Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Rights and Duties of Landlords Under the Lagos State Tenancy Law.


The Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 was introduced to regulate the relationship and in particular, the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords under Tenancy Agreements, and the process for the recovery of premises and other related purposes. 

General Comments and Limitations of the Law:

While most of the provisions of the law are laudable, readers must bear in mind that the Law does not apply to certain types of premises. The premises exempted are: residential premises owned or managed by an educational institution for its staff and students, residential premises provided for emergency shelter, residential premises in a care or hospice facility; in a public or private hospital or a mental health facility; and/or one that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment, and the law is also not applicable in the following areas of the State; Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island 

Even though the law moderates certain discretions that landlords may ordinarily exercise (e.g. the provision that limits rent payable to a year), it is very explicit in guiding landlords not only as to their rights and duties, but also on how to enforce those rights.

Duties of a Landlord:

Landlords have a duty to issue rent payment receipt to their tenants, it is however better to prepare a written agreement which can also serve the function of a receipt for the rent paid by the tenant. 

Landlords also have a duty not to receive rent in excess of one (1) year from a tenant that pays rent yearly, and six months for a tenant that pays his rent monthly. Where the tenant is a new tenant, the landlord may receive rent to cover a year, but not in excess of a year. The consequence of collecting rent in excess of what the law prescribes is that the landlord (including his agent) may upon being found guilty by the court be liable to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira or to three months imprisonment.

The landlord has a duty not to disturb his tenant’s privacy, and exclusive possession of the leased premises. He must not cause any form of unreasonable disturbance to his tenants, seize any item or property that belongs to the tenant, interfere with the tenant’s access to the rented premises, terminate, or restrict the use of facilities or services that are provided in common to all occupiers. Furthermore, the landlord has a duty to pay all rates and charges as stipulated in any law, he ought to insure the premises against any loss or damages, and also repair and maintain the external and common parts of the premises.

Where a landlord opts to collect service charge, facility, and security deposit from his tenant, the landlord will have a duty to issue a separate receipt to the tenant for the payments received, and he must always give a written account to the tenant at least every six (6) months of how monies paid by tenants were disbursed.    

Where the premises is a business premises, the landlord has a mandatory obligation to make sure that he does not do that which will result in loss of profit to the tenant (whether by way of an action or inaction). In particular, the landlord must not obstruct his tenant’s access and that of the tenant’s clients, and customers to the premises, he must put in reasonable efforts to prevent or remove any disruption to the property which is capable of resulting in loss of profit to the tenant, he must rectify within the shortest possible time any breakdown of plant or equipment under his care and maintenance, and he must also maintain or repaint the exterior of the common parts of the building (s). Any landlord reading this must be reminded that the landlord’s duties in respect of a business society are mandatory and cannot be moderated by Tenancy Agreement.      

Rights of a Landlord:

The rights of the landlord includes the right to receive rents from the tenant as at when due, and a restricted right to inspect the premises after a written notice has been given to that effect notifying the tenant about the proposed inspection. The inspection may be carried out at any reasonable hour of the day time only, and can be carried out for limited purposes including; to view the condition of the premises, and to carry out repairs in necessary parts of the building. 

In the event that the tenant does not observe any of his duties or obligations, the landlord has a right to engage a lawyer to institute court action to end the tenancy and repossess the premises. Before a landlord can do this, he must be sure that there is no portion of the Agreement or law stating otherwise, and that necessary notices have been given to the tenant to leave the premises and he has refused. 

Where a landlord exercises his right to go to court, he may ask the court to order the tenant to pay him rent that are unpaid but which have become ripe/due for payment prior to commencing the action in court, and he can further claim the value of rent for the premises per day until the tenant leaves the premises. 

Words of Advice to Landlords:

The popular notion is that where a tenant renews his rent yearly, he will be entitled to six months notice before he can be ejected, but this notion is only true where a landlord fails to prepare a written agreement to regulate the length of notice that he desires to give the tenant. In order words, the length of notice will be regulated by the law in the absence of an agreement stating otherwise.

The benefit of preparing a written agreement in a tenancy relationship cannot be overstated. From my years of experience in managing properties and facilities, I have discovered that the first duty of every landlord is to make sure that his tenants have written agreements to guide his relationship with the tenants. This is essential because the law allows the landlord and tenant by way of a tenancy agreement to regulate their relationship in the areas of each person’s obligations, and length of notice to terminate the tenancy relationship. A landlord that therefore wishes to safe himself some headaches may choose to regulate a substantial part of the tenancy relationship by way of an Agreement and the best way to do this is to consult a competent lawyer for proper guidance.


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