When your landlord wants to evict you from your premises, you have a big problem. This is because a house or shelter is so important that it ranks as one of the top five necessities of life. It is, therefore, a matter of life and death. Little wonder the law tilts in favour of the tenant.
Are you one of the many tenants in Nigeria whose landlord wants to evict or recover their premises by all means? Then you must be sleeping with one eye open.
To evict their tenants, landlords and property owners resort to unlawful means. But what is an illegal eviction?
Our laws have provided for the procedure to follow if a landlord wants to evict a tenant. Shockingly, many tenants do not know their rights as provided under these laws.
So if you suspect that your landlord is trying to evict you illegally, here are steps to take.
If you’ve ever had an accommodation problem, you will understand the pressure on those who do not have a place to lay their heads, or who are about to lose their homes.
A Quit Notice comes as a shock to most tenants. It is one of the most dreaded pieces of a letter that an occupant of a building can receive.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the first reaction of most people whose landlord wants to evict is to panic. When tenants panic, they usually take irrational and sometimes illegal decisions.
Consult A Lawyer.
It is funny that a tenant whose landlord wants to evict will seek advice from many people, including their friends, colleagues, and religious leaders, but not from a lawyer.
But the lawyer is your best bet in a situation like this. The advantages of consulting a lawyer when you are facing eviction cannot be overemphasized.
Most people still have the wrong impression that consulting a lawyer puts a hole in their pocket. But the services of lawyers are quite affordable, especially when you see them early on.
A lawyer will need to ask you some questions. This will determine what steps the lawyer will take to protect you from illegal eviction. Some of the questions include:
- Whether there is a written agreement.
- Why the landlord wants to evict you.
- The type of accommodation.
- How you pay your rent.
- If you are owing your landlord.
- Whether your rent has expired
- Whether you renovated any part of the building, etc.
For those who do not want to consult a lawyer, or who cannot afford to consult a lawyer, the following steps will save you the embarrassment of having your properties thrown out of the house.
Have Evidence of Payment.
It is always shocking to see tenants who claim they have paid their rents but do not have receipts, or evidence of payment because they didn’t ask for it or the landlord refused to issue them with any.
If you are one of those who do not have evidence of rents paid in the past, make sure you demand and collect receipt or any kind of acknowledgment from the landlord showing the exact amount and the period it covered.
For tenants who entered into a tenancy agreement with the landlord before moving into the premises, their rights are determined by the conditions contained in the tenancy agreement.
Most times, the problem between landlords and their tenants is on the length of the notice given for them to vacate and hand over the premises.
For those who didn’t enter into a written agreement, the law provides the length of the notice.
Length of Notice.
Kunle, a security officer at a communications company, lost his house to flooding, which destroyed most of his buildings. Mr. Abiola, a landlord, permitted Kunle to occupy a one-room apartment in one of his properties for an indefinite period.
Two months later, Mr. Abiola discovered that Kunle always throws night parties, which last till the early hours of the morning. He has asked Kunle to vacate the premises immediately. What can Kunle do?
According to the law, whether Kunle is a tenant at will, who pays rent or not, he deserves to be given at least seven days’ notice to vacate the premises.
The following are the length of notices for other types of tenancies.
- Monthly tenancy – Tenants who pay their rent every month deserve at least one month’s notice
- Quarterly tenancy – Tenants who pay every quarter (Three Months) deserve at least three months’ notice.
- Half-yearly tenancy – Those that pay their rent every six months deserve at least a six months’ notice.
- Yearly tenancy – Tenants who pay their rent annually deserve at least a six months’ notice.
Landlord’s Application to Court.
Take note that after a landlord has complied with the law by issuing the requisite notice to a tenant, he still has to issue further notice and file a claim in the appropriate court to recover possession.
A landlord has no right to recover possession of a property from his tenant without a court order. So what should you do when you are served with quit notice and a writ of possession?
Many tenants out of ignorance or fear refuse to appear in court to answer to the writ filed by the landlord, thereby complicating their situation.
If a tenant fails to vacate a house at the expiration of the notice to quit, and the landlord goes to court to file a writ of possession, it is advisable for the tenant to go to court.
The courts are always lenient to tenants and will not order immediate possession except when necessary. However, when tenants are absent in court and, the matters are undefended, the courts are more likely to order immediate repossession of the property.
Finally, if your landlord wants to evict you, your best bet is to see a lawyer. The process for recovering possession from tenants in Nigeria is very technical. The landlord must follow due process to succeed.