*SHOULD A LANDLORD LOCK GATES/DOORS OF A TENANT FOR FAILURE TO PAY RENT/PACK OUT ?* Daily Law Tips (Tip 620) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

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Nigeria is a liberal country, where government allows all persons to relate and make agreements towards genuine and lawful transactions and affairs. However, there are certain transactions and relationships that are regulated in Nigeria. Among such relationships are; banking, building, marriage, education, employment, tenancy (landlords and tenants matters), manufacturing of drugs, sale of petroleum and sale of land.

The purpose of government regulation and control over such relationships is to maintain minimum standards and protect public health, peace, law and order. Among relationships with little or no clear specific regulations from government are Surrogacy and appointment/ordination of religious clergies. As society grows and there is need for standardization and government will step in and make necessary regulations and laws.

Tenancy (Landlords and Tenants matters) are regulated by laws made by state government in each state through the state legislators and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja (FCT) by the National Assembly (since Abuja has no state legislators). So, going by the various laws governing tenancy matters in Nigeria, the laws create minimum standards for the relationships between landlords and tenants. The laws supersede the oral and written agreements of landlords and tenants over issues of tenancy unless where the laws expressly allow landlords and tenants to decide and prevail.

In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is a federal law operational only in the FCT governing tenancy matters. The said federal law is the “Recovery of Premises Act” and came into operation since 1st June 1945. You will rarely find a copy of it online, so we have provided a  free online copy on our website www.LearnNigerianLaws.com in order to increase access to justice. Generally, by law, where there is any dispute between persons, they are to seek justice in courts or through alternative dispute resolution options. None is allowed to take laws into his hands, use force and result to self-help.

Where a landlord wishes to recover his property from his tenant or his former tenant, the landlord MUST go to court. That a tenant is owing any rent or fee, or has refused to pack out and is arrogant is irrelevant. There is no debt, no matter how much and for how long or even the arrogance of the tenant that will warrant and justify the locking, closure or destruction of a tenant’s gate, door, padlock, chain, access point or any property whatsoever. There is no debt, fee or payment that is special and that can justify such illegality including unpaid rent, balance of rent, surcharges, overstay fee (mesne profit), caution fee, advertisement levy, association fee, estate fee, development levy, sanitation levy, electricity bill, water bill, security fee, monthly/yearly dues, infrastructure fee, service charge or any money, fee or item. Let me also add, that the wicked practise of removing roof of a tenant or cutting him off water or electricity supply is illegal and unlawful.

There are several lawful means of recovering debt and property from a tenant. Just speak to a lawyer and avoid breaching the rights of a tenant in trying to use force, self-help or any illegal means. Avoid incurring law suits running into millions of Naira and way higher than the rent/debt sought to be recovered.

My authorities are:

1. Sections 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 19 and 20 of the Recovery of Premises Act 1945, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (ABUJA) and other similar tenancy laws across the states in Nigeria.

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