By Eloghene Adaka Esq
A TENANT is any person who holds, uses, or occupies another person’s property temporarily for a certain term or fixed duration by an agreement whether for payment of rent or otherwise or by operation of law.
A LANDLORD is the person entitled to title and ownership right on the property and the immediate reversion of the premises. He is the party who owns the rental property and grants the right to the use of the rental property to the tenant. The landlord retains the reversionary interest in the rental property. This means that at the expiration or termination of the tenant’s lease, the landlord retains all the rights and interest in the property.
Forceful eviction and the use of self help by landlords in recovery of premises from a tenant is a very common norm in our society and is indeed a breach of the right of a tenant as a landlord cannot forcefully eject a tenant with out an order of court as he would be liable to damages in trespass as seen in the Supreme Court case of IHEANACHO v UZOCHUKWU 1997) 2 NWLR (Pt.487) 257
The laws regarding recovery of premises are quiet stringent and a landlord seeking to recover his premises must comply very strictly to the provisions of the relevant Tenancy Laws. Any breach of such laws can frustrate the attempt of recovering possession of his property as tenants are protected under various tenancy laws in Nigeria from forceful ejection.
Before a landlord can proceed to eject a tenant he must have served the appropriate notice within the stipulated times in order for the notices to be deemed valid. The procedure how includes:
(1) Notice to quit
(2) Seven days owner intention to recover possession
(3) Commence an action in court for recovery of your premises
Notice To Quit
Notice to quit is issued by a landlord who intends to recover possession of his premises. It specifies the time the tenant must leave and deliver possession of the premises to the landlord. As a general rule, both landlord and tenant relationship is based on contract. The duration of the notice is determined by the agreement of parties. In the absence of any agreement the duration of the notice to quit is determined by statute as specified below. It must not be less than the agreement by the parties or the time stipulated by the law, otherwise, it would not be seen to be valid.
Tenancy at will – a week’s notice
Weekly tenancy – a week’s notice
Monthly tenancy – one month’s notice
Quarterly tenancy – three months’ notice
Half-yearly tenancy (6months) – three months’ notice (in Lagos only)
Yearly tenancy – six months’ notice
Above one year – six months’ notice
When is Notice to Quit Given?
❖Any time before the date of termination or expiration of current term of tenancy.
The Length of notice to quit must not be less than the period stipulated by the statutes or as agreed by the parties or else it will be null and void. See A.P v OWODUNMI (1991) 8 NWLR (Pt.210)391
Notice Of Owner’s Intention To Apply To Court To Recover Possession
A notice of owners intention to apply to court to recover possession is usually for a duration of 7 days and it is known as the 7 days notice . It is issued to the tenant when the tenant has failed to deliver up possession after the expiration of the notice to quit . It must be seven (7) clear days. That is, the date of service must be excluded.
After a notice to quit has been served and expires after the time stipulated, the tenancy relationship is seen to no longer to exist. The landlord can proceed to serve the 7 days notice which is the notice of the owner’s intention to apply to court to recover possession.
Thus at this stage the status of the parties becomes owner of premises and occupier of premises.
Commencement Of An Action In Court
Once all notices have expired and the tenant refuses to vacate the rental property, the landlord can within seven days from the expiration of the notice of owner’s intention to recover possession, commence an action in court for recovery of premises. The landlord can in addition to the claim for recovery, make claims for arrears of rent and mense profits if any and obtain an order to evict the tenant from his property. It is only after this has been done that the landlord can eject a tenant from his property.
Tenant Can Claim The Following By Instituting (A Separate) Action For Forceful Ejection
An action in trespass that he can claim:
*Declaration that ejection was unlawful
*Order for restoration
*General damages for trespass.
*Special damages for any destruction done to defendant’s property.
NOTE: There is a penalty in Lagos for any person who attempts to or forcibly ejects or molests a tenant or willfully damages any premises. He will be liable to a fine of N250, 000.00 or imprisonment of 6 Month. In Abuja, he will be liable to pay for Special Damages. S 44 Tenancy law of Lagos.
Other grounds that can a cause a tenant to be ejected:
Under the Lagos State Tenancy law, 2011, a landlord can commence the eviction process if:
- the tenant violates a fundamental clause in the tenancy agreement.
- the tenant is in arrears of rent.
- the landlord requires the use of the rental property.
- the tenant is using the rental property for illicit or immoral purposes.
- the property is unsafe for habitation which constitutes a danger to human life.
- the rental property has been abandoned.
Eloghene Adaka Esq is a weekly columnist on Legal Corner with NIGER DELTA TODAY (NDT). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further clarification or questions on legal issues.