Rights of a Landlord In Nigeria.

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Rights of a Landlord In Nigeria

A Governor can issue Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) to individuals (of not less than 18 years old) and registered bodies (ie, Companies, Corporations and Incorporated Trustees) for a certain term (usually 99 years) for either residential or commercial purposes. An infant or a Business Name cannot buy, own or sale a land in Nigeria. A foreigner has all rights to purchase and own a land in any part of Nigeria.

In the common parlance, an individual or registered body on whom a right of occupancy is vested on is referred to as a “landlord”. Furthermore, a person who owns a house, a store, a warehouse or a park is equally referred to as a “landlord”. In adhering to rules of English language, a feminine landlord is referred to as a “landlady”. In a bid to provide a peaceful and enviable society, Nigeria has through her laws and conventions accorded a lot of rights to landlords although not without some duties. The said rights have prompted massive inflow of many investors into property acquisition and real estate investment in general. Some of the rights of a landlord are:

1.     RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY IN ANY PART OF NIGERIA.

The organic law of Nigeria; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 at Section 43 provides for the “Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.”  Hence, all citizens of Nigeria have the right to buy, purchase, acquire, inherit and retain, own, maintain and use a land located in any part of Nigeria. It does not matter whether one is Igbo or Hausa, Efik or Yoruba, indigene or Non-indigene.

  Like any other fundamental human right provided for under our constitution you can seek for its enforcement in a High Court or Federal High. All landlords are entitled to their property and the safety of their property in any part of Nigeria. Don’t let indigenous revolting tenants intimidate you. You owe them just nothing. Don’t decay in ignorance; believing fundamental human rights to be only on life, movement, speech, fair hearing and issues alike.

2.       RIGHT AGAINST COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, being aware of the dreaded powers of government and the selfish interest of its prospective wielders, provided certain protection for landlords. The pitiful plots and scenes of the “Biblical Nabothic Vineyard” still plays in our today society; where jealous and selfish Governors forcefully acquire lands of citizens for their own personal investments. Friends, worry not for our Constitution in Section 44 provides for a right against compulsory acquisition of property. By the above provision, no land or interest on it can be compulsorily taken away from its owner in any part of Nigeria.

The provision went further to provide that on exceptional situations land can be compulsorily acquired but in the manner and for the purposes prescribed for in any of our laws. The law went further to entitle the landlord to receive a prompt payment of compensation from the government. To complement our constitution, the LAND USE ACT 1978, went on to provide the sacrosanct manner and purpose for which a land can be compulsorily acquired by government. By section 28 of the Land Use Act, a governor can only compulsorily acquire a land for overriding public interest. The law went further to explain that “overriding public interest” means

i.            The requirement of the land by government for public purposes within the state

ii.            Or for mining purposes or oil pipelines or building materials extraction or similar purposes.

iii.            The transfer of land or interest in it by landlord without obeying the regulations over such transaction. (it’s a punitive measure).

It is crystal clear that our laws did not provide for compulsory acquisition by Governors’ for their own businesses rather for public purposes or better still for state use. Hence, no Governor can rightly, acquire your land to erect his personal house, hotel, hostel, school or private parks. Don’t succumb to the agitations of a Governor that wrestles to compulsorily acquire you land, for anything short of “for public use” instead get a lawyer.

3.     RIGHT TO COMPENSATION.

The law cannot allow the efforts of a landlord to go in vain, hence the law equipped him with a commensurate right that comes to birth in the event of compulsory acquisition of his land. Our grundnorm; Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) provides for payments of compensation to landlords in Section 44.  Aside the provision in the Constitution, our Land Use Act in Section 29 equally provides for compensation of a landlord upon compulsory acquisition of his land. Take note that, a landlord is not compensated for a land itself rather for his improvements, advancements and investments on the land, like buildings, mechanical installation, drainage system, irrigation system, fence, reclamation works, economic crops and any paid land rent for the year of such acquisition.

Before compensation could be paid, evaluators from government would calculate, evaluate and fix prices to all improvements on a land, short of depreciation. A documentary evidence and proof works and investments on a land (like invoices and receipts) would aid the computation. Know you all men that no compensation can ever be paid to a landlord for an undeveloped, bare land for he has expended nothing on it!

A Compulsory acquisition of a land can never come like “Jesus Christ”, whom the Scriptures say would come like a thief in the night. There are notices, letters and reminders that must be sent by government to a landlord before a compulsory acquisition of his land. A landlord whose land is to be compulsorily acquired must receive a written notice from a duly authorised public officer on behalf of the Governor. If such notices are not served on a landlord he can legally contest the invalidity of such acquisition.

4.      RIGHT TO ISSUE A NOTICE TO QUIT.

One of the greatest powers of a landlord is “right to rent and un-rent” his property. He has the right to hire and fire a tenant. No willing tenant can force himself or herself on the property of an unwilling landlord. Put it this way, every landlord has a right to say NO. But in saying or doing such, a landlord must do it within the provisions of the prevailing tenancy agreement and laws. The first step towards the removal of a tenant is the service of “Notice to Quit” (popularly termed “Quit Notice”). Generally, the law allows a tenant and his landlord to agree as to rent, duration of rent and notices to be issued. Hence, both can agree that the tenant be issued no “Notice to Quit” at all or a “Notice to Quit”, that is shorter than the statutorily provided periods. Since tenants are often desperate to sign agreements and pack into buildings, shylock landlords add draconic terms that may even waive tenants’ right to be issued a notice to quit. But where a landlord and his tenant fail to agree as to the duration of a notice to quit in their agreement, the law will take its course. Going by the law, where there is no tenancy agreement as to notice to quit, a landlord is to issue 6 months notice to quit for a yearly tenancy or a tenancy above one year and 1 month notice to quit for a monthly tenancy.  Finally, a week tenancy requires one week notice to quit while a daily tenancy requires a day notice to quit. Where a landlord and his tenant failed to agree on the type of tenancy to run and the court would determine such through the periods for demand and payment of rent.

Landlords can serve valid “notice to quit” on their tenants without the aid of lawyers. A notice to quit cannot be orally delivered rather it must be written. A written notice to quit must contain the name of the landlord and his tenant. Address of the house/property, duration of the notice and date of expiration must be included in a notice to quit.  Writing of a notice to quit is not an exclusive work of a lawyer, a landlord, his caretakers, estate managers and other agents can do such. A landlord must calculate and serve such notice to end on the eve of the anniversary of the subsisting tenancy of his tenant. Hence, for a tenancy that would end on 31st of August 2011, its valid notice to quit must end latest on the eve of 31st August 2011 for if it crosses over to 1st of September it would be invalid. A notice to quit that runs into a new tenancy period is invalid. A landlord must make sure his notice to quit is served personally on his tenant while an acknowledged copy of service of same is collected from the tenant. Please note that refusal to collect or receive rent is not a Notice to Quit. Even the acceptance of arrears of rent or rent itself from a tenant does not put an end to a subsisting notice to quit served on. A landlord need not issue a notice to quit to a tenant that has owed rent for 3 consecutive months or whose tenancy has expired or who has contradicted any of the conditions and terms of tenancy. For the sake of the above technicality, a landlord should engage the service of a lawyer.

5.      RIGHT NOT TO ISSUE A NOTICE TO QUIT.

Ignorantly, most tenants argue endlessly with their landlord over his non issuance of a “Notice to Quit” on them. On the other hand, some landlords do issue “Notice to Quit” when they need to so. The truth is that a landlord has a right to issue a notice to quit and also a right not issue a notice to quit.

First of the instances where a landlord need not issue a “Notice to Quit” is where a tenancy agreement contains such. By tenancy agreement between a landlord and his tenant both can waive the issuance of a notice to quit on tenant. The law allows such and will honour same, for both parties have the right to determine the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreement. Practically, most tenants are always in a haste to move into houses/properties at all cost and would hurriedly sign anything. Hence, landlords can insert “Notice to quit Waiver Clauses” in tenancy agreements to afford them its consequential right. With such a clause a landlord need not serve even a day notice to quit on his tenant. Once the tenancy agreement was signed wilfully the court will honour it and assist in its execution.

The second instance is where a tenant contradicts a written term or condition of his tenancy agreement. In such circumstance his landlord need not issue him a notice to quit before embarking on further steps to evict him. For example, where a tenancy agreement provides that a building be used solely for residential purposes and a tenant turns such a building into a commercial, business or industrial use, his landlord need not serve him a “Notice to Quit”.

Thirdly, where a tenant has been in debt of arrears of rent for three (3) consecutive months, he requires no “Notice to Quit”. The 3 months must be together and not having a new paid month(s) in between them. The rent must have been demanded for by the landlord or his agents.

Lastly, where a term, tenure, duration of tenancy has expired and a new one is not renewed a landlord need not serve a “Notice to Quit” on his tenant. It plays to logic, because you need not give a notice of your intention to terminate what had already terminated. So at the lapse of a tenancy by effluxion of time a tenant requires no “Notice to Quit” from his landlord.

In all the above four instances, landlords can dispense the service of a “Notice to Quit” upon their tenants while they employ other eviction processes like the service of “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention”.

6.      RIGHT TO ISSUE 7 DAYS NOTICE.

A landlord is the perpetual owner of his own property, being occupied by a tenant for a certain term. Upon the expiration of tenancy or occurrence of certain events the property reverts back to the lawful owner; landlord. Tenants are not owners of the buildings they occupy no matter how much they pay or how long there have been on it. Hence, a landlord has the right to recover back his property from any tenant.

In the process of evicting and recovering premises, a landlord has the right to issue a “Seven Days Notice” of his intention to recovers such premises to its occupier. In the legal chronology of processes for eviction and recover of premises, a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” comes after a “Notice to Quit” must have been served and had expired. Although like I had explained earlier in Right No. 5, they are instances where a landlord need not serve a “Notice to Quit”. In such instance, the landlord may just serve a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” straight away on the tenant.  Unlike a “Notice to Quit” a “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” can only be drafted by a lawyer. The “7 Days Notice of Owners Intention” will state that the landlord’s lawyer (solicitor) will proceed to court to evict the occupant of the premises if such occupant fails to give up his possession within the specified seven days. Upon the expiration of seven days, the lawyer will pray the court to evict the occupant and order any unpaid rent and mesne profit to be paid.  No tenant can take away the building of a landlord from him or occupy his building without paying for such. Every period of occupation of a building must be paid either as rent or as mesne profit (mesne profit is a legal terminology for the amount owed by a tenant to a landlord from the date his tenancy expired till the date he packs out of the building and gives up possession to the landlord)

7.     RIGHT TO ENTER A LENT PROPERTY.

Tenancy is not alienation, assignment or sale of ownership from landlord to his tenant rather it is the leasing, renting, giving of some certain term, period, tenancy or lease to a tenant. It does not matter if such was done for a price called rent or not. Consequently, the all time ownership of a property rests on the landlord who only gives right to a tenant to occupy same. Hence, a landlord has a right to enter upon his lent property at will. Yes, it is his property for life against his tenant; once a landlord always a landlord!

A landlord is equipped with this right in law to afford him the opportunity to supervise and monitor his property to avoid unnecessary damage in the hands of destructive tenants. A landlord needs to know what goes on his property to make sure tenants abide by their binding tenancy agreement. Squel to this right, some smart tenant would demand the landlord to sign in their tenancy agreement that he would only enter upon the property in the day time and not at odd hours of the night. Well that is okay. Besides, landlords need to respect tenants’ fundamental human right to private and family life as enshrined in the constitution. Landlords should not result to self-help, like breaking tenant’s door, loosening tenant’s doors, windows and roof, beating tenants or locking them up in their flats or rooms in order to forcefully gain access or recover rent or possession. For any of above acts, a tenant can sue the hell out such a landlord, both in civil and criminal law.

8.     RIGHT TO RENEW TENANCY.

It is not mandatory that a landlord must renew his tenancy with a tenant; a landlord can decline without reasons. This right is one of the measures a landlord can use to offload a non-conformist or compliant tenant. A tenant cannot force himself upon a landlord. It is the exclusive rights of a landlord to determine his tenants. Hence, a landlord can only renew tenancy for his good old desirous tenants.

All landlords should include their rights to renew tenancy in their tenancy agreements. A “Tenancy Renewal Clause” should contain the time within which a tenant can apply to his landlord for renewal and also the mode of such application. This may look absurd but I bet you it clears off any air of assumption. All these are good foundation for an enjoyable “landlordship”!

9.     RIGHT NOT TO REIMBURSE A TENANT.

A landlord owes a house and not a tenant. While a landlord owns a house and a tenant uses same, some repairs are for the landlord and some for his tenant. The nature of repairs can be clearly contained in a tenancy agreement to avoid doubt and unfounded assumption and problems. In practise, landlords for the sake of averting depreciation carryout repairs that should have been done by their tenant. Sometimes, tenants carry out repairs that are due to their inhuman landlords who care only for their rents.  Some tenants after make repairs on building do subsequently seek to deduct their expenses from the rent due to their landlords. In some circumstances, the tenants may even demand for an outright defrayment of cost of repairs on the building.

Hear this; a landlord is not a master of his tenant neither is a tenant an agent of a landlord. Each of them is independent and none represents the other in profit or in loss. Hence, a landlord is not bound to reimburse his tenant for expenses incurred from repairs neither is a tenant responsible for a landlords cost of repairs on his building. Even if a landlord orally agrees to have such cost deducted from his tenant’s rent it still does not stand.  A landlord can only be legally responsible to repay the expenses of his tenant if there is a written agreement between the landlord and his tenant as to such repayment. Equally, a landlord has a duty not to demand his cost of repairs from his tenants after they had paid their rent.

10.     RIGHT TO REVIEW RENT.

The only thing that does not change is change itself. Landlords are in business, for their buildings are their investments while a quality rent is their rightful expectation. As policies, time and economics change landlords change their rent price. Unfortunately, the change is always an increment and never a decline, not minding depreciation on buildings. Well, it is the right of a landlord to review his rent price although within the percentage range in the “Rent Review Clause” of his tenancy agreement. Although a landlord can review his rent, he cannot do such during an existing tenancy and demand his tenants to pay up the difference. A rent review must be for a fresh tenancy and not for a subsisting tenancy.

With the above ten rights of a landlord you need not search further to know why the word “lord” is attached to the title; “landlord”. It is unfortunately, some landlords don’t enjoy half of their rights due to ignorance. To enjoy the above rights in its fullness, I advise you to consult a lawyer and get a better tenancy agreement. Join me next edition as I expose to you to the surest and most secured ways of buying lands in Nigeria. To quickly understand this subject matter, please read my article; RIGHTS OF A TENANT.

Thank you.

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