When the former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, now Minister of Power, Works and Housing was appending his signature to the Lagos Tenancy law on Thursday, August 25, 2011, he was no doubt, confident that the law will not be observed in the breach, particularly as it was aimed at regulating the relationship between the landlords and tenants in the state.
Independent.ng reports that in assenting the Tenancy and Lagos Park and Garden Bills, Fashola said by the provision of the law, “any landlord that collects rent in excess of six months for a sitting tenant and one year from a new tenant will either be jailed for three months or pay N100.000 fine.”
He explained that “The issues at stake in the new laws are serious moral issues that require voluntary compliance rather than strict enforcement from government.
‘The problem of corruption cannot be fought in the country with this kind of situation that requires a tenant to pay two or more years rent in advance.
“The law protects both the tenants and the landlords; there is no need for the landlords and tenants to panic over the law as there are provisions in the law that makes it impossible for the tenant to be elusive and shy away from their obligations to the landlords.
It would be recalled that the Lagos State Tenancy Law enacted in August 2011 as expressed in the foregoing governs the landlord-tenant relationship in Lagos.
The Law is “to regulate rights and obligations under tenancy agreements and the relationship between the landlord and the tenant including the procedure for the recovery of premises and for connected purposes”.
The law applies to both business and residential premises. However, the law does not apply to “residential premises owned or operated by an educational institution for its staff and students; residential premises provided for emergency shelter; residential premises in a care or hospice facility or in a public or private hospital or a mental health facility; and that is made available in the course of providing rehabilitative or therapeutic treatment”; and Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi and Victoria Island are exempted from the law.
Meanwhile, before the Lagos State Tenancy Law was enacted, there was the Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises Law of Lagos State which governed the landlord-tenant relationship.
Unlike the old law which stated rent rates for different types of properties in the different areas of the State, and how those rates could be increased, the Tenancy Law does not impose rent rates on the landlord, however, it provides for how much in advance rent can and should be paid – one year, as opposed to six months in the old Law.
Despite the awareness that has been created as to the rights of the tenants and landlords, respectively, both stakeholders have since the last seven years been exhibiting ridiculous level of ignorance. For instance, even if the Tenancy Law states it is illegal for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive for rent in excess of 6 months for a monthly tenant, or one year from a yearly tenant, tenants and landlords are by each passing day observing the aspect of the law in the breach, thus compelling those that are well informed about the law to be in a state of quandary as to the effectiveness of the law.
In the same vein, the Lagos Tenancy Law provides that it is unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a new or prospective tenant, rent in excess of one year in respect of any premises; it is also unlawful for the new or prospective tenant to offer or pay rent in excess of 1 year.
The penalty for both landlord and tenant involved in such an arrangement is a fine of N100,000 or to three months imprisonment. Surprisingly, despite the legal provision, tenants still willingly oblige to potential landlords’ request, in excess of one year ostensibly for being too desperate to have a roof over their heads.
The law which was widely and highly applauded on account of the fact that it would regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants, was equally aimed at curbing the excesses of Landlords who were wont to exploit their tenants, and also reduce the antics of tenants, who fail to live up to their tenancy obligations.
It would be recalled that the age-long exploitation which housing consumers have been subjected to by shylock landlords had in most cases resulted to frosty relationship between both parties. This, no doubt, may have underscored the enactment of the Lagos State Tenancy Law.
To once again recall, while signing the Tenancy Bill in 2011, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, then said the law was expedient, as it would provide succor to tenants who were always at the receiving end in the hands of shylock Landlords.
He said: “This law seeks change like is done in all decent societies by asking the privileged to sacrifice a little so that the underprivileged can have a survival chance. It seeks to protect the poor and underprivileged.”
However, seven years down the line, the myth of invincibility that surrounds Landlords in Lagos is yet to be shattered as Landlords still collect upfront payments from Tenants without being receiving the consequence of the law.
On the other hand, the underprivileged who the former governor thought the law would protect are on their own not pressing for their rights as it appears they were afraid to do that.
Ostensibly to demonstrate the fact that the law is meant to be obeyed, and not to be breached, Lagos State Government has for the umpteenth times, particularly on the trail of the enactment urged sitting tenants whose landlords unreasonably increase their rents after the expiration of their advance payment to seek redress in the law court.