Hi! I know you care to know the 6 legal rights of tenants in Nigeria. Without wasting your time, we have articulated these rights here for your benefit:
1. Right to receipt of payment.
Immediately you pay for a property; whether flat, self-contained, single room, shop, or kiosk (even for empty space), you are entitled to rent receipt. The rent receipt covers the terms you are paying for. Once the landlord issues you the receipt, checkout if:
- Your name and the name of the landlord are correctly written on it.
- The amount you paid for is well written.
- The years or months you paid for is well captured.
- The receipt stated the address or location of the place you paid for.
- The date on which the rent was paid.
If all these are not stated, mindfully draw the attention of your landlord to it and get the right receipt to avoid legal issues. In Lagos state, to further protect you as a tenant, it is an offense for the landlord not to issue you with a receipt after payment. The penalty is 100k and in the alternative, 1-year imprisonment.
2. Right to enjoyment of the premises without disturbance.
You are entitled to exclusive possession of the apartment or place you just rented. By this, your landlord has no legal right to disturb you when you are in peaceful possession of the premises you just rented with your hard-earned money. If he does disturb you in any way, you can sue him for trespass. The right to exclusive possession is what makes your occupation of the premises unique.
However, the landlord has the right to inspect his property and make repairs when necessary and it doesn’t affect this right in any way as long as you have prior knowledge of it. Outside this, Landlord has no right to enter your house without your permission even when your tenancy has expired and any steps he takes to evict you forcefully would amount to self-help and it is actionable. And if the landlord can no longer allow you to enjoy the property you rented peacefully, it is safer you talk to your lawyer about it.
Right to notice to quit before eviction.
By law, you are entitled to a valid notice to quit before eviction. The landlord has no right to eject or evict you without following the due procedure laid down by law even if your tenancy has expired.
The length of notice to quit the landlord will give you depends on the terms of your tenancy agreement. This is why you need to read carefully and in between the lines, the tenancy agreement before you sign it. “Certainly, you are aware that ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. But where the tenancy agreement is silent on the length of notice to quit to be given, the following shall apply:
- Weekly tenant –a week’s notice.
- A monthly tenant- a month’s notice
- A quarterly tenant- 3-month notice.
- A half-yearly tenant- 3-month notice.
- Yearly tenant- a 6months notice
Again, if your tenancy has expired, you are only entitled to 7 days’ notice to quit. Under the Lagos state tenancy law, you are not even entitled to any notice because you are aware that your tenancy has expired or is about to.
4. Right to 7 days notice of the owner’s intention to apply to the court to recover possession
Apart from the notice to quit, you are entitled to a further 7 days’ notice. The 7 days notice simply signifies the intention of the landlord to apply to the court to evict you from his premises. Without this notice, it is improper for him to file a claim in court against you as regards the property.
5. Right to habitable premises
You are entitled to live in a place that is habitable and fit for whatever you want to use it for. In other words, if you are occupying a room, and the roof starts licking, you can contact the landlord to fix it. Likewise, if amenities in the premises cease to function, you can reach out to the landlord to put them in good shape. However, where the landlord is in breach of the covenant to repair, the appropriate thing to do is not to leave the premises or withhold his rent. But you can:
- Serve him a notice to repair
- Sue him for specific performance or Sue him for damages.
6. Right to notice of increment on time.
Usually, the landlord has the right to review the rent payable on his property based on the prevailing economic factors. In every tenancy agreement, there is always a rent-review clause. But he cannot unilaterally increase the rent payable in the property you are occupying. This is because a tenancy is in the nature of a contract and the landlord increasing the rent unilaterally is in breach of this contract ( see Yahaya v chukwura (2002) 3NWLR (Pt753) 20 ratio 1.)
What landlord cannot do to you as a tenant?
In a bid to evict you from his premises, the landlord cannot result in self-help. Self-help here implies when the landlord uses any means whatsoever to evict you apart from the procedures laid down by law. Example: landlord using a key to lock up the premises of a tenant whose tenancy has expired. Also, it is illegal for a landlord to enter the premises himself to throw out the properties of the tenant. These are unlawful and actionable and in a strict sense “self-help”. It is also unlawful for landlords to use police to chase out or arrest a tenant who is in arrears of rent. The best thing to do is to approach a lower court and commence recovery actions (see Eloichin Nig Ltd v Mbadiwe(1986)11 NWLR(Pt14)47)
When you are a tenant and when you are a trespasser or a squatter.
The aforementioned rights are only available to someone who entered premises as a tenant and not as a trespasser or squatter. When a landlord let his flat to Mr. A and at the expiration of A’s tenancy, A packs out and B enters the flat without the landlord’s consent or notice, B is only a squatter in law and has no legal right, but when B starts claiming the ownership of the flat, he becomes a trespasser and in both ways, the landlord can file an action for trespass and need not serve the trespasser the notices (see Odutola vs. Samuel (1956) 1 FSC) and the landlord also has his rights.
Are these rights protected by law?
Yes! The tenancy law, including the Recovery of Premises law of various States in Nigeria, protects these rights.