PROP­ERTY Land­lords vs ten­ants: The am­bigu­ous strug­gle for jus­ti­fi­ca­tion

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Ibrahim Musa Giginyu, Kano

Most of­ten, sto­ries re­lated by ten­ants at var­i­ous stages of their rental agree­ment are heart­bro­ken tales. Yet, ev­ery day with the in­crease in pop­u­la­tion, there is a con­cur­rent need for houses to ac­com­mo­date this ris­ing pop­u­la­tion.

There has al­ways been the need for in­di­vid­u­als, cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ments to build and lease or rent houses to fill this void. These houses could ei­ther be for res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial pur­poses and this has cre­ated a very for­mal sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the ten­ants and the land­lords.

Sadly, the sorry tale of is­sues re­lat­ing to wrong­ful evic­tions have been noth­ing but wor­ri­some to many, as fam­i­lies fall vic­tim to hu­mil­i­a­tion and degra­da­tion as a re­sult of such un­jus­ti­fi­able evic­tions.

Many are of the view that some ac­tions taken by land­lords are with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tions and wrong. It is how­ever be­lieved that such in­ci­dences are what trig­gers the need to reg­u­late the re­la­tion­ship be­tween land­lords and ten­ants so as to avoid ar­bi­trary in­cre­ments in rents, wrong­ful evic­tion and il­le­gal hold­ing over of premises.

In Kano State, ten­ants and land­lord re­la­tion­ship has been that of an­tag­o­nism as the duo in most cases are at each other’s throats.

Ac­cord­ing to Malam Adam Ubale, land­lords in the state have be­come so pow­er­ful that they evict their ten­ants at will not mind­ing that the ten­ants do have rights.

“I was in a fi­nan­cial mess when my ten­ancy ex­pired and I was away on a jour­ney. I of­fered to pay N50, 000 out of the N100, 000 and pleaded to com­plete the bal­ance the next month. But to my ut­most sur­prise, I was asked to va­cate the house within two weeks.

“What even baf­fled me was that, dur­ing my ab­sence the land­lady and her brother en­tered the house and threat­ened my hy­per­ten­sive wife that she would be forced to va­cate the house if we failed to com­ply with the two- week no­tice. I was left with no op­tion than to look for an­other house else­where,” lamented Malan Adam.

Later it was dis­cov­ered that the main rea­son Malam Adam was evicted was that he had chil­dren whom the land­lady said had ru­ined the house and that she wanted ten­ants that have no chil­dren to live in her house.

An­other vic­tim of such wrong­ful evic­tion is Malan Abubakar Baba Maude, whose house roof was re­moved for his fail­ure to pay his rent two months af­ter it was due.

“They came for their money and God knows I was in a ter­ri­ble fi­nan­cial cri­sis af­ter my wife was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal. I ex­plained ev­ery­thing to them and they failed to un­der­stand me, I was a ten­ant in that house for six years and never for once skipped or failed to pay, but they de­nied me that chance and came and re­moved the roof­ing of the house.

“I was forced to leave the house be­cause the in­ci­dent hap­pened dur­ing the rainy sea­son. I was humiliated be­fore my own fam­ily and my neigh­bors. That night I had to beg for a space to sleep till the next day,” Malam Abubakar re­counted.

Per­haps Malama Balaraba Garga’s case was the worst. In her case she trav­elled and came back to see that the house she rented was given to some­one and her prop­erty was packed in the garage with the mes­sage that she has been evicted.

Al­haji Saleh Gida Dubu is a land­lord who claimed to have been in the busi­ness of houses for over two decades and ac­cord­ing to him, ten­ants are the most dif­fi­cult client to deal with.

He ex­plained that in most cases the land­lords have to take se­ri­ous ac­tion be­fore they can re­cover their prop­erty.

“Be­lieve me , if you were a land­lord you would do the same to re­cover your prop­erty, more so most of the ac­tions taken against the ten­ants are taken not by the land­lord but by the rent tri­bunal,” claimed Gida Dubu.

How­ever the re­cov­ery of premises laws have been en­acted in var­i­ous states prin­ci­pally to pro­vide pro­ce­dures a land­lord must adopt to re­cover pos­ses­sion.

Such pro­ce­dures are pri­mar­ily to pro­tect the in­ter­est of the ten­ant against land­lords ar­bi­trari­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to Bar­ris­ter Mustapha Adamu, the main ob­ject of the Re­cov­ery of Premises Law was to place lim­i­ta­tions on the com­mon law rights of a land­lord with the ob­ject of reg­u­lat­ing the re­cov­ery of and re­strain­ing sum­mary evic­tion from oc­cu­pied premises.

The com­mon law, the land­lord on the ef­fu­sion of time or ex­pi­ra­tion of a valid no­tice to quit, may pro­ceed to court for pos­ses­sion.

How­ever, the Re­cov­ery of Premises Laws re­quire an ad­di­tional seven days’ no­tice of owner’s in­ten­tion to ap­ply to court to re­cover pos­ses­sion to be given to the ten­ant. The land­lord can only take out a writ af­ter the ex­pi­ra­tion of the seven days. The ten­ant there­fore be­comes a statu­tory ten­ant and can­not be evicted by force, but by the or­der of the court.

He fur­ther stated that, the rea­son why most land­lords do what they do is the fail­ure of the ten­ants to seek re­dress at ap­pro­pri­ate court ad­ding that be­ing a ten­ant doesn’t mean that one has no right.

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