How to Lawfully Eject a Stubborn Tenant from your House

Are you a landlord who is struggling with the stubborn tenants? If yes, in this post, I will show you how to lawfully eject a stubborn tenant from your house. Everybody has experienced a stubborn tenant, who refuses to pay or move. This surely can be frustrating, because, despite the fact that it is your property, you must follow the law in ejecting him or you could be made to pay heavily in damages.

Tenants are protected by various tenancy and rent control laws in Nigeria. In Lagos, the tenancy law of Lagos state is used. Caution must be taken when drafting the tenancy agreement.

I always advise that a lawyer should be engaged when making this agreement to ensure that necessary clauses are not omitted.

The laws on tenancy provide that a tenant who pays rent :

  • Every 1 months : is given 1 month notice before quitting him
  • Every 3 months : is given 3 months notice before quitting him
  • Every 6 months : is given 3 months notice before quitting him
  • Every 1 year : is given 6 months notice before quitting him.

NB: This law is subject to the tenancy AGREEMENT.

The first step to take in evicting your tenant is to have your lawyer serve him with a notice to quit, if he is already 6 months in arrears of rent or according to your agreement with him.

The notice to quit is a statutory requirement for the termination of all forms of periodic tenancies.
A notice to quit must contain;

  • The type of tenancy (yearly or monthly etc)
  • The date to give up possession
  • The description of the property (address also)
  • The capacity in which the lawyer is writing

NB: a notice to quit is a letter and not necessarily a court document.

The next step to take if the tenant still refuses to vacate is to serve him with a notice of owner’s intention to apply to recover possession.

This notice is a notice informing the tenant of the intention of the landlord to apply to court and recover the premises from the tenant.

It is given for 7 days, within which the tenant must vacate or prepare to go to court.

For the notice to be valid, the 7 days must be clear and not short of one day. This is also a statutory requirement and must be given after the effluxion of the term and the notice to quit has expired.

This notice must contain ;

  1. The type of tenancy
  2. The description of the property
  3. Grounds and particulars of the claim
  4. 7 clear days within which to vacate
  5. The capacity in which the lawyer is writing
  6. The outstanding rent to be paid.

At this point, the tenant many decide to move.

But if he still persists, the next step will be your file a claim to a magistrate court within the jurisdiction of the property for recovery of premises.

The landlord will need to prove that the tenant is in arrears of rent,even though this is not a prerequisite if the relevant notices were properly issued and the content and length of notice are in line with statutory requirements.

Also note that, failure to pay rent is not the only ground to evict.

Other grounds for eviction may include ;

  1. Breach of any covenant in the tenancy agreement. Covenants are part of the agreement which the tenant signed and must abide by them. Some of the covenants include ; covenant to pay rent, covenant to keep the property in good state of repairs, covenant on use of the property.
  2. Use of premises for immoral or illegal purposes. Eg. Using the property as a brothel or to grow Marijuana. Using the property to Harbor criminals or commit crimes. Using the property for fraudulent deals.
  3. Abandonment of the property. Abandoning the property to rot.
  4. Lack of maintenance on the property, unsafe premises. keeping the premises in a state of disrepair. Allowing the premises to become a death trap to visitors and neighbors.
  5. Tenant constitutes nuisance to the environment or his immediate environment. Constantly fighting, constituting nuisance generally.

After the magistrate has heard the matter, the court will make an order, evicting the tenant if it is proven that he has breached any of the covenants or is in arrears of rent.

The court will also award damages and mesne profits to the landlord.

The mesne profit is the accumulated rent during the trial period. It begins to count from the moment the tenant became a statutory tenant ;a tenant that can only be evicted by order of court. It is not fixed but according to value of the property, as the value increases, the mesne profit increases also.

As a tenant, you must abide by the rules so that you can enforce your rights when necessary.

It is advisable that you consult a lawyer when entering into any agreement, so that the lawyer can properly advise you on the step to take and interpret the agreement and it’s implications.

Source: African Housing News

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