2 years after, Lagos State Tenancy Law remains unenforced!

By: Gboyega Akinsanmi

For tenants and those seeking accommodation in Lagos State, there has been no respite in sight despite the existing tenancy law of the state.

“We were better off without the law, because since the law came into existence, I can tell you by my experience that residents have faced more hardship than ever,” said Omotunde Alao. “The government’s approach to policy implementation in this country is just poor and needs some changes.”

An Ebute-Metta resident, Mr. Alao said the weak enforcement of the 2011 Tenancy Law of Lagos State remains a major challenge for residents in the state. Since it came into force almost two years ago, he said, the law has not engendered the desired change. According to him, tenants and accommodation seekers remain at the mercy of estate agents and landlords.

Omotunde shared his personal experience with THISDAY at a meeting in Ikeja. His current landlord had served him a notice to quit the apartment he had rented at Apapa Road, Ebute-Metta in 2007. He said the notice showed that the building had been sold. For him, that wasn’t a problem. But getting a decent one at an affordable price and with reasonable terms had become a challenge.

He acknowledged that he actually got an offer through an estate agent in Yaba, but the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement were frightening. He said: “The rent for the three-bedroom apartment was pegged at N400,000 per annum. Besides, under the agreement the landlord insisted on collecting two years rent while the agent charged a flat rate of N100,000 each as commission and the agreement fee, therefore bringing the total package to N1 million.” Omotunde said while he could not afford the rent, the other conditions attached were not encouraging.

Contrary to the new law regulating estate and the property business in Lagos, he said: “The landlords are still demanding two years rent and the agency fees are huge enough to rent decent apartment in other states. I think the new law even makes it difficult to live in Lagos State, because the government made the law and went to sleep.”

Omotunde’s account was not so different from several other residents

Real estate analysts acknowledge that the government essentially compounded the problem of accommodation in Lagos with the law without building housing estates in large numbers before promulgating the law.

According to an estate valuer, Akinjide Johnson, “The landlords and agents are just thriving on the policy gaffes of the government. You cannot promulgate such a law without first creating alternatives that will ensure the prices go down and at the same there will be enough accommodation to cater to the needs of the people. The Lagos State Government even makes it worse for residents because there is no political will to enforce the law.”

He justified his position by citing a report the state Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Bosun Jeje recently presented at a briefing. According to the report, under LagosHomes, the state government boasted it had built 2,624 housing units under the Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration. And that figure relative to a population of 20.19 million currently residing in the state, Johnson confirmed, available houses “cannot meet the demands”.

But when the law came into force in August 2011, Fashola said it was enacted to protect both the “tenants and the landlords”. He told Lagosians not to panic over the law because its provisions “will make it impossible for the tenants to be elusive and shy away from their obligations to the landlords”.

He also explained the need for the property owners “to make sacrifices. If they do, many things will change for the better as price indices will move in a more affordable direction and everyone will be better for it. The landlords are privileged when compared to tenants. The law seeks change by asking the privileged to make sacrifices a little so that the underprivileged can have a chance of survival”.

He asked: “Can we truly expect life to return to normal and expect corruption to disappear if we continue to ask for two to three year’s rent in advance? How many of our employees are paid their monthly salaries in advance? Has the time not come for us to change from the regime of advanced charges? Does the landlord really lose anything if the rent is paid as it falls due?”

But across all the segments of the state, the practice since the law came into effect has been in violation of some sections of the law. For instance, Section 4 (1) of the law states “It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a sitting tenant rent that is in excess of 6 months (in the case of a monthly tenant) or one year in the case of a yearly tenant. It shall be unlawful for a sitting tenant to offer or rent in excess of one year for a yearly tenant and six months for a monthly tenant.”

Also, Section 4(3) specifically provides that for new tenants, it shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive rent in excess of one year in respect of any premises with the provision for a contravention of the provisions constituting an offence for which a person found guilty will be liable to a fine of N100,000 or 3 months imprisonment.

The law further provides for the landlords to issue receipts for the rent paid, as well as a fine of N100, 000 in the event of non-adherence to the provision.

Under Section 37(1), the law seeks to control arbitrary rent increases and as such empowers a sitting tenant to apply to the court for an order declaring that the increase in rent payable under his tenancy agreement was unreasonable. However, in coming to a determination as to what is reasonable, the court will consider, among other things, the general level of rents for comparable premises in the locality.

Section 28 also states that enforcement procedures, which give the State High Courts or Magistrates’ Courts powers “to determine any matter brought before either of the courts accorded with the jurisdiction. In any proceeding under the law, where a landlord refuses to accept the current rent from a tenant, the tenant may, upon application to the satisfaction of the court, pay such rent to the court's registry.”

However, all these provisions haven’t changed anything in Lagos as rent continues to increase with difficult terms and conditions attached.


  1. Govt accommodation is also expensive. Of what importance is the law then?


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