The new Lagos State Tenancy Law is observed more in the breach by landlords and tenants
| By Augustine Adah | Feb. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
MANY tenants in Lagos State, heaved a sigh of relief when, in August 2011, Governor Babatunde Fashola, signed into law a bill meant to regulate rights and obligations of tenants and landlords in the state under a tenancy agreement. They must have thought that the new law would protect them from the activities of Shylock landlords in the state. But barely 18 months after the law came into effect, many landlords are yet to obey some of its provisions. For instance, many new tenants are still made to pay two years’ rent advance contrary to the provision of the new law.
Christian Ojonugba, had been residing in Ikorodu, Lagos State, before he decided to relocate very close to his office at Yaba last month. But he got the surprise of his life when the property agent that helped him to get a one room apartment at N5, 000 per month asked him for two years rent advance. In addition, he was asked to pay N100, 000 for agreement and commission. When he demanded to know why the landlord was collecting rent advance of two years contrary to the new tenancy law in State, he was advised to go and meet the governor to give him government accommodation, if he was not satisfied with their terms of payment.
Wale Onabanjo, a truck driver living at Odogunyan, Ikorodu, also had a bitter experience with the landlady of the house he had lived for three years. Trouble started for Onabanjo when the landlady demanded for a rent advance of one year, three months to the expiration of the one he had paid earlier. When Onabanjo requested for more time from the landlady to enable him source for money even though the earlier payment had not expired the woman was infuriated. Thereafter, he was given a three-month quit notice. When he refused to quit after the expiration of the notice, a military police was invited to eject him from the house.
On advance rent, section 4 subsection 3 of the tenancy law states; “It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a new or would be tenant rent in excess of one  year in respect of any premises.” The law also specifies punishment for any tenant that pays or any landlord that receives rent in excess of what is prescribed by the law. Number five of Advance Rent states: “ Any person who receives or pays rent in excess of what is prescribed in this section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira or to three months imprisonment”.
Apart from collecting rent advance payment contrary to the provision of the law, some landlords are in the habit of increasing the rent arbitrarily. This normally happens in a densely populated area where there is high demand for residential accommodation. For example, a three-bed room flat that cost about N350, 000 –N400, 000 in Ikosi, Ketu, in less than a year ago, is now between N500, 000 and N600, 000. The amount excludes agreement and commission which range between N100, 000 and N150, 000.
But Babajide Shittu, a member of Odogunyan Landlords’ Association, said the decision to collect one or two years’ rent advance was for individual landlord to make. He decried the attitude of some tenants which is capable of frustrating the workability of the new law. According to Shittu, some tenants do not want to pay their rents as and when due thereby provoking landlords to take unpalatable decisions. He cited a case of a tenant in his apartment who refused to pay his rent for about six months despite the intervention of Citizens Mediation Centre, CMC, as an example. “No landlord wants to create trouble for his tenants but when you are pushed to the wall, you would react accordingly,” Shittu said.
Nonetheless, Ben Ude, managing partner, Ekejiuba Chamber, Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, has commended the Lagos State government for considering the interest of tenants in the new law. But he explained that the law would be difficult to implement because the number of prospective tenants in Lagos, are more than the available accommodation. Under such a situation, he said, no law can properly regulate the tenancy agreement because the forces of demand and supply would come into play. To solve the lingering conflict between landlords and tenants, Ude suggested a massive building of low cost houses for residents.
The Lagos tenancy law imposes some obligations on landlords. These include, keeping the premises insured against loss or damage, not seizing, any item or property of the tenant or preventing, interfering with the tenant’s access to his personal property, and to effect repairs and maintain the external and common parts of the premises. Some of the tenants obligations include, payment of rents at the right time and in the manner stated, keeping the premises in good and tenantable repair, reasonable wear and tear excepted, and notifying the landlord where structural or substantial damage has occurred to any part of the premises as soon as practicable.