If you’re renting a house or workspace in Nigeria, you will typically have to sign a tenancy agreement with your landlord.
The tenancy agreement is a legal contract that states the obligations of both the landlord and the tenant following the renting of the property. It’s usually contained in a document that’s prepared by the landlord and their lawyer.
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Prospective tenants need to read the tenancy agreement before signing it. That’s because it becomes legally binding as soon as they append their signature to the document. And if they fail to honour the terms of the agreement, the other party involved could take legal action against them.
A Note On Tenant’s Rights
Even if there is no written agreement, the tenant still has some rights recognized by Nigerian law. These include the right to a receipt of payment, the right to habitable premises, and a notice to quit before eviction.
What To Look Out For Before Signing The Agreement
Here are six things you should ascertain before you assent to a formal tenancy agreement.
Bills You May Pay
The documents should list the bills you will be responsible for paying. Some of these will be included in the total rent to be paid; others could be stand-alone fees. By inspecting your financial obligations before agreeing to them, you could save yourself from making double payments.
Conditions Attached To Rent Payment
Find out what payment methods the landlord accepts. Note the due date for the payment, if there’s a grace period (and how long it lasts), and whether there’s a penalty fee for not paying on time.
In some cases, you may be asked to make a deposit that will be repaid to you when you vacate the property. This could be set aside for major repairs if they become necessary. There may be conditions under which this deposit will be withheld from you. Learn what they are.
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Responsibility For Maintenance
The tenancy agreement should clarify the responsibility of both parties in the repair and maintenance of the property. For example, minor repairs could be taken on by the tenant, and major fixes and renovations may be left to the landlord. Whatever form this takes, it has to be spelt out.
Conditions For Eviction
Besides the expiration of tenure, other situations may cause the landlord to evict the tenant. Examples include violent behaviour towards other residents, disturbing the peace with loud music, or engagement in criminal activity. Such conditions should be noted in the tenancy agreement.
Duration Of Rent
Make sure there’s no ambiguity about the duration of your tenure. With an exact due date for rent payment, you can plan towards settling the bill ahead of time. Also, ascertain that there’s a sufficiently long period between the issuance of a notice to quit and the actual eviction.
In Lagos, the legal minimum notice period for a yearly tenant is six months.
Documentation Of All Agreements And Clauses
Your landlord may promise or demand certain things in addition to what is stipulated in the tenancy agreement. It’s advisable that you don’t consent to them unless (or until) they are included in the agreement. This makes it easier for you to seek legal redress for disputes that arise from these extra arrangements.
The tenancy agreement is important for tenants and landlords alike. If you’re a prospective tenant, you’ll need to sign one. Even if the property owner doesn’t present you with the document, ask them to make it available. And if there are clauses in the agreement that you’re not comfortable with, ensure that you take them up with your landlord before putting pen to paper.
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