Mar 13, 2017

5 Misconceptions about Tenancy Law in Nigeria | Adedunmade Onibokun

A lot of Nigerians have misconceptions about some of the principles and laws regarding tenancy law. Having received quite a number of emails over some of these areas of tenancy law, this topic will in no small way help shed light on questions regarding tenancy laws and practice which a number of readers might have.  Here are five misconceptions about Tenancy Law in Nigeria;

1.     Notice to Quit is to be served after rent has expired
The first misconception many tenants have, is that a Notice to Quit should be served after the expiration of the tenancy, thus allowing them appropriate notice to vacate the premises.  Most who may have received a Notice to Quit during the term of the tenancy are thus surprised and often wonder if this is the right practice.  

The Court in Akpokiniovo v. Air Liquide Nigeria Plc. (2012) LPELR-9582(CA) held that -  

“In order to be effective a notice to quit should terminate the tenancy at the end of the current term of the tenancy. Thus any notice given and due to end at the middle of the term of the tenancy will be invalid.”

The above decision in essence means that a Notice to Quit can be served at any time, the only condition stipulated by the law is that the length of notice must terminate at the expiry of the tenancy and not a even day before.  Therefore, a Notice to Quit served within the duration of tenancy but stated to expire after the date the tenancy is proper and in line with the provisions of the law.  

2.     Tenant is not supposed to pay rent during the period within Notice
Another misconception is that a tenant is not meant to pay rent within the period of Notice given to handover possession of the property. This is not true but is generally believed to be true by many. A property owner is entitled to collect rent when due for the occupation of his premises and this right is also recognized by the courts.  

3.     Landlord can recover possession by self help
Many Landlords or property owners often result to self-help in evicting tenants which is a wrong procedure as a Landlord may be liable to the tenant for payment of damages. Even where a tenancy has come to an end, the landlord is not entitled to go out into the premises and physically throw out the tenant but must give the statutory notice required to the person in possession. Neither can such landlord try to frustrate the tenant out the premises by actions such a removing the roof, disconnecting water and power supply e.t.c.

4.     It is the Sheriff’s Department of the High Court that decides tenancy issues.
The Sheriff’s department is not a court of law and therefore cannot adjudicate over legal matters. They are however empowered to carry out and institute court orders.

5.     A Notice to Quit can be back dated
Many tenants have often complained of being served a backdated Notice to Quit by their landlords or agents. It should be noted that a Notice to Quit cannot be backdated and it begins to count on the date the tenant was served.

All tenants and landlords must note to always get professional advice from a lawyer as it concerns their tenancy agreements.

Adedunmade Onibokun, Esq.  

Principal Partner
Adedunmade Onibokun & Co.
Dunmade’s legal practice focuses on corporate and commercial law, regulatory compliance, due diligence, corporate advice and commercial transactions.