A Lagos based Lawyer, Barrister Olajide Ajana on Saturday called for the review of the existing Tenancy Laws in Lagos State following the enforcement of a new Monthly Tenancy Scheme.
Ajana, a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on what to expect when the new Monthly Tenancy Scheme is passed into Law in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the Lagos State Government had in December 2021 said it will be implementing a monthly rent scheme in the state beginning from January 2022.
One of the provisions of the new Tenancy Laws is that tenants in the state will no longer be required by their landlords to pay their rents yearly or two, three years in advance.
Barrister Ajana while examining the implication of the new Monthly Rent Scheme however expressed doubt if the existing Tenancy Laws of Lagos State would suffice in dealing with mirage of issues that will be arising and the volumes of cases that will be an off shoot of the said initiative.
Ajana, who sighted some cases to explain his points said the focus of discuss is if the provisions of Tenancy law No 14, 2011 Laws of Lagos State Of Nigeria, would be relevant or sufficient for an all Monthly Tenant rent payment.
“In Coker V. Adetayo (1996) 6 NWLR (PT. 454) 258 The Supreme Court held, On length of notice required to determine tenancy that; a landlord who desires to recover possession of a demised premises from a tenant is required to give the following length of notice.
“First, for a monthly tenancy, one month’s notice; and (b) for a yearly tenancy, six month’s notice. In other cases, the notice required is that embodied in the tenancy agreement between the parties. (P. 264, paras. F-G)
“On Grounds for recovery of premises; Failure to pay rent as and When due without any reasonable explanation for Such default, or bringing on the premises things or creating on the premises.
“Situations that threaten not only the safety of premises and occupiers but render quiet occupation impossible, the notice of intention to recover possession could be served on the tenant followed by notice to quit to be decided by the court.
“Similarly, when the premises is required for overriding convenience of the family, notice of intention to recover is sufficient to lead to recovery of the premises. All these remedies could be invoked individually or cumulatively if they do exist. (P. 264, paras. G-H).
“Section 13 (1) –(6) Tenancy law No 14 2011 Laws of Lagos State Of Nigeria also make provision for the Length of Notice required to recover a demised premises.” He said.
Ajana who sighted African Petroleum Ltd. v. Owodunni(1991) 8 NWLR (Pt. 210) 391 and Muonanu v. Nwaemelu (2021) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1763) 216 said It should be noted that Landlords cannot recover premises without serving appropriate notices in accordance with the prescribed laws and rules.
Barrister Ajana further questioned if the Lagos State Government have a structure in place to accommodate the mirage of cases that would flood the courts, given that the numbers of cases will multiply on the basis of monthly rent collections.
“Are there rent tribunals that would be set up to summarily deal with defaulters that would emerge within a month to two months of renting out premises? How about magistrates and court officials that would be dealing with such expected surges?
“For the scheme to see the light of the day, the legal paraphernalia must be revisited by the Lagos State legislature saddled with making laws for smooth administration in Lagos State.
“The time frame within which premises can be recovered must be reduced, so as to encourage investors who wants to invest into apartments and properties for letting.” He said.
The legal practitioner said lots of Land lords are concerned about issues with tenants and rent default to the extent that the investment no longer make any meaning
He said tenants most times are able to pay the first one or two years rent, while subsequent payment become difficult and the court system is not readily to the rescue.
“Imagine a Tenant who paid a month rent and subsequently lost his job, contract payment unpaid or one excuse or the other for nonpayment. Meaning that at the end of the subsequent month, the legal firework begins.
“As expected, many landlords who like so many Nigerians have no faith in the legal system and who doesn’t want to pay Lawyers would wait for another three to six months before doing the needful.
“Issues surrounding rent laws are mostly pitched in favour of tenants who understand and knows how to work round same to their own advantage.
“Issue relating to services of proper Notices could be exploited to higher courts of Appeal from the Magistrate Court to the detriment, disadvantage and annoyance of the landlord who will be at the receiving end when the matter drags on in court.” He said.
Ajana said justice delayed is justice denied and that for the new policy to see the light of the day, the Lagos State judicial system must be restricted to accommodate the upsurge in rent related litigation.
He said generally, the mind set of Judges, Judicial officers and the Nigerian judicial system is as reflected in the case of IBE V. ONUORAH (1998) 7 NWLR (Pt. 558) 383, on whether there is time limit to justice.
“The Court of Appeal held that: ‘There is no time limit to justice. Although it is said that justice delayed is justice denied, however, justice delayed is better than injustice. (P. 393, para. G)’
“We should query at this stage. How are the interest of investors served with the above pronouncement coming from the Higher Court.
“How does an investor relate the above position of the law with his return on investment and relationship with financial institution he may have sourced funds from to invest, while his funds are tied down due to long and protracted court cases.” He said.
He noted that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, in Oct. 2021 had urged judges and judicial stakeholders to device prompt dispute resolution, saying an effective judicial system is a catalyst for financial system stability, which often translates to economic growth.
Sighting the introductory paragraph of Mohammud Ribanu Ayuba article on JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED, Ajana said “the role of the courts in the administration of justice is sacrosanct to the stability of human society.
“The judiciary is ideally regarded as the last hope for the oppressed considering the lofty responsibility of justice dispensation assigned to them by the society.”
Ajana said it will be necessary to find out at this point, what amendments would be necessary to the existing Tenancy Laws of Lagos State to prepare and accommodate the upcoming significant improvement to the lives of Lagosians.
“It may not make economic sense for matters related to rent be prolonged more that a Month. Can this be achieved in Lagos.
“The Lagos State Legislature should take a look at jurisdictions like New York city and replicate Tenancy Laws in practice, for similarity shared as a metropolitan.” He said.
Barrister Olajide Ajana is a Lagos based Lawyer. Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme court of Nigeria.
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