It’s funny how when renting a new
place, a lot of us painstakingly find the ideal place, immediately pay “to
secure the property” then proceed to move in; all this being done before the
landlord/agent drops off the tenancy agreement, that’s if there is even a
tenancy agreement at all.

The role of the lawyer when
renting new premises is so underplayed; however, we all know that the Legal fee
is a non-negotiable part of the whole transaction. In most instances the lawyer
gets to receive awoof
money, as the agreement sent out tends to be “copy and paste” in nature.

Tenancy in Lagos State is governed
by the Lagos State Tenancy Laws, however the majority of the provisions of this
act may be contracted out of via the tenancy agreement. Please note that this
article was written with yearly tenancies in Lagos State in mind, but some of
the issues highlighted are universal.

Many of the following terms are so
vital, yet they are either not adequately addressed or not even included in the
Tenancy Agreement at all. Unfortunately, the moment those terms not included in
the document become a cause for quarrel. A sweet relationship can turn sour
very quickly. Trust me, beef on one’s doorstep is never advisable.

I recently reviewed what I must say is the greatest tenancy agreement I have
ever read. The lawyer who drafted it protected the landlord in all ways possible,
unfortunately to the detriment of the tenant… my client.

What struck me in the agreement
was the clause which dealt with the landlord’s ability to recover the premises,
which was to the effect that:

“if the tenant at any
time fails or neglects to perform and observe any of the covenants and
conditions contained for a period of up to (1) week, whether there has been a
formal notice or not, then the landlord may re-enter the premises,
enjoying same as if this tenancy has not been granted”

And boy did this agreement have A
LOT of restrictive covenants and conditions?!

Obviously you cannot take away the
landlords right to protect himself from nuisance tenants; but in doing so the
landlord should at least be fair. When negotiating the eviction clause, try and
push for 6 months’ notice as this is what is prescribed under the act.

Rent Payable

We all know that as a tenant you
face the risk of being evicted if you are in arrears with your rent.
Unfortunately for some, the moment they are just about settling down in the
house they rented, the landlord comes to inform them that the rent has gone up,
without caring if the tenant has a fixed budget (which has not gone up). The
tenant then cannot afford an increase in rent. Many tenancy agreements do not
address rent review, giving the Landlord the power to bully the Tenant.

One of my friends got a shocking
letter from the landlord telling her that the rent for her shop had increased
from 1.1m to 2.2m within the space of 12 months. The guy had seen her
activities on social media, and had seen the kind of clientele visiting her
shop, he felt “this babe is making money ooh”, and got greedy. As you can
imagine, she was not a happy bunny, but had no choice other than to pay up. She
had already branded her business location and moving was simply not in her
plans for that year.

Ideally when renting a place, you
should try and negotiate that the rent be fixed for a period of 3 years, after
which there may be an upward review of 15-20%. This increase should be
communicated to the tenant 3-6 months prior to the end of the tenancy.

Service Charge

The service charge is an
interesting topic. When I first moved back, I had a little apartment, and I
bought my gen which the gate man helped me to operate. After some time the gen
developed spiritual problems and my gate man developed shakara. At times, he
would switch off his phone when I called him to put on the gen at 3.30am
because NPEA has taken light. Honestly, I believed that service apartments were
the only way forward, but was seriously advised to be very careful.

I must stress that the service
charge is entirely contractual and not regulated by law. Unfortunately, in many
instances landlords will impose a specified service charge, without actually
detailing the services you are being charged for. I am finding increased
instances where the concept of service charge is being abused, and landlords
using this purely as a means of extracting more money from the tenant.

Before paying the service charge
insist on a fully itemized breakdown of exactly what the money is to be used
for. Where the service charge does not include diesel usage, insist that the
landlord provides a monthly estimate of what the likely diesel usage per
apartment per month is likely to be. I know the landlord is not a psychic, but
where you are not the first ever tenant to live in the apartment, they can use
the average monthly usage from the previous year to project the usage for this

Caution Fee/ Deposit
For Damage

Please note: although not the case
in all instances, in MOST instances when accepting the caution fee, the
landlord has no intention what so ever of refunding it, upon the termination of
the agreement. Again this is another way landlords siphon more money from
unsuspecting tenants, and most likely that money is going to be used to
“re-pimp” the place for the next tenant.

I have not seen a single instance
where the tenant vacates premises, leaving it in exactly the same condition as
it was in when the tenant moved in. Most landlords do not want to accept that
there will always be wear and tear, and where they do accept this, they have
now devised this interesting way of hedging against possible losses. In an
event where the landlord insists that you pay a deposit, make sure you take
pictures of everything before you move in so that you can use this as a
reference point in case of a future dispute.

Right to Peaceful

A friend of mine rented a very
nice property. She was in love with the place, and honestly when I saw it I was
too. The house was amazing. Unfortunately for her, the landlady lived in the
neighboring compound and that was the beginning of the issues. There was a gap
in the fence and my friend would often complain that she would come home from
work to find the landlady on her side purportedly “inspecting” the property.
She ignored it. Things came to a head when the landlady started dictating the
latest time she could open her gate, screaming “Lagos is a dangerous place”.
For months my friend found herself tip toeing around the landlady, because she
just didn’t want the old woman’s trouble…… eventually she called someone to
tastefully seal the gap in the fence and boned.

I must stress that the right to
peaceful possession is a fundamental right and that without it you don’t have a
lease, but a mere licence to occupy space. Once the property has been rented to
a tenant, the landlord no longer has the right to re-enter the premises unless
he has the tenant’s express permission and upon reasonable notice of same.

When moving into a new property always ask the neighbors as many questions as
possible. Ask about the landlord’s temperament; ask about the area; investigate
why the old tenant moved out. Sha
ask as many questions as possible. This is usually a good way of gaging what to
reasonably expect from the property.

However, I must stress that when
renting new premises, even where one has been as diligent as possible, life can
always throw curve balls which are totally unexpected for both the tenant and
the landlord.

In all instances a positive and
understanding mind-set will always go a long way. Try to put yourself in the
shoes of the other party and act accordingly.


By: Ivie Omoregie

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on