Evicting a tenant can be an overwhelming task for many landlords or agents. Oftentimes, these ones resort to self-help methods to evict tenants from their properties because of the complexity of the situation. Self-help is the use of force or effort, other than the law to evict a tenant from a property. Self-help methods include changing the key locks of the tenant’s building, mobilizing uniformed personnel to forcefully remove the tenant’s belongings from the premises, etc.
The law provides a specific procedure that must be followed in the tenant eviction process. This means that a landlord cannot simply decide to evict a tenant simply because he or she owns the premises.
How to Evict a Tenant in Nigeria
This article explains how to evict a tenant from a house in Nigeria. This is beneficial to both landlords and tenants so that both can know the processes involved and circumstances that can permit ejection under Nigerian Law.
The first thing to note is that a Landlord cannot arbitrarily evict a tenant in Nigeria. The landlord must first provide the tenant with a written eviction notice. Even if the tenant neglects the notices and remains on the property upon expiration of the eviction notices, the landlord still must commence a formal eviction by Order of Court. The Nigerian law frowns at taking extra-judicial actions or steps to evict a tenant from a property. In fact, a tenant can pursue a claim against a landlord for damage on the grounds of wrongful eviction or trespass if such persons resort to self-help methods.
The Process of Evicting a Tenant
The first step when evicting a tenant is to inquire if the tenant is owing as regards to rent. If this is the case, the landlord or any other authorized agent is required to offer a Late Rent Notice to the tenant. Under Nigerian law, a landlord can seek an order of possession and an order for the recovery of unpaid rent in court. In order for redress to be made, the landlord will be required to provide evidence of the non-payment of rent in court.
If the landlord has chosen to terminate the lease, he or she has to issue a notice to quit on the tenant. According to Nigerian law, the landlord is not required to issue the notice to quit if it is a fixed-term lease and if the lease term has expired. In the case of an expired lease term, the landlord can issue a seven days owner’s intention to recover possession.
However, if the lease is a periodic one, the length of the notice to quit depends on the agreement of the parties. In most agreements, the contract already specifies how long the landlord should issue a notice. In cases where the contract does not specify the length of notice, there are other provisions of the law. For example, the Lagos State Tenancy Law, states that:
- For a yearly tenant, the landlord will issue a six months’ notice
- For a quarterly or half-yearly tenant, the landlord must issue at least three months’ notice
- For a monthly tenant, the landlord must issue at least one month notice
- For a weekly tenant, the landlord must issue at least one week notice.
If after taking all the right steps, the tenant refuses to leave the rental property upon expiration of the quit notice, the landlord can issue a seven days owner’s intention to recover possession to the tenant.
Upon issuance of a seven days owner’s intention to recover possession, the landlord can commence an action in court for recovery of premises. The landlord can also make claims for arrears of rent and other profits.
The court process for evicting a tenant requires calling witnesses and presenting other pieces of evidence to the court. The judge will then deliver a judgment ordering the tenant to vacate the premises immediately or at a specified date.
Actions to take if a tenant does not vacate the rental property after being served with eviction notices
If a tenant has refused to evacuate a premise even after the 7 days’ notice, the landlord can get a lawyer to apply to the court to get back possession of the property. Only the court bailiff is authorized to physically remove a tenant and his or her belongings. The law does not allow you to remove the tenant yourself.
How to Evict Tenants Quickly in Nigeria
On what grounds can a Landlord terminate the tenancy agreement and evict tenants from his or her property?
- A landlord can terminate the tenancy agreement and begin eviction proceedings against a tenant based on the following:
- When a tenant is in arrears of rent: If a tenant fails to pay the rent even after he or she has been notified in writing by late rent notice, the landlord can begin the ejection process
- If the tenant conducts illegal activities in the leased property: A landlord can evict a tenant from a property if the tenant carries out illegal activities such as robbery, prostitution, etc, in the landlord’s property.
- When the tenant has violated a term or condition in the lease agreement: The landlord has the right to evict a tenant in Nigeria if the tenant has violated anything earlier agreed upon as this constitutes a breach of contract.
- If the landlord wants to use the premises: The landlord has the right to evict a tenant if he or she wants to make use of the rental property. However, if the tenancy is for a fixed term, the landlord has to allow the term to expire before informing the tenant of eviction.
- If the landlord wants to carry out structural repairs on the premises: If the rental property needs repairs and is considered unsafe for habitation, the tenant can be ejected from the rental property.
- If the rental property has been abandoned by the tenant: A landlord can evict a tenant if the tenant deserted the rental property
- When the tenant has seriously damaged the rental property
- If the tenant let out the premises to a third party contrary to the agreement
- If the tenant is interfering with the rights of other tenants and yours
- When he or she is constituting a nuisance in the community
The Nigerian law has made sufficient provisions that must be followed when handling issues such as eviction between a landlord and tenant.