May 31, 2016

Real Estate Blues: Landlord and Tenant Romance by Akinyemi Ayinoluwa

Emeka Nwankwo is a legal practitioner with a viable law practice in Lagos. He is a fine gentleman with his head well screwed to his neck.  Temperate, unassuming, a charmer and a typical people-person. Little wonder, in his early 30s he has recorded huge milestones in his law career.

Emeka resides in a peaceful, elitist neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria. Though of the eastern extraction, he enjoys a chummy relationship with his landlord, a yoruba man in his early fifties.

Emeka is blessed with a landlord he rarely sees, he breaks no sweat and neither has any agent breathing down his neck on tenancy issues. Whenever hisl andlord comes around, all they ever discuss – over chilled bottles of beer – is what the English Premiership table looks like and their re-invigorated faith in their darling club, Manchester United FC., clinching the premiership trophy.

The above is rarely the case whenever a tenant settles in a new apartment in Lagos. While prospecting, his attempts at procuring a befitting place of abode is subject to different paradigms, and one of such is the indispensable overlord and solution provider; the Landlord.
Landlords, like others, are given to certain prejudices and self-conservatory idiosyncrasies. Understandably none is Santa Claus.
Thoughts like these always echo silently:
” what part of the country is he from?”
“Is he married, and if yes, how large is his family?”

“what does he do for a living?” , “will he be able to sustain payment of rent as at when due?”

“will he keep the property in tenantable state and obey the terms of the agreement signed ?”

These notions are stirred-up in the minds of the landlord and often times he consults his Agent or Lawyer in co-signing his decision after necessary circumspection. However, this decision-making is solely his prerogative as often times the agents and lawyers are swayed by their commissions. It is instructive to note that when flashes of real estate deal-making and closing appear on the horizon it takes a lot to stay objective and utterly professional. It is also poignant to state that everyone involved in a real estate transaction is expected to assume his duty with a deep sense of responsibility.

The landlord, as proprietor, landowner or landholder has an almost absolute interest in a defined property. The Tenant is the needy, or better still, he is in need of a place to live in. In this equation, the landlord is the solution provider, by virtue of what he owns, possesses or wields control over.

What is at the very core of the Landlord-Tenant relationship is – satisfying the need of the tenant; proffering an apartment, wherein the needy(tenant) enjoys exclusive possession at a cost(rent) for a period of time.

Evidently, not everyone shares an amorous relationship with their landlords, as is the case with Emeka Nwankwo. One is often tempted to ask what exactly is responsible for the prevalent cat-dog relationship of Landlords and Tenants; why the courts in Lagos are congested with countless suits bothering on recovery of premises, mesne profit and possession; why tenants see Landlords as Shylocks; why there are incidents of breach of tenancy agreements etc.

My experience litigating these issues would have me suggest that the erosion of the peaceful enjoyment of the property by the tenant, and the failure to pay subsequent rents/rates/service charges as at when due, are the chief contributory factors to Landlord and Tenant disenchantment.

Perhaps a few of such relationships could be salvaged from deterioration when both parties understand their roles, rights and obligations. Oftentimes these terms are canonized in the Tenancy Agreements. Numerous state legislations(tenancy laws) reinforce certain standard form terms and cater to ensuring these stipulations are enforceable, because everyone is the better for it when peace and tranquility prevails.

The under-listed accentuates, side by side, the rights and obligation of the two parties. If these fundamentals are clearly understood and appreciated same signposts an excursion to a sizzling romance.

1) He is entitled to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property, i.e, the parking lots, the electricity, easements, water facility, common utilities etc.
2) Freedom from unnecessary and unreasonable disturbances from the Landlord. e.g showing up uninvited on the premises, hosting parties or staging receptions in the courtyard of the Tenant without prior consent or authorization.

3) Improvement on property, fixing doors, light fittings, painting walls, fixing the the tiles in the toilet and bathrooms and the cupboards in the kitchen. etc. A tenant should enjoy these sort of improvements made on the property, particularly when he seeks to extend the term of the tenancy.

1) He has a right to inspect the property, in his personal capacity or through his agents.
2) He has a right to approve improvements, alterations and structural changes made to his property.
3) He has a right to increase rent at a reasonable degree, considering rental value and the value of the property in question.

1) Pay rent, rates and charges as at when stated.
2) Keep premises in good and tenantable state.
3) Permit the Landlord or his agent the opportunity to inspect after prior notification has been received and allow necessary repairs where necessary.
4) No alteration without prior consent of the Landlord.
5) No sub-letting or assignment of interest in property without Landlord’s consent.
6) To notify Landlord of structural and substantial alterations.
1) None disturbance of Tenant’s quiet and peaceful enjoyment of premises.
2) Pay rates and charges as stipulated by law.
3) Keep premises insured against loss or damage.
4) Not to terminate or restrict a common facility or service for the use of the premises.

It would bode well for both parties, regardless of the side of the divide to understand that they are obligated to allow each other enjoy certain rights to forestall any clash of interests.

While there is always the likelihood of friction in day to day human interaction, it behooves on parties to treat same in a civil manner, it is advisable that before a Landlord-Tenant relationship is executed there is a meeting of the minds and a mutual understanding that civility and maturity will be the watchword, in addition, parties should endeavor to incorporate terms that mandates quick dispute resolution mechanisms whenever disputes arise.

You live in Lagos? as a Landlord or Tenant? What is your story? how has the relationship been? are you faced with litigation? how good is your agent? Does your Lawyer represent your interest well enough? please do share your thoughts in the comment section, particularly if this article resonates with your experience.

Ed's Note: This article was originally published here