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  • Writer's pictureAbdulgafar Asimi

Tenant - Landlord Rights in Nigeria (Series 1)


Searching for accommodation in Nigeria is one of the most difficult things one can do. It is fraught with so many risks, you have to deal with multiple viewings of apartments and houses which do not live up to what you have been promised (or shown in pictures), dealing with multiple agents who seem like they are trying to pull a fast one on you, dealing with multiple unexplained fees etc. So, when you finally find the place of your dreams, you need to be sure that your rights are protected, and that is why we have written this article – to list out a few of the rights you are entitled to as a tenant in Nigeria. The first step to protecting your rights as a tenant in Nigeria is to know your rights: Tenant rights are more important than you probably realise and the first step towards protecting your rights as a tenant is to know what those rights are. Without knowing these rights, you put yourself at the mercy of landlords and caretakers in Nigeria Before we delve into your rights as a tenant, let us start by establishing who a tenant is within the ambit of the law as well as the real estate space. Who is a Tenant? A tenant is a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord and is subject to the payment of rent. With this established, let us proceed to examine tenant rights and what they mean to you as a tenant in Nigeria. Note here that if you are saying in your parent or family or friends apartment... You are not a tenant It is not uncommon to witness the tenant and landlord ‘fights’ in Nigeria. There is always that tenant fighting the landlord or that landlord who is just hard to deal with. Whichever it may be, it often boils down to lack of communication or both parties not being well informed about the rights of a tenant and landlord in Nigeria. Sometimes it is us being humans with our differences because all fingers are not equal. And other times it is an individual infringing on the other person’s right, of which most times the landlord considers himself superior to the tenant. This is not to say there aren’t tenants who breach their contracts signed in the landlord and tenants agreements. However, the Nigerian law is all-encompassing and people-welfare oriented that the law went on to provide an avalanche of rights, duties, and privileges for both parties. 

The law defines the rights, duties, privileges, powers, and remedies open to both tenants and landlords A. Right to receipt of payment – Once you pay your rent, you are entitled to be issued with a receipt of payment by your landlord. The receipt should include, the amount paid, the location of the property, and the duration of the tenancy. In fact, failure to issue a receipt of payment is an offence in Lagos under the Lagos Tenancy Law and there is a penalty for landlords who don’t issue it. No matter how familiar, friendly, corporative and caring your landlord is, please always demand for receipts of your paid rents to safeguard your tomorrow 2. Right to Written Agreement

Agreements can either be oral or written but experts advised that you should opt for a written agreement. A written agreement removes all elements of doubt and ambiguity around the intention of all parties involved (you and the landlord). This is backed by tenant rights.


Details that should be included in a written agreement include:



Your name as well as the name of the landlord



Details of the type of property that is being rented out



The location of the property you are renting as well as the features that come with it



The period of time for which the rent will cover



The amount of money that is being paid as rent



The date payment was made



The modalities for an upward review of the rent



The duration of ‘quit notice’ to be served by the landlord



The person responsible for repair works within and around the property



The person who bears the responsibility for expenses like water, electricity and sanitation bills



A post office stamp should be affixed to make it acceptable in court as an evidence

In reaching a tenancy agreement a tenant ought to be as wise as a serpent since he will extend or shorten his freedom by the contents of the agreement. Nigerian landlords are too busy to enter into contracts with all their prospective tenants and equally too stingy to seek for the services of lawyers. Consequently, most landlords duplicate a single tenancy agreement and use same for all their tenancy agreements irrespective of their varying conditions and terms; thereby leaving some intentions unexpressed. Prospective Tenants like “money borrowers”, are always desperate to obtain tenancy/accommodation irrespective of any draconic conditions attached to such. Many tenants even move into property and live for years before remembering to seek for a written agreement. A tenancy agreement couched by a lawyer for a landlord might often be confusing and a bit unfavourable to a prospective tenant. It might take a lawyer to peruse such and properly advise a prospective tenant on terms and covenants to add or remove from such tenancy agreement. 3. RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ENJOYMENT OF PROPERTY.

 A tenant pays his rent to his landlord for the landlord to grant him a peaceful and serene enjoyment of the landlord’s property within an agreed period to the exclusion of all other persons; the landlord inclusive. No tenant pays to be offered an uninhabitable apartment, dilapidated property, unsecured environment or a contentious accommodation. Once payment is made and tenancy commence the tenant has both legal and equitable rights over the said property. Hence the tenant holds and occupies the property to the exclusion of all other persons and even against the landlord since he holds a better and higher title than the landlord.   Consequently, a tenant has an absolute right over his paid flat, room, apartment or building. He determines entrance, usage, safety and can even sue for trespass against any trespasser; strangers, landlord and his agents. The landlord can supervise and maintain the property generally, but with the knowledge of the tenant and within reasonable hours of the day. Once a landlord rents out his property he has also rented out his supreme powers over the property although he still has reversionary interest (right to take back property at the expiration of tenancy). So why should a tenant upon his rent worship and tremble before his landlord like a semi-god? Why should a tenant tolerate a landlord who breaks and enters without into the tenant’s premises without consent?  Why should a tenant be enslaved and turned into a sanitary attendant by his landlord whom he pays rent as at when due? The above happen when and where the tenant is ignorant of his rights as a tenant! Let such a man/woman consult a lawyer and report cases of criminal trespass to the nearest police station.

4. Right to habitable premises – As a tenant you are entitled to live in habitable premises, and so if for any reason during the course of your tenancy the premises becomes inhabitable e.g. due to flooding, or damaging to some essential utilities, you can request that the landlord put the premises in a habitable state, if he/she refuses you are entitled to end the tenancy and demand a refund of your rent. 5. Right to Valid Quit Notice Before Eviction

As a tenant, your landlord is not legally empowered to throw you or your valuables out of his/her property without a valid notice to quit the property. Before your landlord can get you to quit his/her property, there must be strict compliance with the Recovery of Premises Law and it has to be relevant. Your tenant rights makes you entitled to this. According to the Recovery of Premises Law, a valid Quit Notice (Notice to Quit) must be written and served on you before your landlord can terminate your tenancy. The law is very clear on this. The duration of the Quit Notice varies according to the conditions of your tenancy as seen below: 


A one-year (or above) tenancy will require at least a notice of 6 months


A one-month tenancy will require a minimum notice of one month


A one-week tenancy will require a minimum notice of one week

It is important to add here that you and the landlord can agree on a totally different duration for the quit notice in the written agreement. What this means, for instance, is that despite the fact that the law stipulates that your landlord should give you a notice of 6 months to quit a tenancy of one year, it can be reduced to a month or a week’s notice through the written and signed agreement. Real estate experts have repeatedly emphasised the need to go through the agreement with a property lawyer before you append your signature to a tenancy agreement. The real estate space is replete with stories of tenants like you who signed a tenancy agreement to be evicted without a ‘Notice to Quit’ without realising the full implication of what they were signing. Never forget that the law does not care to know if you understood what you were signing or not. In law, this is known as ‘ignorantia legis non excuse‘ (ignorance of the law is no excuse). If you sign a legal agreement that limits your rights, you will be bound by the same agreement. Under the law, this is known as ‘volenti non fit injuria.’ 6. Right to a Compulsory 7 Days Notice to Recover Premises Apart from the notice to quit, all tenants are entitled to receive 7 days’ notice to recover possession, this is issued by a landlord only after a validly issued notice to quit has expired. This is a critical part of the eviction process, and therefore if this is not issued, the landlord cannot bring an action for eviction. Under the Nigerian law, you are entitled to a compulsory ‘7 Days Notice to Recover Premises.’ This notice comes from your landlord’s lawyer to notify you that the lawyer will proceed to court after 7 days of serving you this notice, recover the over- held premises on behalf of the landlord. This 7-day notice comes after the expiration of the initial notice to you to quit the property. The additional 7 days notice serves to legally protect you from being forcefully ejected or humiliated. It also gives you sufficient time to quit the property. We should add here that the ‘7 Days Notice to Recover Premises’ can only be served upon the expiration of the initial quit notice. The 7 days notice is to be calculated from the day after the service of the notice on the tenant and not from the day of service. If it is served before a ‘Quit Notice’ or during the lifespan of a ‘Quit Notice,’ it is rendered invalid. 

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