Fundamental Provisions Lagos State Tenancy Law Lacks.

Are you a real estate investor, property owner or a tenant resident in Lagos? Have you taken time to study the Lagos State tenancy law to understand how these laws affect you? If not then this post is for you because it examines some of these laws and proffers innovative solutions as to how these laws could be of great beneficial to tenants and property owners who are interested in understanding their obligations to tenants.

Although, the state government has done well for coming up with the tenancy law and also reviewing the law from time to time to protect the rights of tenants in Lagos.

Though, these laws are great but we at Ordiez Resources believe a lot still need to be done for a smooth and peaceful co-existence between property owners and tenants.

Besides offering our clients strategic advice on real estate investing and property management concerns, we also enjoy promoting excellent initiatives in every aspect of real estate especially on issues that will enhance and foster excellent relationship among investors, property owners and tenants.

It is interesting to know that in Nigeria, rent regulation and control does not exist or  function the way it was meant to. The lack of record keeping or database system on housing and rents make it difficult to have housing statistics that can help in conducting survey on price Index on operating cost, revenue and cost of income producing properties because income and expenses are not filed by property owners and government has no record of tenants history and other relevant records that may be useful to real estate professionals when conducting research.

In addition, lack of adequate and accurate record keeping also makes it very difficult to determine the economic factors and government policies affecting rents and affordability of rent in the state, some of which can be linked to high rate of unemployment, low wages and salaries of workers and the economic condition of the country.

Inspite of all these hinderances and set backs, we believe concerted effort should be directed to other identified area of growth opportunities in the real sector that require less funding, the protection of rights of real estate investors, property owners and tenants that must clearly state their responsibilities and obligations. For the purpose of this article we shall be gazing at the fundamental provisions the Lagos State tenancy law lacks in protecting the rights of tenants in the state.

Basically, the Lagos State tenancy law allows property owners to collect security deposit from tenants prior to performance of lease contract agreement to cover for damages beyond normal wear and tear tenants might cause during their tenancy tenure in the property.

However, the tenancy law was silent about the limit to how much of security deposit property owners can collect from tenants and how exactly the deposit should be managed or utilized.

Consequently this account for misappropriation of tenants’ security deposit and why property owners can’t give account of how the fund are used. In the United State for instance, security deposit is owned and paid by the tenants to the property owners who must treat the deposit as a trust fund belonging to the tenants.

Although, property owners are allowed to take out 1% of the security deposit annually to cover for administrative expenses and they may also use the security deposit as reimbursement for unpaid rent or for repairs beyond normal wear and tear.

Besides, tenants own the security deposit and must be return to them at the end of their lease or within reasonable time thereafter not later than 30 days.

The limit to rent security deposit in developed countries usually does not exceed one month’s rent of the total annual rent, simply put if a tenant pays eight hundred and forty thousand naira, #840,000:00 ($1870:00) excluding agreement and commission the security deposit should not be more than seventy thousand naira, #70,000:00 ($156:00) which is equivalent to one month rent.

Moreover, the security deposit is expected to be kept in an interest bearing account but the tenancy law was silent on this security deposit limit and this explains why property owners collect huge amount of money as security deposit.

There has been many cases of different types of tenants evictions, most of which are triggered by retaliation after the property owners got offended because tenants or one of their tenants provides helpful information or make complaints to government agencies rewarding the condition of the building, violation of health or safety law or took good faith actions to protect their interest or rights under the lease.

Most of such tenants are usually under series of persistence physical or psychological intimidation and unwaranted eviction notices. We advocate for the tenancy law to protect tenants against retaliatory eviction by property owners for exercising their legal rights and obligations.

Also we have seen many foreclosures and demolition of buildings after the owner’s right to the property is terminated in a legal proceedings due to failure to make mortgage payments. The questions on our lips and our concerns are what will be the faith of tenants living in such buildings? and are their rights to lease contract renewal and eviction still protected by the tenancy law even if the building is eventually sold to a new owner. We inquire into the provision of the law in dealing with foreclosures.

In the case of possible demolition of a building, we all are aware that this is many property owners only ground to end the tenancy of tenants they have problems with either genuine or based on selfish reasons. The law didn’t explain where property owners can get genuine demolition permit that must be shown to tenants before carrying out their renovation or demolition plan.

In addition, what laws protect tenants in the event of a possible demolition? and what is the length of notice to vacate such building? is there any provisions for tenants relocation expenses, relocation stipen and can they request for a reasonable time to vacate the building as it is normally done in civilized countries.

We would also like to create awareness of the level of discrimination many tenants and prospective tenants go through on a daily basis especially in the hands of real estate agents when searching for a suitable accommodation.

The Lagos State government must pay serious attention to this and must not treat discrimination with levity because property owners and real estate agents often time deny housing to prospective tenants for reasons best known to them, they discriminate on basis of tribe, ethnicity, religion, gender, marital status, nationality and disability. They often time refuse to rent out apartments to tenants based on these factors. The government must initiate laws to protect anyone who may experience any form of discrimination.

We discovered that lease succession right was not adequately dealt with in the tenancy law. This right allows family members and any other person who can prove emotional, financial commitment and interdependence with the tenant to succeed the rights of the tenant upon permanent departure or death. The need to protect family members who may be entitle to succession rights against possible eviction is paramount. The tenancy law has to be clear on its definition of family members and must also determine the required conditions that must be met for anyone to enjoy lease succession rights.

We at Ordiez Resources think tenants should be mandated to submit list of occupants in their apartment and their relationship with the tenant to the property owners to guide against issues of succession rights and eviction that might arise in absence of the tenant due to permanent departure or death.

Hence to comply with the overcrowding standards, property owners may limit the total number of people living in the tenant’s apartment to the legal required limit.

Another fundamental right that was completely left out is harassment of tenants by property owners. This includes actions intended to force tenants out of their apartments.

Harassment is a serious violation of tenants right and punishable by law in countries like the United State, United Kingdom and other notable developed countries. It includes but not limited to physical or verbal abuse, frivolous litigation, persistent physical intimidation, creating new rules that are not in the lease contract agreement.

Harassment is never taken with levity anywhere in the world especially in neutral and pro-tenant countries. If any property owner is found wanting or engages in an unlawful conduct that leads to a lawsuit and in the end the court establishes a case of harassment against the property owner, simply put if the property owner is found guilty of tenant harassment he/she will be subject to series of fine.

Furthermore, we all are aware that tenants have the responsibility of notifying the property owner of any maintenance issues or if the building is in a condition hazardous to the health and safety of the occupants. The reason for this is to ensure hygiene environment and surroundings to prevent illness and diseases and also safety of property.

We have to stress it here that it is the duty of both property owners and tenants to notify and alert the police of any illegal activity in the building to protect and ensure safety of lives and property and for crime protection.

Another very important fundamental right initiative we would love to promote is the special right to senior citizens and disabled persons. This right has been adopted by many countries all over the world to address and give succour to the housing needs and challenges of senior citizens, referring to people who are sixty five years, 65-years and above and also to the disabled persons, talking about individuals who have impairment resulting from anatomical, psychological or physiological condition that prevent them from engaging in any substantial or gainful employment.

The special right of senior citizens and disabled persons protect them from incessant rent increase and owners occupancy which provides that property owners must get them equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in nearby area if they must take possession of the property based on owners occupancy.

Finally, most of these rights and obligations are delibrately discussed on the surface for the purpose of creating public awareness and we also ensure its simplicity for easy and better understanding of these issues. We hope the state government will consider and incorporate some of these rights and initiatives and many more which are not covered in this post into the tenancy law of Lagos State to further ‘cement’ and enhance smooth and peaceful co-existence in property owners – tenants relationship.

For more information, assistance, enquiries and suggestion you can leave a message on the comment box and we shall respond swiftly to your needs.

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Thanks

Olatunbosun Idowu

For Ordiez Resources

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