RIGHTS OF A TENANT IN NIGERIA.

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♯1: RIGHT TO A WRITTEN AGREEMENT.

Agreements generally can be oral or written. In this century, oral agreements seem awkward especially when it is executory (yet to be executed) and involves huge considerations from the parties to it. It is advised that agreements are written, on that note a Latin maxim says that “Quo scripti scripti”, what is written is written and another adds that, “quo scripti mante”; what is written remains. For the avoidance of doubt, ambiguity and misunderstanding of the intentions of the parties (landlord and tenant) at the time of their agreement, our courts encourage tenancy agreements to be in writing. This will aid both parties to outline their terms and conditions expressly. The law makes the writing of tenancy agreements mandatory for tenancies above three (3) years while tenancy below three can be orally or written. Generally to be on the safe side parties are advised to put their agreements in writing even if it is for a week tenancy.

Tenancy agreements are to contain in details the names of a landlord and his tenant; as parties to the tenancy agreement. The land or house to be rented out ought to be described in details; showing its location and basic features. The duration of the tenancy, the rent payable and the date at which such rent would become payable should be stated. The modalities for reviewing rent price (increment in price) should be included. Above all, the duration for any “Notice to Quit” to be served on the tenant should not be left out. Other terms, conditions, and covenants that can be added are; who makes repairs on the house, how and who pays for accruing bills and expenses (water, electricity and sanitation bills). In making the tenancy agreement between the landlord and the prospective tenant both parties are to execute the agreement by signing and dating it before their respective witnesses (at least one witness for each party). Post office stamp should be affixed to the agreement to enrich its probative value (make it recognised in law and acceptable in court as an evidence).  

In reaching a tenancy agreement a tenant ought to be as wise as a serpent since he will extend or shorten his freedom by the contents of the agreement. Nigerian landlords are too busy to enter into contracts with all their prospective tenants and equally too stingy to seek for the services of lawyers. Consequently, most landlords duplicate a single tenancy agreement and use same for all their tenancy agreements irrespective of their varying conditions and terms; thereby leaving some intentions unexpressed. Prospective Tenants like “money borrowers”, are always desperate to obtain tenancy/accommodation irrespective of any draconic conditions attached to such. Many tenants even move into property and live for years before remembering to seek for a written agreement. A tenancy agreement couched by a lawyer for a landlord might often be confusing and a bit unfavourable to a prospective tenant. It might take a lawyer to peruse such and properly advise a prospective tenant on terms and covenants to add or remove from such tenancy agreement.

Prospective tenants are advised to seek the services of their solicitors before signing or agreeing to any unclear terms of any tenancy agreement. Never go into any tenancy agreement orally; even if it is for the least of property or for the shortest of terms. Let the friendliness and joy of today not becloud your sense of reasoning else tomorrow may be sour. 

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