As a tenant, you have certain rights which are protected under the tenancy law. Under the Lagos Tenancy Law, for instance, the rights of a tenant are enshrined in section 6 and they are essentially bothered on the right to enjoy peaceful possession of the premises you occupy as a tenant. But before we discuss these rights, let’s first talk about who a tenant is.
Who is A tenant?
A tenant is a person who rents land or building from a landlord. A tenant can either rent the premises for residential purposes or for commercial purposes. As a tenant, you occupy the premises of the landlord and will likely be paying rent. In Nigeria, it is customary to pay yearly rent in advance but both the landlord and tenant can decide on how rent is to be paid.
It is important to know that while there are other forms of occupation of premises, not all would amount to tenancy. For example, a license or a family member living in a relative’s apartment for free.
Occupants of premises who are not tenants are not qualified to enjoy the rights that we are discussing here. For instance, a family member who is living in the premises of a relative on charitable grounds may not be entitled to the right of peaceful possession. Also, the customer of a hotel who books a room in the hotel cannot be regarded as a tenant and thus cannot enjoy the right of peaceful possession as he can be forcefully evicted.
Another point to note is that a tenant who is using the premises for illegal purposes that may lead to the loss of lives or cause serious damages can be forcefully evicted by security officials.
What Are The Rights of A Tenant A Rental Property
The rights of a tenant are usually stated in the tenancy agreement, but sometimes it could have been deliberately or unintentionally left out. In other cases, there might not be a written tenancy agreement.
However, the rights of a tenant are guaranteed even if there was no written agreement or if the rights are not stated in the agreement. Because these rights are clearly stated in the law.
Here are the most common rights tenants are entitled to enjoy in a tenancy relationship.
Please note also that a tenancy in this regards also covers leases. Leases are long tenancy agreements of a period of three years and beyond.
Quiet and peaceable enjoyment
As a tenant, you have the right to quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the premises you occupy. This means that from the commencement of your tenancy you are free to occupy the premises without disturbance or unnecessary interference.
You are entitled to receive the keys, and lock up the doors whenever you go out or come in. This right can be further stretched down as follows:
Right to privacy
You have the right to privacy of yourself and your family. A landlord, therefore, cannot barge into your apartment without invitation. Neither can he or her interfere in your private affairs or attempt to control your legitimate use of the property.
For instance, if the kids are making noise, a landlord cannot without invitation come into the house to talk to the kids. He must knock the doors and be asked to come in before he does so.
Freedom from unreasonable disturbance
The landlord is also limited from causing interference or disturbance to the tenant. What this means is that the landlord cannot bring heavy equipment or harmful substances into the premises if it would operate to disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the tenant.
Exclusive possession of the premises
The tenant has the right to enjoy the use of the premises exclusively without the interference of the landlord. This means that the landlord cannot seek to share the apartment with the tenant. Even though the landlord is the owner of the property, his rights are limited once he rents it out.
For instance, a landlord may decide to use your storehouse to keep some of his items. This would be clearly a violation of your rights as a tenant. The landlord can also not entertain his visitors in your apartment just simply because he owns the entire building. No. He is not free to use the portion of the premises he has rented out.
However, he or his authorized agent can request the tenant’s permission to enter the apartment to inspect the facilities for the purpose of observing how the tenant is using the facilities.
The landlord must give sufficient notice to the tenant of his intention to inspect the premises.
The use of common areas for a reasonable and lawful purpose
The tenant also has the right to use the common areas of the premises for purposes that are reasonable. For example, the tenant is free to park his car on the premises if there is space for such. However, it would be unreasonable for the tenant to mount a poultry cage in the space for parking of cars especially if there are other tenants in the property that may be disturbed by such actions.
The right to claim compensation for the effected improvements
A tenant who wishes to make a structural adjustment to a rented apartment has to inform the landlord in writing of his intention to make such adjustment. According to the law, where a tenant with the previous consent in writing of the landlord, effects improvements on the premises and the landlord determines the tenancy, such a tenant shall be entitled to claim compensation for the effected improvements on quitting the premises.
What it means is that where a tenant improves on the property with the consent of the landlord, he would be entitled to claim compensation if the landlord evicts him.
The right not to be forcefully evicted
A tenant has the right to enjoy possession of the property and cannot be forcefully ejected by the landlord. Even where the tenant owes rent, the landlord cannot resort to self-help in evicting the tenant. The landlord has to issue quit notices to the tenant. If the tenant refuses to move out at the expiration of the quit notices, then the landlord would go to court for an order of eviction.
What to do if your rights as a tenant have been breached
When a tenant’s right has been breached, the tenant has the right move proceed to the court to institute an action for damages.