Understanding Rights and Obligations: Landlord-Tenant Laws in Nigeria

In the dynamic world of real estate, a growing number of home hunters, particularly millennials, express a preference for apartments where the landlord does not reside. This trend arises from anecdotes and stories shared among friends and colleagues, often highlighting unpleasant encounters with strict landlords. However, this perception of landlord-tenant dynamics can be transformed through improved communication and a comprehensive understanding of rights and obligations under the Tenancy Law in Nigeria. This article aims to shed light on the legal provisions that safeguard the welfare of both tenants and landlords, fostering harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships.

Tenant’s Rights:

  1. Right to a Written Agreement: Every tenant, regardless of status or location, has the right to a tenancy agreement. It is advisable for agreements to be in written form for easy reference and dispute resolution. The agreement should clearly outline the names of the landlord and tenant, detailed property description, tenancy duration, rent amount, and provisions for rent review.
  2. Right to Issuance of Payment Receipt: Tenants have the right to receive a receipt from the landlord or agent upon making rent payments. The receipt should include essential details such as names of both parties, payment amount, date, property covered, and the receiver’s signature. Refusing to issue a receipt is considered an offense.
  3. Right to Peaceful Enjoyment of Property: Once rent is paid and a receipt is provided, tenants have the right to peaceful enjoyment of the property. They have control over access, usage, safety, and can take legal action against any trespassers. Landlords can supervise and maintain the property, but within reasonable hours and with the tenant’s knowledge.
  4. Right to a Valid Quit Notice: A tenant cannot be evicted without the landlord complying with the relevant Recovery of Premises Law. The law requires a written and served “quit notice” to the tenant, specifying the duration before eviction. Tenants should carefully review the tenancy agreement, as some agreements may waive the right to a quit notice.
  5. Right to a Compulsory Seven Days’ Notice to Recover Premises: The Nigerian Tenancy Law prohibits landlords from evicting tenants without serving a seven-day notice. This notice informs the tenant that legal action will be taken to recover the premises after the expiration of the quit notice. The notice is typically sent by the landlord’s lawyer.

Landlord’s Rights:

  1. Right not to Issue a Quit Notice: Landlords have the right to issue or not issue a quit notice, depending on the circumstances. For example, if a tenant breaches the agreement, such as using the property for a commercial purpose without permission or failing to pay rent for three consecutive months, a quit notice may not be required.
  2. Right to Renew Tenancy: Landlords have the authority to decide whether to renew a tenant’s tenancy. It is advisable to include a “Tenancy Renewal Clause” in the agreement, outlining the terms and conditions for renewal.
  3. Right to Review Rent: Landlords can increase the rent based on the terms specified in the “Rent Review Clause” of the agreement. However, this increase does not affect existing tenancies, only future ones.
  4. Right not to Reimburse a Tenant: Landlords are not obligated to reimburse tenants for repairs unless it is explicitly stated in the tenancy agreement. Therefore, clarifying repair responsibilities before signing the agreement is crucial for both parties.

Understanding the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords is vital for maintaining a harmonious and lawful tenancy relationship in Nigeria. Tenants should familiarize themselves with their rights, such as having a written agreement, receiving payment receipts, and being issued a valid quit notice.