5th August, 2011
Any landlord in Lagos State who collects rent in excess of one year in advance from a new tenant would be prosecuted by the state government and upon conviction face three years in jail.
This is contained in the new tenancy bill that was passed into law by the State House of Assembly today. The law, which is expected to receive the assent of Governor Babatunde Fashola any moment from now, also stipulates that it is unlawful and criminal for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a sitting tenant, rent in excess of six months in respect of any premises without prejudice to the nature of tenancy.
This means that those who are already tenants are not expected to pay more than six months in advance to their landlord. Hitherto, tenants were compelled to pay for even more than two years in some cases.
The bill places a fine of N100,000 or three years imprisonment on any landlord or new tenant who pays in excess of one year and N100,000 or three months imprisonment for any landlord who fails to issue a receipt to a tenant for payment of rent.
Some of the lawmakers who commented on the law this morning explained that the receipt would enable the authorities to monitor compliance with the law by the landlords. They said they were aware of the dubious activities of some landlords, adding that the new law was amended to take care of those areas.
The bill captioned: â€œA bill for a law to regulate rights and obligations under tenancy agreement and the relationship between landlord and the tenant including the procedure for the recovery of premises and for other connected purposes in Lagos State,â€ states that â€œit shall be unlawful for a sitting tenant to offer or pay rent in excess of one year for a yearly tenant in respect of any premises and any person who receives or pays rent in excess of what is prescribed by the law shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of N100,000.â€
The bill consisting of 47 sections takes a critical look at the relationship between the landlord and tenant and allocates rights and privileges to both parties. It also spells out their obligations. Among such rights is tenantâ€™s entitlement to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the premises, which include privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, noise pollution and nuisance, as well as exclusive possession of the premises, subject to the landlordâ€™s restricted right of inspection.
The law also emphasises that a landlord must send a written letter to a tenant whenever he wants to visit the apartment for inspection. Such letter, the law states, must state the time the inspection is to be conducted in order to give the tenant ample time to prepare for the exercise.
The law also gives a tenant the privilege to furnish or install accessories within a property to fit his/her taste. The bill was earlier passed by the House and forwarded to Governor Fashola for assent, but the Governor returned it to the House last week with a recommendation that some grey areas in the bill be looked into.
The grey areas include a section of the bill to be explicit on who bears the professional fees incurred at the commencement of tenancy and some other sections that cover the internally generated revenue of the state.
These areas were deliberated upon by a six-man committee headed by Hon. Rotimi Olowo, representing Somolu Constituency 1.
Section 7 (subsection 8) now mandates the landlord to be responsible for â€œprofessional fees or commission of the landlordâ€™s agent, consultant, solicitor or any other person acting for and on behalf of the landlord, incurred at the commencement of the tenancy.â€