PROPERTY Landlords vs tenants: The ambiguous struggle for justification
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.