Gbenga Odunsi: The pains and torment of being a tenant in Abuja

by Gbenga Odunsi

In advanced countries, housing is a form of social product, it is governmental provision for the citizenry, although not free, but the government has a technique of making it comfortable for her citizens. Here in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.

A landlord could wake up one day and decide he wants the tenant out of his house; perhaps out of spite, perhaps because he needs the property urgently, perhaps because he has a better offer. Whatever the reason, it didn’t matter.

The landlord is Alpha and Omega and the tenant is at his mercy. Failure of the tenant to comply would often result in forced eviction. The tenant is forcibly removed from the premises with his or her things thrown out and sometimes, the tenant’s property is removed from the premises in his or her absence.

Some landlords and quack agents have almost perfected this act of illegality. The trend has however been abated with the realization that such actions is frowned at by the law.

Landlords and their palava

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

Mr Olanrewaju recounted his torment in the hands of his Hausa landlord. Mr Olanrewaju had earlier paid for two years house rent, after a year of occupancy, the landlord demanded that he pay more. The reason? Other landlords had increased house rent. Olarenwaju declined such demand and referred the landlord to his tenancy agreement which they both duly signed, but surprisingly, the landlord refused to acknowledge his agreement. The consequences were that Mr Olarenwaju was given a seven-day quick notice to evacuate the room.

“He gave me the notice on a Monday morning, then on Thursday, he started knocking my door, saying someone has paid for my room that I should move out in three days’ time. I was busy looking for a room, but I couldn’t get one, in fact, I was not financially capable to do much running’s or guarantee a good house since the landlord said he won’t return my money until I move out. It was on Monday morning, I was preparing to go to work when I noticed a carpenter was working on my roof, I thought it was a usual change of leaking roof but again, I remembered that my room was not leaking after all, as I dashed out to find out what was going on, the landlord said he is removing my roof so that I will know that I have overstayed my welcome in the house. I had no choice than to move my things to a nearby uncompleted building”

A resident who spoke with the reporter decried the manner at which landlords wickedly increase house rents without doing any major renovation. Paul Okiti, a business man, lamented on how his landlord, without notice, increased the rent of his self-contain apartment from 130 thousand to 155 thousand naira.

“Last year, I moved into a self-contain apartment with a tenancy fee of one hundred and thirty thousand naira. It was when I wanted to renew my rent last month that my landlord told me the rent has increased to one hundred and fifty-five thousand naira.

“I had no choice than to pay him the total amount because I cannot stand the stress of looking for another apartment”.

“Most of these landlords you see are without conscience”, he concluded.

An Abuja based civil engineer lamented on the high cost of renting an apartment in Abuja.

“Abuja is only meant for the rich. Very few residents live in a decent apartment. You find majority of resident living in satellite towns, and mostly in villages. If you are not a politician, then you can’t have a decent apartment in Abuja”

In a similar reaction, a civil servant at the ministry of education decried the cost of accommodation in Abuja. She was quick to add that landlords now see increase in house rents as serious business.

“Oga, where I go see money rent house for Asokoro or Wuse 11?

“Only the rich ones can afford apartment in those areas. Even as I dey live for Karu, I dey sweat before I pay house rent.

“Rent is on the high side in Abuja, and the landlords are not being fair. They now increase rent on daily basis without pitying their tenants”, she added.

It would be recalled that the federal government enacted laws to regulate landlords and tenant’s relationships. These laws are Recovery of Premises Act. Cap 544 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Abuja) 1990; Rent Control & Recovery of Residential Premises Law, Vol. 7, Laws of Lagos State, 2003; Lagos Tenancy Law, 2011.

Most of the landlords today, who have hitherto been a tenant, do not care about the laws or rules guiding landlord and tenants, to them, the house belongs to them and they are free to make their decision anytime.

The over-all case of landlords has made Nigeria housing situation look like a lawless one as landlords don’t care about what the law says in concerning their respective actions and inaction. It is an obvious fact that the landlords see Nigeria economic situations favourable for their welfare.

FCT residents groan in pains over hike in house rents

As the cost of housing continues to rise in Abuja, so also the presence of exotic houses, both completed and uncompleted all over the city. Many of these houses have one thing in common: they’re empty Many of the home occupiers in Abuja today are mostly tenants who pay for accommodation yearly.

However, apartments in highbrow areas like Asokoro, Wuse, Garki, Maitama, and Gwarinpa are solely reserved for wealthy Nigerians. Consequently, many of the houses in these areas remained unoccupied. Findings evinced that there are a lot of estates built by some super-rich Nigerians who do not bother even if the buildings remain unoccupied for decades.  But the satellite towns like Kubwa, Nyanya, Karu, Nyanya, and Lugbe among others are mainly occupied by the low and middle-class worker and are characterized by yearly increase in rent.

Findings revealed that a three bedroom flat in Asokoro, Gwarinpa, Wuse, and Maitama could cost up to 4-6 million naira per annum, while a one or two bedroom flat in the same vicinity could go for a much as 2-4 million Naira per annum. On the other hand, a one bedroom flat in satellite towns like Lugbe, Kubwa, Karu amongst others cost up to 300-350 thousand naira per annum while a self-contain apartment goes for 150-200 thousand naira per annum.

According to a resident, as long as the houses or estates are beyond the reach of the common man, they will continue to be unoccupied.

He further said as a result of the development, lots of people move to the suburbs like Suleja, Gwagwalada, Nyanya, Mararaba, Dutse among others because they cannot afford houses in Maitama, Asokoro, Wuse and others.

“Because of this development, they have been mounting pressure on the government to introduce property tax in FCT so that the owners of such houses will decide whether to stay in or sell them or give them to those who want to rent at affordable price. The tax, apart from forcing homeowners to rent out houses, will help government earn revenue,” he said.

Recall that during the 7th National Assembly, Senator Smart Adeyemi proposed a bill seeking to regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants as well as make provision for rent control in the FCT, but it was not passed before the close of the assembly.

Every day with the increase in population, there is a concurrent need for houses to accommodate this rising population. As a result, there has always been the need for individuals, corporations and governments to build and lease or rent houses to fill this void. These houses could either be for residential or commercial purposes.

Due to the Nigerian undue attachment to land and landed property, so much attention and superiority is added to the status of “Landlordship”. This makes up for the ill treatment the so-called landlords do met out to their often-poor tenants.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija







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