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Can my landlord evict me in Lagos State?
This article examines whether a landlord can evict a tenant and the legal process of evicting a tenant with Lagos State as a focal point. The relationship between a landlord and a tenant known as tenancy, is one where the owner of the land referred to as the landlord gives up his property for use by another known as the tenant.
The relationship is contractual in nature and evidenced by a Tenancy Agreement. Just like any other legal agreement, a violation of the terms of the agreement can legally bring the tenancy agreement to an end and recovery of the premises by the landlord. However, for the eviction of a tenant and recovery of the premises by the landlord to be lawful, due process of law has to be followed.
Law Regulating Tenancy in Lagos
The Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011 regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants. It applies to all business and residential premises with the exception of residential premises for staff and students of an educational institution, residential premises for shelter, care or hospice facility, residential premises for public or private hospitals or a mental facility. The Law applies to all premises within Lagos except premises in Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi and Victoria Island.
Grounds for Lawful Eviction of a Tenant in Lagos
The reason why a landlord seeks to evict a tenant from his property is so that he can recover his premises. However, the reason for eviction must fall within the grounds stated in the Lagos State Tenacy Law 2011.Failure to pay rent is not the only ground for the lawful eviction of a tenant. The following are the grounds on which a tenant can be lawfully evicted1:
- Where the tenant is in arrears of rent. (Arrears of rent means rent that has accrued as a result of the tenant’s non-payment as at when due)
- Where the tenant breaches any covenant or agreement in the Tenancy Agreement
- Where the landlord requires the premises for personal use
- Where the premises is being used by the tenant for any illegal or immoral purpose
- Where the premises has been abandoned
- Where the premises is unsafe and constitutes a danger to human life or property
- Where the act of the tenant amounts to nuisance
The Eviction Process in Lagos State
Where a landlord has a lawful ground to evict a tenant, the first thing to do is not to throw him out forcefully or get him arrested by the police or get him harrased or assaulted by thugs. The following are the steps laid down by the law to ensure a lawful eviction and recovery of premises.
The first step of evicting a tenant by the landlord is to issue a notice to quit to the tenant. The notice to quit is a document that spells out a period of time given to the tenant to vacate the premises. The length/duration of the notice to quit is based on the tenancy agreement or The Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011.
- Tenancy Agreement: The length of the notice is usually stated in the Tenancy Agreement and it is binding on the landlord and the tenant. But where the Tenancy Agreement makes no provision for such, the provision of The Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011 will apply.
- The Tenancy Law of Lagos State 20112: The law provides for the following as a minimum period of notice:
- A tenant at will – 1 week’s notice (A tenant at will is a tenant who remains in the possession of the property after the expiration of his rent, usually by the permission of the landlord)
- A monthly tenant – 1 month’s notice
- A quarterly tenant – 3 month’s notice
- A half-yearly tenant – 3 month’s notice
- A yearly tenant – 6 month’s notice
- Where the tenancy is for a fixed term, the landlord does not need to issue a notice to quit upon expiration of the tenancy agreement. He will serve a 7-day written notice of his intention to recover the premises.
It is worthy of note that a notice to quit will not be given to a tenant in the following situation;
- Where the tenancy expires at the due time (i.e effluxion of time)
- Where a monthly tenant is in arrears of six month’s rent
- Where a quarterly or half-yearly tenant is in arrears of one month’s rent
- Where the premises is abandoned
- Where the person is a licensee (A licensee is not a tenant but merely has the landlord’s permission to use the property)
Where the tenant falls into any of these categories, the landlord will proceed to step 2 without giving the tenant a 7-day written quit notice.
Where the notice to quit expires and the tenant is still in possession or occupation of the premises, the land will issue a 7-day notice of owner’s intention to recover premises and serve the written notice on the tenant.
Where the 7-day notice of owner’s intention to possess the property expires, and the tenant has refused to vacate the premises, the landlord can within 7 days of the expiration of the notice commence an action in court and obtain a court order to recover possession of the premises. It is only after obtaining a court order that a landlord can lawfully evict a tenant. This action can be commenced at the Magistrate court or High court, depending on the rental value of the premises.
Late payment of rent or arrears of rent amounts to a breach of the term of the tenancy agreement, upon which a landlord can lawfully evict a tenant. However due process of law must be followed by the landlord to ensure he obtains a formal court order, to avoid being liable for unlawful eviction. A landlord is prevented from forcefully ejecting a tenant from his property even when the actions of the tenant fall within any of the grounds listed above. This is because such action is regarded as self-help and the law frowns at self-help.3
A Landlord who resorts to any self-help means or unlawfully evicts a client will be liable to the tenants for wrongful eviction and the tenant can claim damages. A Landlord guilty of forceful eviction is liable to a fine not exceeding N250,000.00 (Two hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) or an
imprisonment term of not exceeding (6) months.4
1 Section 13(1) Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011
2 Tsegba & Anor v. Registered Trustees of Mission House & Anor (2018) LPELR-44242(CA)
3 Section 25 Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011
4 Section 44 Tenancy Law of Lagos State 2011