RIGHTS OF A TENANT IN NIGERIA
A tenant is a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.
Do tenants have rights? If yes, what are your rights as a tenant?
A right in this sense is a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something. As a tenant you are entitled to certain things which we would examine below
RIGHTS OF A TENANT
Every tenant is entitled to the following rights
- Right to be issued a receipt after payment.
- Right to have a written agreement.
- Right to peaceful enjoyment of the rented property.
- Right to a valid Notice to quit.
- Right to a compulsory 7 days’ Notice of Owners intention to recover possession.
RIGHT TO BE ISSUED A RECEIPT
Once you have paid your rent as a tenant, you are entitled to be issued a receipt. The receipt is a proof of payment and serves as an acknowledgement by the landlord (or his agent) that he has received rent from you.
The receipt should state
- Date of which payment was received.
- Name of the landlord and tenant.
- Location of the premises in respect of which the rent is paid.
- Amount of rent paid; and
- Period to which the payment relates.
The date on the receipt helps the court in calculating the time frame for a valid notice to quit, it could also be used to know the precise time your rent will be due. If a receipt is not issued to you, you have the right to ask for it.
In Lagos state, where a landlord fails to issue a receipt to his tenant, he is liable to a fine of N10,000 (Ten thousand Naira).
In situations where the landlord is unable to issue a receipt, a written agreement that is signed by the landlord in the presence of a witness stating that he has received payment from you will suffice as a valid receipt of payment.
RIGHT TO HAVE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT
An agreement can be oral or in writing. Although it is only compulsory for a tenancy above three (3) years to be in writing, it is advised that no matter the duration of the tenancy, you should always put it in writing. First, it makes the position of the parties and terms of the agreement very clear. Your rights are better protected when you have it written down, for instance, when there is a misunderstanding, the written document can be used as a reference on what was agreed on and who is at fault.
The following details should be contained in your agreement;
- The agreement should state the names and description of the parties (landlord and tenant).
- The description of the property being rented (type of property, address, number of rooms, floor number etc).
- The duration of the tenancy (The period of time the rent will cover, whether it is for a fixed term, it is renewable, or you would move out immediately the term expires i.e. non renewable).
- The amount paid as rent.
- Date of payment.
- Provision for review of rent, how and when rent will be reviewed.
- The length of notice to quit to be given.
- Who will take care of maintenance and repairs of the rented property.
- Who will make payments such as insurance, electricity, water bill, land use charge, and estate duties.
- How to terminate the agreement.
- Signature of both parties and date.
It is always advised to have a lawyer look at your tenancy agreement before you sign, in case it contains clauses that might work against you.
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RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ENJOYMENT OF PROPERTY
Upon payment of rent, you are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of the rented premises. There have been cases where the landlord barges in and out of the rented premises just because he is the landlord, thereby constituting nuisance and disturbing the peace of the tenant. Although the landlord has a right to visit the rented premises, he ought to do so only at reasonable times and in particular instances.
Such instances where a landlord can enter a rented property include
- Where there is an emergency.
- Where the property is abandoned.
- To carry out inspection (this has to be done with notice and at reasonable times)
- To carry out repairs.
- To show the property to a potential buyer.
Where your landlord disturbs your right to peaceful enjoyment of property, you can contact your lawyer to advice you on the appropriate steps to take.
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RIGHT TO A VALID NOTICE TO QUIT
As a tenant the law requires that you are given a notice before you can be made to vacate the rented premises. That means that your landlord does not have the right to throw you out of the rented property, as the law has laid out specific procedures to be followed in recovery of premises. However if you are not aware of this right, it will continue to be trampled on.
The duration of notice to be given varies according to the term of the tenancy as seen below
Yearly tenancy – 6 months Notice
Quarterly tenancy – 3 months Notice
Half yearly tenancy – 3 months Notice
Monthly tenancy – 1 month Notice
Weekly tenancy – 1 week Notice
Note that where your tenancy has elapsed and you are in arrears of rent, the landlord is not entitled to give you the above notice; he is only required to give you a compulsory 7 day notice of intention to recover premises.
It should also be noted that although the law specifies the duration of notice to be given in specific instances, the landlord and tenant can decide on a different duration of notice. For instance it can be stated in a written and signed agreement that 7 days notice would be given for a yearly tenancy instead of the prescribed 6 months notice.
Also the agreement can totally remove the requirement of giving a notice to quit before eviction. In such cases a tenant can be evicted without a notice to quit. Most tenants often sign such agreements without knowing what they are getting into and once signed they are bound by it even though it works against them.
It is no excuse that you did not understand what you were signing, remember ignorance of the law is not an excuse. That is why it is important to have a lawyer go through the tenancy agreement before appending your signature.
RIGHT TO A COMPULSORY 7 DAYS NOTICE TO RECOVER POSSESSION
Nigerian law provides that before a landlord can recover the rented premises, he has a duty to give the tenant 7 days notice to recover the premises. The notice informs you that at the expiry of the 7 days the landlord will proceed to court to recover the premises.
This notice is served after the expiration of the Notice to quit and the 7 days is calculated from the day after the notice is served, not from the day it is served.
This notice serves to protect the tenant from being forcefully ejected from the premises. As a tenant you should know that a landlord does not have the right to forcefully eject you out of the rented property without following the procedure prescribed by law such as serving the notices required, proceeding to court if the tenant does not vacate after the expiration of the notice and obtaining a court order to recover possession.
Where a landlord fails or ignores to obtain the appropriate court order and takes matters into his own hands by entering the premises and ejecting the tenant, that serves as an infringement on the right of the tenant and as a tenant you can hold him liable for trespass.
I believe you now know your rights as a tenant, feel free to share your peculiar experiences as a tenant in the comment section.