NOTICE. In case the tenant refuses to respond by any of these means, the landlord will then issue a QUIT NOTICE and in it, inform the tenant that failure to Quit and yield up Possession, the rent shall be MESNE in nature, i.e, the new value of rent which the landlord hope to collect but which the tenant’s refusal to yield possession has deprived him of.

 In a summary, the landlord cannot increase the rent on an existing tenant.

Sure but the pending  tenancy must expire.

Maruf Matthew Bada Esq
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