Sometimes, as the landlord or owner of a real estate property you are faced with evicting a tenant from your property. The reason could be that the tenant has either violated the tenancy agreement, refused to pay the rent as at when due or because you intend to use the property for personal use.
Informing the tenant verbally that he has to move out may not be sufficient most especially if the tenant is unwilling to move out voluntarily.
The tenancy laws of every state or country seek to protect tenants from forceful eviction, hence there are certain basic rules that must be followed in order to legally evict a tenant who is not willing to move out voluntarily.
Under the Lagos State Tenancy Law of 2011, which is similar to the tenancy laws of other states in Nigeria, it is a criminal offence to try to forcefully evict a tenant.
It is also illegal for a landlord or his agent to disrupt the peaceful enjoyment of the demised property in a bid to frustrate the tenant and force him to move out.
In this article, we would be looking at how to properly evict a tenant under the Lagos State Tenancy law.
Serve Statutory Notices
The first step you should take to evict a tenant in Lagos state is to issue what is referred to as the statutory notices. There are two statutory notices that should be issued and they are the “Notice to Quit” and the “Notice of Owner’s Intention To Recover Premises.”
The notices are called statutory notices because there is a specific format. Statutory notices are not mere letters you write to your tenant asking him to surrender possession of your property. There is a special format which must be used and the format is contained in the tenancy law.
Notice To Quit
A notice to quit is the first statutory notice a property owner ought to give his tenant. The rules guiding the issuance of notice to quit provides that the notice to quit is to be issued in accordance with the tenancy agreement.
What this means is that if there was a written tenancy agreement and the agreement states the length of notice to be given, then the notice to quit should comply with the tenancy agreement in order for it to be valid.
However, where there is no tenancy agreement, or if the tenancy agreement does not state the length of the notice, then the following rules shall apply:
A Yearly Tenancy
For a yearly tenancy, the length of notice should be a minimum of six months.
A Half Yearly Tenancy
For a half-yearly tenancy the length of notice should be a minimum of three months.
A Monthly Tenancy
For a monthly tenancy, the length of notice should be a minimum of one month.
The rule of issuing a notice to quit also requires that the notice expires along with the tenancy or shortly after the tenancy. What this means is that the notice would be regarded to be invalid if it expires while the tenancy is still subsisting.
A licensee is not a tenant. He is on a mere license on the premises and thus only deserves a seven-day notice. Also, a statutory tenant is someone whose rent has expired for over a period of one year and is no longer considered a tenant. A statutory tenant could also be someone who came unto the property legally but not as a tenant. Examples are artisans who carry out trade on land or other premises without paying rent.
Notice Of Owner’s Intention To Recover Premises
After the expiration of the notice to quit, the tenant is expected to vacate the premises and surrender possession. However, in reality, some tenants remain on the property either due to the needed resources to move elsewhere or due to being adamant.
At this point, you are expected to issue the seven days notice of the owner’s intention to recover premises. The seven days notice, just like the notice to quit also has a specific format which must be strictly adhered to.
The rationale behind issuing the seven days notice is to inform the tenant that you intend to approach the court for an eviction order.
If the tenant still refuses to vacate after the seven days notice, then you are expected to approach the court for an order of eviction.
Institute A Recovery Of Premises Action In Court
If your tenant has refused to vacate the premises and deliver up possession, then the proper thing to do next will be to file a court action.
In Lagos state, the recovery of premises action can either be filed in the magistrates’ court or the high court.
If the rental value of the premises occupied by the tenant is above ten million Naira, then the high court would be the proper venue for the matter. If on the other hand, the rental value is below ten million, then the magistrates’ court within the division or district would be the appropriate court to approach.
Once the matter has been filed in court, both parties can either opt to settle amicably or proceed to trial.
Both parties can explore settlement if the tenant agrees to vacate the premises but perhaps is requesting for more time. The parties can meet along with their solicitors and agree on the terms of the settlement.
Upon reaching a conclusive agreement, the solicitors would file terms of settlement document which would be adopted by the court as its judgment in the suit.
Trial of the matter will commence if the tenant and landlord are not willing to settle the matter amicably. The trial involves calling of witnesses and tendering documents as evidence.
The trial in Lagos State usually takes between five to twelve months or more depending on varying circumstances.
A recovery of premises action may also be coupled with the recovery of rent owed.
At the conclusion of the trial, the landlord if successful would have the opportunity to evict the tenant forcefully through the use of court officials. In order to avoid forceful eviction, the tenant is expected to vacate the premises as soon as judgment is delivered against him.