As a landlord, how should you issue a ‘Quit Notice’ (also known as a ‘Notice to Quit’ or ‘Eviction Notice’) on your tenant when you want him/her to vacate the property? You can arrange 4-8 thugs to break into the property and forcefully eject the tenant but for doing this, you risk earning yourself a 3-year jail term for forcefully ejecting your tenant.
You cannot forcefully eject a tenant without severe repercussions regardless of how difficult the tenant might be. You must respect tenant rights. The legally correct thing to do when you want a tenant to vacate a property is to issue a quit notice. In this piece, we will guide you through the process of ejecting a tenant in Nigeria. Let us begin by establishing what a quit notice is.
What is a Quit Notice?
Quite notice is the notice, often referred to as ‘eviction,’ which is given to a tenant by a landlord mandating the former to vacate a property by a certain date. The duration stated on the quit notice rest largely on the duration of the tenancy. We will take a closer look at this but below is a breakdown of the legally approved duration for quit notice in Nigeria:
- A one-year (or above) tenancy will require at least a notice of 6 months
- A one-month tenancy will require a minimum notice of one month
- A one-week tenancy will require a minimum notice of one week
Before you can recover your property from a tenant, you need to understand the tenancy law as well as whether it is relevant in the area where your property is situated. For example, did you know that the Tenancy Law in Lagos state does not apply to Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Victoria Island and Ikoyi?
If you own a residential property in Apapa, Ikeja GRA, Victoria Island and Ikoyi, the Rent Control and Recovery of Residential Premises can be used to recover your property. If, however, your property is non-residential, the Recovery of Premises Law will be applicable to those districts of Lagos. In essence, the law varies slightly.
Before we get into the process of eviction, let us take a quick look at the Nigerian tenancy agreement and how it works because this is what will guide you towards a legitimate ejection of your tenant.
The Nigerian Tenancy Agreement
The law leaves room for the tenancy agreement to be either written or oral but the history of the Nigerian real estate space favours written tenancy agreement. Most tenant and landlords like you prefer having the agreement in black and white as it is believed that this puts them on the safe side. You do not want to find yourself dealing with a tenant who suddenly lays claim to paying rent covering 2 years whereas he/she actually paid for a one-year tenancy.
The tenancy agreement is expected to contain a number of things to be considered valid. Some of the things that must be expressly stated in the agreement are:
- Your name as well as the name of the tenant
- Details of the type of property that you are renting out
- The location of the property you are renting out as well as the features that come with it
- The period of time for which the rent will cover
- The amount of money that is received as rent
- The date payment was received
- The modalities for an upward review of the rent
- The duration of ‘quit notice’ to be served on the tenant
- The party responsible for repair works within and around the property
- Who is responsible for expenses like water, electricity and sanitation bills
- A post office stamp must be affixed – This makes it acceptable in court as an evidence
Types of Tenancy Agreements
Before we proceed, we shall take a look at types of tenancy agreements as well as how they will affect your decision to evict a tenant.
- Tenancy at Will: A tenancy at will refers to a scenario where you allow a tenant occupy your property without a defined tenancy duration. In this case, the tenant occupies your property but with no definite or specified time frame.
- Periodic Tenancy: A periodic tenancy refers to a tenancy agreement where the tenancy continues until either the tenant or the landlord gives written notice to end it.
- Fixed-Term Tenancy: A fixed-term tenancy, also known as fixed tenancy is one that spans a fixed period of time. It is the most popular type of tenancy in Nigeria because it only lasts for a space of 6 months depending on what your tenant wants. The time-span of this tenancy must be written on the tenancy agreement. If it is not written, then it isn’t valid.
What Length of Quit Notice Should You Issue to Your Tenant?
The length of the quit notice that you issue on your tenant rests squarely on the type of agreement that you have with the said tenant. Tenancy is based on agreement and this agreement covers the length of the quit notice that you can issue.
In the absence of a written agreement stating the length of the quit notice, the following statute will apply:
- Weekly tenancy – A 1-week notice
- Monthly tenancy – A 1-month notice
- Quarterly tenancy – A 3-month notice
- Half-yearly tenancy (6 months) – A 3-month notice (applies to Lagos only)
- Yearly tenancy – A 6-month notice
- Above one year – A 6-month notice
- Tenancy at will – A 1-week notice
The quit notice (or notice to quit) usually applies to the tenancy at will and periodic tenancy. The notice is to be issued on the tenant by either you or your lawyer via a written document.
When you want to recover your property from a tenant, you are legally obliged to issue a quit notice except in a situation where the tenancy has expired by effluxion of time or by operation of law.
The quit notice, as we discussed earlier, should contain the specific period within which the tenant is expected to quit and deliver possession of the property.
Situations Where is Not Necessary
There are some situations where the serving of a quit notice is no longer necessary. In such cases, all you are expected to do as the landlord is to serve a 7-day notice of your intention to recover your property from the said tenant. Under the law, this is known as the compulsory ‘7 Days Notice to Recover Premises.’ FInd the situations where the quit notice is no longer necessary below:
- Expiration of Fixed Tenancy: In a case where the tenancy is a fixed-term tenancy and it expires, there is no need to serve a notice to quit. You can, however, serve the tenant with a notice of your intention to apply to a court to recover possession of your property.
- When in Arrears of 6 Months of Rent: If your tenant, under a monthly tenancy, ever gets to the point of being in arrears of unpaid rent for 6 months, a notice to quit is no longer necessary. What you can serve instead is a notice of your intention to apply to a court to recover possession of your property.
- When in Arrears of One Year of Rent: If you have a tenant, who is under a quarterly or half-yearly tenancy and is in arrears of rent for one year, you don’t need to put yourself through the rigours of issuing a notice to quit. A notice of your intention to apply to a court to recover possession will suffice.
7 Days Notice to Recover Premises
Under the Tenancy Law, the moment the quit notice expires and your tenant refuses to vacate the property, you are to serve the tenant with the ‘7 Days Notice to Recover Premises.’
The 7 Days Notice to Recover Premises is to be served on the tenant by you or your agent. The notice will communicate your intention to recover the property not less than 7 days after the notice is served.
We should add here that the 7 Days Notice to Recover Premises can also be served when the said tenant is on a fixed-term tenancy, which has expired. The purpose of this notice is to give your tenant sufficient time to quit the property.
The 7 days notice is to be calculated from the day after the service of the notice on the tenant and not from the day when it was served. If it is served before a ‘Quit Notice’ or during the lifespan of a ‘Quit Notice,’ it is rendered invalid.
The writ, also known as plaint or summons, is a form of written command in the name of a court or other legal authority to act or abstain from acting, in a particular way.
According to Section 24 of the Tenancy Law, once the ‘7 Days Notice to Recover Premises’ expires and your neglects, refuses or fails to deliver your property to you, you or your caretaker are legally empowered to institute an action against the tenant for the recovery of your property at the Magisterial Court District or High Court Division where the property is situated. To do this, however, you need a lawyer.
Final Thoughts on Quit Notice
In a situation where there is a breach in the grounds of eviction, which we have shared in this article, the court of proper jurisdiction will hear the matter and follow with an order for evicting the tenant. The success of this is, however, tied to your ability to prove your case beyond doubt. In some cases, you can be awarded damages and mesne profit (rent accruing during the period of your exclusion from your property) by the court.
It is in the best interest of your tenant to adhere to the terms and conditions contained in the tenancy agreement. Your tenant should renew rent when due or vacate the property after a reasonable notice has been given to avoid legal action.
Your tenant has the right to challenge your move to evict him/her in a case where you seek to eject him/her in a clear contravention of the tenancy law.
It is not uncommon to find Nigerian lawyers inadvertently issuing a notice to quit even after the tenancy has been determined by effluxion of time. This is not in line with the tenancy law. Let us end this with an example:
Dotun is a yearly tenant. His last payment of rent for a one-year tenancy was made on January 10, 2017. His annual rent expired on January 9, 2018. The problem now is that Dotun still occupies the rented space and has refused to vacate the property because his landlord has not served him with a Notice to Quit. Dotun continues to claim to know his rights and vehemently maintains that he cannot be evicted from the apartment without being served a 6-month Quit Notice from his landlord. From all we have explained, is Dotun on the right side or wrong side of the tenancy law?