By Bamidele Kolawole
Tenancy relationship is the relationship that exist between a landlord and his tenants. The relationship is however guided and regulated by laws made by state legislators and federal legislators (for the FCT).
In law, the landlord is not permitted to lock a tenant out for not paying house rent on time. The law regulating the landlord/tenant relationship in the various States is the “RECOVERY OF PREMISES LAW” This legislation prescribe the procedures in which a landlord can approach a tenant who is in default of rents or that which he, the landlord, intends to quit his landlord/tenant relationship.
In Ondo State, the Recovery of Premises Law of Ondo State in section 7 provide to the effect, the statutory notices which are the first step to be taken if the tenant becomes a tenancy at sufferance. It is the intendment of the law that, the landlord issue either a NOTICE TO QUIT or HIS INTENTION TO RECOVER POSSESSION on the said tenant.
If the tenant still fail to comply within the statutory time given, a summons can be commenced against him. The landlord in his claim has the opportunity to demand for arrears of rent, mesne profit and general damages against such a tenant.
Moreso, the landlord has the opportunity to include in his prayers, an order for ejection of the tenant. Under Section 22 of the same law, such ejection can be made through a warrant of possession. The warrant of possession when granted entitle the plaintiff to be put in possession of the premises to which the warrant relates.
This warrant justifies entry on the premises, it protects the officers of the court, provides penalty for resisting or assaulting officers of the court as well as provides for penalties on persons unlawfully retaking possession.
From the above, it is safe to submits that, a landlord cannot lock a tenant out for not paying house rent on time.
The matter of Landlord/ Tenant Relationship is strictly regulated by different Laws across the Federation. Even within a State like Lagos, there are places under the control of different TENANCY LAWS.
The Tenancy Law and Practice is very clear as to the Rights, Duties and Obligations of each party in the Tenancy Relationship. It is trite in Law and a good Practice also that the terms and conditions of the Tenancy is duly reduced into writing which is Labeled as Tenancy Agreement.
The various Tenancy Laws in all the Jurisdictions across the Federation, provides for timely payment of rents as at when due, the laws not only protects the Landlord on one part, it also make provisions for the adequate protection of the Rights of a Tenant.
The lawmakers are not unaware of the possibility of some landlords taken law into their hands, this necessitates making laws to regiment the relationship between the parties.
For instance, the issue of rent which is responsible for over 90 percent of the crisis between landlords and their tenants, is highly controlled by law.
When a Tenant defaults in rent payment, there are statutory process to be followed to either ensure payment or and to eject the tenant, which is often the end result of protracted delay or total default in rent payment.
Statutory letters are expected to be issued on the tenant, according to the law in that very Area, the letters could range from Demand Notice, Quit Notice and Notice of Owner’s intention to reclaim or recover possession, as the case may be.
The due process provided under that particular law must be strictly followed, after which the law, via the instrument of Court will in turn, protect the interest of the Landlord.
Some tenants are so ignorant of the fact, that rent for the period covered by the Quit Notice must be paid, and that the period so issued in the letter, in compliance with the relevant law, is just to protect the tenant’s right for the time being.
I have heard Police Officers, arguing against payment of rent for the period covered by the Quit Notice. If and when a tenant turn itself into an habitual defaulters, even after declaring the tenant a “Tenant-at-sufferance”, the landlord still does not have the right to lock the tenant out for not paying.
Shelter is very important in a man’s life and the law makes adequate provisions for how a Landlord could eject a recalcitrant tenant.
In Nigeria, Tenancy relationship between a landlord and a tenant is governed by Tenancy Laws and Recovery of Premises Laws of each state and any deviation from the provisions of the law is seen as an illegality.
Even though a landlord is entitled to his rent for the use and occupation of his property. He is not permitted to resort to self help in collecting his rent.
When rent is due for payment and the tenant has not paid, the unpaid rent is known as arrears of rent. This simply means that until the landlord set in motion an action to recover possession of his premises, the amount due to the landlord is called arrears of rent.
The law is that landlords have the right to re-take or recover possession of their property, but this has to be in accordance with the terms of their agreement and/or in accordance with the Recovery of Premises Law of the state the property is situate.
There would be breakdown of law and order if landlords are at liberty to employ self-help in order to recover premises from their tenants. See the case of Military Gov. Lagos State V. Ojukwu (1986) ALL NLR 233, 243.
For anyone to resort to self-help, that is, taking the law into his own hands in a situation such as locking the door against the tenant, is the very antithesis of orderliness.
It is a retrogressive step which, if encouraged, will lead to chaos and breach of the peace. Suffice it to say that it is roundly condemned and is not condoned under any circumstance.
The answer to this question is in the negative. There are laid down procedures which a Landlord must follow to legally eject a tenant from his apartment. Anything other than that would amount to “self help”.
In the case of Akinkugbe v Ewulum Holdings (Nig) Ltd & Anor (2008) LPELR-346 (SC), the Supreme Court held that a Landlord who resorts to self help in a bid to recover possession of premises tenanted runs foul of the law and he is liable in damages.
In recovering possession of his apartment so occupied by the tenant, the Landlord can by virtue of Section 7 Cap 136, Vol 3, Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006 serve the tenant with a Notice of Owner’s intention to apply to recover possession which the tenant is mandated to comply with within a period of seven days from the date of service of the said notice on the tenant.
This applies especially in the case where the tenant is a tenant-at-will (that is, the tenancy has been determined by effluxion of time, or where he fails/neglects to pay his or her rent as at when due or even when the tenancy had been determined by a notice to quit which has been issued and served on him).
However, where the tenant neglects and/or refuses to comply with the notice (s) served on him, the Landlord can proceed against such tenant by instituting an action for recovery of his apartment and it’s appurtenances
Summarily, it is illegal and unconscionable for the landlord to lock a tenant out for not paying house rent on time as such act amounts to self help. The best approach/step that must be adopted by the Landlord is to serve the required notices for eviction and to go to court to compel the tenant to comply accordingly.
Tenancy relationship is the relationship that exist between a landlord and his tenants. The relationship is however guided and regulated by laws made by state legislators and federal legislators (for the FCT). Both the landlord and tenant are legally entitled to have enjoyment over the premises.
A landlord who seeks to recover his premises from a tenant must comply very strictly with the provisions of the relevant laws. Any transgression from the requirements of the law will frustrate such attempt to recover possession from the tenant.
Where a landlord intends to evict a tenant, he can do so legally by serving statutory notices (Notice to quit and Seven Days owner’s intention to recover possession) on the tenants. The notices can be drafted on his behalf by his legal practitioner. This notice will state the reason(s) for the eviction of the tenant.
That the attitude of the tenant has become insufferable or that he has become arrogant or indebted to the landlord will not justify changing of padlocks to the tenant’s premises, cutting off his electricity supply, removing the roof or locking of tenant outside in order for him not to gain entrance to his rented apartment.
Where the landlord notices that the conduct of the tenant is unbecoming or that his property has suffered from unlawful usage, it is advisable that the landlord should approach the court to obtain a court order for such eviction.
It is advisable that a tenant or landlord speak to a lawyer in order to be properly guided.
A tenant can be defined as anybody occupying premises whether on payment of rent or otherwise but does not include a person occupying premises under a bonafide claim to be the owner of the premises.
Rent suggests the amount of money, that is, the monetary value paid for occupying that very apartment, in consideration of which the landlord has permitted the tenant to occupying the apartment, that is, to be in possession, it varies from location to location, then, facilities in the apartment is another determinant on how much will be charged for the rent.
A landlord is a person or entity which owns real property and then leases or gives it out to tenants in return for rent payment. A landlord can rent or give to either residential or commercial tenants depending on zoning restrictions and type of property.
The following are few rights of the landlord:
Right to Property: The Landlord has the right to own property in any part of Nigeria. Section 43 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the ‘Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria’. So every Nigerian, no matter the ethnicity of the person can own, buy, sell, acquire any property in any part of Nigeria.
Right to Renew Tenancy: They have the discretion to renew Tenant’s agreement or not. He has the right to refuse to renew the agreement especially where he was not comfortable with having the Tenant occupy his property.
A tenant is entitled to both the notice to quit and that of the seven days’ owner’s intention to recover possession, this is one of the tenant’s right, if any of the statutory notices is defective for one reason or the other, may be the stipulated months stated below is not enough; it will be resolved in the favour of the tenant, that is :
Yearly tenant, he/she is entitled to a 6 months’ notice to quit,
Half yearly – 3 months notice,
Quarterly tenant – 3 months
However, when a tenant fails to pay as at when due, not paying as at the time he/she is expected to make payment, that is, in arrears of rent, he/she has become a tenant at will or a tenant at sufferance, here the relationship ceases to be that of landlord/landlady to a tenant and translate to an owner to a tenant.
No landlord is expected to lock a tenant out or disallow him from entering his apartment at will or goes to remove the roof of the tenant’s apartment or remove the door to the house or pack out the tenant’s properties, the landlord/landlady will be found liable under our laws, this is an offence, the said landlord has violated the right of the tenant.
It is imperative that landlord don’t take laws into their hands when making attempt(s) to eject a tenant in their house, laws must not be taken into our hands. You need to engage the service of a lawyer who will help you to institute an action in court against the tenant.
The laws regulating the relationship between a landlord and tenant is mainly in favour of the tenant, meant to prevent wrongful eviction, arbitrary increment in rent, violations of the tenant’ s rights, therefore, if a landlord wants to eject or evict a tenant, the procedures of the law must be strictly adhered to by him, otherwise, it will be an exercise in futility.
No matter how unruly, terrible and stubborn the tenant is, the provisions and procedures of the law must be followed strictly in evicting him/her out of your house.