Protecting your Rights as a Tenant in Nigeria
Searching for accommodation in Nigeria is one of the most difficult things one can do. It is fraught with so many risks, you have to deal with multiple viewings of apartments and houses which do not live up to what you have been promised (or shown in pictures), dealing with multiple agents who seem like they are trying to pull a fast one on you, dealing with multiple unexplained fees etc.
So, when you finally find the place of your dreams, you need to be sure that your rights are protected, and that is why we have written this article – to list out a few of the rights you are entitled to as a tenant in Nigeria. The first step to protecting your rights as a tenant in Nigeria is to know your rights:
- Right to receipt of payment – Once you pay your rent, you are entitled to be issued with a receipt of payment by your landlord. The receipt should include, the amount paid, the location of the property, and the duration of the tenancy. In fact, failure to issue a receipt of payment is an offence in Lagos under the Lagos Tenancy Law and there is a penalty of N100k for landlords who fail to issue it.
- Right to exclusive possession – once you become a lawful tenant, in the eyes of the law the place is solely yours for the period of the tenancy – you have something called ‘exclusive possession’. Exclusive possession is the right to use premises to the exclusion of all others, including the landlord himself. What this means is that the landlord will need your permission to enter the house or apartment, if anyone was to try to enter the premises without your consent, this would amount to trespass.
- Right to Notice to Quit before eviction – As a tenant you are entitled to be given notice before you are evicted from your premises. The notice varies based on the type of tenancy agreement you have – weekly tenants are entitled to a week’s notice, monthly tenants are entitled to 2 weeks’ notice, yearly tenants are entitled to 6 months’ notice. However, in Lagos, if you have a fixed tenancy, the landlord does not have to serve you a notice to quit once the tenancy expires, this is because the Lagos Tenancy Law presumes that you are aware of when your tenancy is due to expire and so no notice is required.
- Right to 7 days’ Notice to Recover Possession – Apart from the notice to quit, all tenants are entitled to receive 7 days’ notice to recover possession, this is issued by a landlord only after a validly issued notice to quit has expired. This is a critical part of the eviction process, and therefore if this is not issued, the landlord cannot bring an action for eviction.
- Right to habitable premises – As a tenant you are entitled to live in habitable premises, and so if for any reason during the course of your tenancy the premises becomes inhabitable e.g. due to flooding, or damaging to some essential utilities, you can request that the landlord put the premises in a habitable state, if he/she refuses you are entitled to end the tenancy and demand a refund of your rent.
The Most Important Protection: A Tenancy Agreement
As a tenant, you are entitled to request from your landlord that you have a written tenancy agreement. A tenancy agreement is an important document because it basically outlines the terms of your tenancy in the property, in fact one could argue that this is the most important right of every tenant. Landlords can refuse to issue a tenancy agreement, but if your landlord does not give you one, then you should be very wary. In tenancy agreements of over 3 years, it is mandatory that the agreement be in writing.
Unfortunately, even when the landlord issues a tenancy agreement, most tenants just sign the documents without reviewing it properly. Ideally this agreement should be reviewed by a legal expert.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. It is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.