Renting a house in Lagos, the most populous city in Africa is a daunting task that requires some level of expertise. The UN says Lagos’ population is 14 million, but the Lagos state government argues that it’s 21 million. Whichever is the case, money seems to be buried in the city and like a magnet, it is pulling everyone in to come dig for it.
According to a statement by Governor Ambode in 2016, the city receives about 123,840 visitors daily, a good percentage of whom are immigrants. Housing the Headquarters of most multinationals, the largest port in its country, Nigeria, and managing a Nigeria/Benin Republic border, the economy of the state is robust, which in turn has inflated the cost of living. With the market value of some house as high as properties in Brooklyn, United States, finding a budget house with desirable features is nearly impossible. One must, therefore, be armed with the right information if they seek to rent a house where they’ll experience the desired comfort.
CHOOSING A LOCATION
With every inch developed, Lagos is a humongous city, which has a major island and mini-islands, some of which are man-made. In the streets, the city is categorized into two— the island and the mainland. The island is the part of Lagos surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the mainland being, well, not the island. There’s a marginal gap between the price of properties on the island and those on the mainland, with rent on the latter, multiple times higher than the former. According to Nigerianpropertycenter.com apartments on the island range from $3,000 to $50,000, while those on the mainland go for $800 to $3,000. Even further to note is that apartments on the Lagos island are tastefully built and some even fully furnished. It is, however, best to decide early on the desired location as this would determine the budget and type of property.
DECIDING ON DURATION
Generally, houses in Lagos are rented for a minimum of one year. In fact, until 2011 when a tenancy law was passed by the state house of Assembly, the minimum one could lease a house was 2 years. However, a few landlords in the highbrow areas offer a monthly lease for their apartments, and some on Airbnb.com go even for as low as one day. One looking to rent a house should be warned that usually, they wouldn’t be able to get a refund if they had to move out nor would they be allowed to sublet. The duration and clauses should be clearly stated and agreed on before any contract is signed.
CHOOSING A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Practicing with a license is not enforced on real estate agents in Nigeria making it easy for anybody to become a real estate agent. Anybody. The stories of real estate fraud are so well known that memes are constantly made of them. There are two kinds of real estate fraudsters in Lagos; the ones who claim to be the ‘sons’ of the land and inherited the property from their great-great-great-grandfather and the outright fraudsters who pose as real estate agents. Among the fraudulent real estate agents are those who ask for a consultation fee before showing houses but never show up, while some do show houses, but provide a ‘fake’ property owner account details. If a real estate deal is too good to be true, it probably is—houses in Lagos are not cheap. The best way to choose an agent is to engage a registered real estate firm even though their service charge might be more expensive than what’s on the streets.
INSPECTING THE PROPERTY
Because it’s close to the Atlantic Ocean, some parts of Lagos are flood-prone during the wet season. Often times, Real Estate agents tend to be fuzzy regarding such information on properties. Unfortunately, one cannot identify flood-prone areas just by inspection except visited during the rains. One could research on the property’s location especially by interviewing the neighbours, regrettably, some areas that have never been known to flood sometimes experience this disaster out of the blue. Connectnigeria.com advises not to rent a bungalow or an apartment on the ground floor in Lagos island, as it’s the area prone to flooding.
Mildew is a problem in many houses in Lagos because the city is always wet. Look out for mildew under the paint even if the house has just been renovated. Mildew takes 24-48 hours to grow and can be destructive to your health and property.
The general distribution of water to homes in Nigeria is nearly non-existent. Buildings that provide water to its apartments do so by installing elevated tanks and underground pipes. In some areas in Lagos, the underground water is not clean and is often treated with chlorine before it is pumped into the apartments. It is necessary to ensure that the water in a potential home is clean or at least treated.
It is common to find that some buildings in Lagos have an independent power supply. In other parts of Nigeria, buildings receive electricity from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, but in Lagos, most property managers prefer to generate their own power, so as to provide uninterrupted power supply. This does not go without its cost and should, therefore, be part of the conversation with the real estate agent before a contract is drawn.
Meet the landlord/property manager before making any payment. To avoid fraudsters, it is best to doublecheck and ensure that all parties are genuine. If in doubt, ask the neighbours to identify the property manager or confirm the account details provided you. It is common for people to sublet houses without the knowledge of the property owner; they pose as landlords or property managers when carrying out the transaction. In an interview with Ifeoma Agwu, a 29-year-old who recently moved to Lagos, she tells a story about how she lost her home and money because she paid to a supposed landlord only to find out that it was an illegal sublet. She was thrown out of the house immediately the deal was found out. Make payment only to the property manager and not the man that claims he’s the landlord’s brother’s brother.
Usually, the agent’s fee is 10% of the rent while the legal fee is 5-10% percent. Anything more than that should be negotiated as it is generally not acceptable.
Overall, renting a house in Lagos is not an easy accomplishment and might require near-detective skills, but it is easier when armed with the correct information. Choose a location and decide on the duration of the lease in order to determine a budget, source for a credible and licensed agent, inspect the property thoroughly and make payments to the right authorities. Remember to be patient and not make a quick decision, rather apply these guidelines to rent a comfortable and stress-free apartment in Lagos.