By Pamela Agboga.
Many tenants fall into traps when renting apartments which the landlords may or may not be aware of. A tenant who falls into the hands of a mean landlord has no one but himself to blame, because the law is made available to all to know and protect themselves. I write this to encourage the layman to understand that a lawyer is a necessary ally in all things legal, and this includes renting an accommodation.
Let me walk you through some of the mistakes people innocently make when renting. Sometimes they are just too scared to insist on something for fear of losing the flat; however if you miss this flat there will be others, but if you lose this money, it will hurt you more, so learn and avoid the mistakes. Mistake Number…
1. Not executing an agreement, if any- You have no written tenancy agreement. Once the rent is something large, offer to get a lawyer to draw up the terms. How can you dish up N250,000.00 and not get even proof on paper that you paid up that sum? While at law we have oral or implied agreements, please, leave that matter for Matthias, and if the landlord is delaying producing an agreement, get your lawyer to draw up an agreement that favours you. Then let the landlord approve it and all parties sign it; landlord, tenant and witnesses. KEEP YOUR COPY.
2. Not reading through the agreement, if any, before signing- When we say ‘not reading through’ we mean YOUR LAWYER not reading through. If all legal terms used by lawyers were common knowledge we wouldn’t need them to decode their jargon. SECRET- even they get confused sometimes, that’s why they go to court for the judges to do ‘tubu- tubu’ and just pick one out of the 500 meanings a statement can have. Sometimes the contract might have been peppered with some responsibilities that the tenant should ordinarily not bear. Your lawyer will use his super sensory eyes to ferret them out and save you from unwittingly picking up Mr. Landlord’s bill.
3. Not Seeking the Hidden- If you are the stubborn fly that follows the dead body into the grave, and have decided not to get a lawyer, no problem, but when egbe gasses, just give me a call. With lawyers, the rule is ‘pay me now, or pay me more later.’ So dear stubborn tenant, read your contract yourself and ensure that there are no hidden charges for you to pay. Look for things like the Land Use Charge (LUC). This charge is meant to be paid by the land owner and not a tenant. However, if you find it in your agreement, and you decide that for the sake of peace you intend to pay when the charge notice comes, ensure that the agreement expressly states just that, and that it also incorporates the further terms that in subsequent years of renting, the LUC will be deducted from the rent.
4. Picture Imperfect- If major works will be required to be done by the tenant before moving in, photograph the condition and state the apartment was in before the works are carried out, so that thereafter, no future arguments will arise.
5. Not filling the proper paperwork- It is important that a KYT (Know Your Tenant) form is filled and signed by all parties: the landlord, tenant, agent and solicitor and copies attached with passports. COPIES SHOULD BE GIVEN TO THE TENANT AS WELL. This is very important.
6. Not calculating relevant dates- How long is the tenancy? Do you have the option of renewal at the end of the year/s already agreed upon? If yes, when is the renewal date? And how much notice time do you need when determining the tenancy agreement? Don’t look at me; ask your lawyer how to know these things!
All these are things you need to know during the process of renting an accommodation. This way, if you have a sme-sme lawyer, you can get him to sit up with some smart questions. Sometimes, just the confidence behind these questions will make your landlord know you’re not a push over or someone he’d want to mess with.
Go get your dream apartment dear, you can thank me later. To rephrase a line from the movie Coming to America: “I do appreciate the kind of money that jingles, but I’d rather have the kind that falls.”