Tenancy Laws in Nigeria: How Landlords treat their Tenants with no regard for the Rule of Law

There are laws that govern every single transaction that the human mind can think of. When talking about the law of Landlord and Tenants in the country, then the fact that comes to mind is the issue of the landlord having seemingly endless powers over their tenants. This is quite evidenced by the fact that the landlords can do practically anything they want to do with their tenants and then get away with it at their whims and their caprices. They can increase the rent their tenants have to pay at the drop of a hat and the tenant will have to kowtow to that without having to question the actions of the landlord that had done that. They take it as their due.

We have laws_ the Tenancy Laws of the various states_ for the purpose of handling the affairs between landlords and their tenants and the law in many cases seem to favor the affairs of the tenant and not the landlord. But the point to be made here is that the landlord can easily disregard these laws and there is absolutely nothing the tenant can do about this infraction on their rights. The landlords do this because they know that they can get away with it and not because their action is right.

The landlords in the country, in everywhere you can easily think of, do to their tenants what they want and the tenants will have to do nothing about this. I have seen a scenario where landlords lock their tenants out of their rented apartments. It is quite appallingly unimaginable, and can someone please tell me what social formulae allows a man, all simply because he is the owner o some house in a defined, measurable space, have the unilateral right or the discretion to oust the tenant out of the house without so much as a quit notice. And the tenant will even have to be pleading with the landlord, with the neighbors interjecting with their own inputs_ which would be nothing but a garbage-load of crap_ to allow him stay.

What happened to the Rule of Law?

Because as I see it, most, if not all, of the tenancy laws, makes certain stipulations as to what and what should be the governing purview of the clientele relationship between the landlord and the tenant that is occupying some residual space in his residential building, constructed, I might add, on land that belongs to the Federal government of the country. But the landlord will then have the things swayed over in his favor and there is nothing that the tenant can do about it for he lies at the mercy of the owner of the house.

The students that live there in the houses of landlords for their tertiary institution education may even have it worse than the others, and the reason is because of the fact that there are certain mechanisms put in place by the landlords to ensure that the student tenants have the shorter end of the bargain than the landlords themselves. In many of the residential houses built for students that I had seen during the time of my student days in the university, I got to see landlord forcing their student tenants to pay the full rent for a whole year and end up living there for nothing more than seven months. And at the end of that seven months, those students will have to leave the house. If you refuse to go, then the landlord will come in and have your room locked up. They make you pay for electricity that you do not use, and if you end up refusing to pay, they will either lock up your room or else infuse it into your new rent, or they will have your light disconnected.

So imagine, that during the time of_ for example_ the ASUU strike of 2010 which had lasted for six months, and a student had to leave his things in the room rented by him or her and left for home. Can you imagine that some of the landlords and the landladies_ who had no electricity meters, by the way_ ended up calculating the light bills for their student tenants for that period of six months even though that there was no prior agreement between them and the student tenants to that effect? The point is that you must pay, or they will disconnect the light running through your room.

Is that the Rule of Law? Or is it a deliberate trampling on the rights of the students? And even if the student wants to go to court because of this renege on their tenancy agreement_ of which there was none in the first place, if I might be so impertinent to add_ where will they get the money to go to court with? They cannot even afford the cost of three square meals in a living day.

I say all these because I had been a student myself. And note that even though I had made the decision to particularize the scenario to students, know it that the people all over Nigeria suffer the same fate at the hands of their landlords.

And the funny thing here is that the tenants seem to be blissfully unaware that they have rights as it relates to the agreement they have with the landlord as it relates to making use of the house for their residential or agricultural or commercial purpose. They will never seek the services or the matter with the landlord themselves. They will never seek a lawyer at the stage of their entering into the tenancy agreement with their landlord, not knowing that it is the lawyer that will be able to sniff out and iron out anything that the landlord would have inserted into the agreement to try and oust out the provisions of the law that are primarily geared towards helping the tenant.

And then, in the end, when the landlord does what he’ll do as the landlord he is_ just lie they all do every day in all our cities, especially in the big cities like Lagos and Abuja. The landlord hold sway over their tenants, and, as it is well know, the law is made only for some people to obey and not for everybody. That is the obvious fact.

It is mostly when there is a problem that the tenant will then run to another lawyer and have that second lawyer try to iron out the problem that the client is having with the landlord or with some other third party pertaining to residence and what have you. And that is when the other lawyer will have to get his cut of the pie, for, as the saying goes, “pay me now what you should pay me or pay me double that when the time comes.”

So, people, you have to learn to understand that the law is on your side and that the lawyers of the earth are there to help you treat the mishaps that the landowners may throw your way.


Mr. Ani Kingsley Ugochukwu Esq.



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