As Lagosians await the assent of the controversial new tenancy law by Governor Raji Fashola to usher in a regime of rent control, divergent views have continued to becloud the proposed document.

While some said the law would further fuel corruption in the housing sub-sector, thereby creating more problems than proffering solution, there are those who said though the law appears to be a stitch in nigh, yet, their concern is about implementation.

Only recently, the Lagos State House Assembly endorsed the law and thereafter sent same for Governor’s consent. The bill is tagged: A bill for a law to regulate rights and obligations under tenancy agreement and the relationship between landlord and the tenant including the procedure for the recovery of premises and for other connected purposes in Lagos State.

According to the bill, it shall be unlawful for a sitting tenant to offer or pay rent in excess of one year for a yearly tenant in respect of any premises and any person who receives or pays rent in excess of what is prescribed by the law shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a fine of N100,000.

The bill further spells out the rights of parties, which states that the tenant’s entitlement to quiet and peaceable enjoyment of the premises which includes privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, noise, pollution and nuisance as well as exclusive possession of the premises, subject to the landlord’s restricted right of inspection.

The bill consists of 47 sections, including jurisdiction of the courts, obligations of the tenant, obligations of the landlord, length of notice, services of notice, among others.

Also, the bill will allow a tenant to enjoy privacy as the landlord must give a written notice in a case where he/she needs to inspect the house being occupied by the tenant.  This law shall be applicable to premises let before and after the commencement of the law.

According to Mr. Akin Olawore, every law creates different strokes for different people and it would be good in some aspects to landlords and adverse in some other sections.

Olawore, an estate surveyor, added that the law could encourage black market in the housing sector. “Suffice to say that regulation of house rent and terms will only lead to emergence of black market and tension in the market. There is need for holistic consideration of the economic drivers that made bulk sum payment imperative. The Landlord operates in a cash and carry economy and needs as much cash as possible to meet his needs or reinvest.”

Outgoing Chairman of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos Chapter, Mr. Elias Oversuor, said the law would not work on the ground that the state cannot control what it does not possess. He added that the chapter had written to Governor Fashola, on why the law would not be idea.

Former Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Mr. Jide Oke, said the law would not be effective.  “I believe that Governor Fashola is just playing to the gallery with this kind of law, which from experience and hind sight he should know will never be effective.  This is because of the trite law that you cannot control what you don’t produce. Govt does not build houses for the people, but it wants to regulate it in a deregulated economy. You may recall that Gov Buba Marwa tried to do this in 1997, with the Rent Control Edict, but it failed woefully.”

Besides, Oke doubted if the promulgation of the law followed due process, “because for such law which effect would cut across, there should have been public hearing and proper consultation with all stake-holders, professional and human rights groupings. This I know was not done.”

He criticized the rationale for such law saying: “Is it not an irony, that a government that is charging heavily on ground rent, tax on processing of title, and that can not help  to regulate the price of cement which from last year’s price of N1,600 moved to N2,300 this year, would now want to dictate what and how landlords would charge on their products (houses) after going through a lot in erecting them, without any government’s assistance.”

Asserting that housing is a social programme, he said all tiers of government in Nigeria had failed.

“In Lagos, the last time we had low income housing, for the masses was during Jakande’s time (their standard notwithstanding), since then all others including Fashola’s govt have concentrated on providing for the high income earners, judging by the cost of their houses, minimum is N2.5m. How many low income earner can afford that with N18,000 minimum wage, in an economy without a viable mortgage sub-sector.

In UK, US govt plays its role in this sector, not only in providing houses, but also complementing with viable mortgage system. These are not available in Nigeria, yet they want to discourage the private investors in the sector. This obviously will be counter-productive, and Fashola would not need this now.”

He counseled: “My advice is that Fashola, in this his second term should show good example by embarking on some mass housing programme, even if on a pilot scheme basis, as an intervention, and demonstrate this by letting off to people at low rent and for one year, while some units of low cost can be done, for outright sale. All these can be done and managed through its LSDPC.

Apart from this, it should earmark some lands for sites and service schemes, and allocate to developers or directly to allotees at affordable cost. Government can also help by offering tax incentives to developers of housing in Lagos, instead of the cut-throat tax, that is presently charging. Ditto for its ground rent, which can also be reduced.”

If the Fashola assents to the bill as being clamoured in some quarters, Oke said it will give room for hoarding of houses by landlord at the detriment of numerous tenants.

Rasaq Akande, a legal practitioner, said the law is clear on some issues but what matters is enforcement.

“Legal theories must give way to practical realities,” he said. “There must be reasonable penalties to serve as deterrents. If a landlord collects two years, what happens?”

Akande also said that the practicality of this law was questionable because of insufficient housing for all.

“The situation is always that the tenant is praying that the landlord takes him, because there are many others seeking the same property,” he said. “So he may not be able to insist on his right.”

Another legal practitioner, Mr. Babatunde Oshilaja, said the law is not far-reaching at it would promote corruption. He added that the law is “bound to grow more corrupt practices or turn a blind eye.”

Mr. Oluwole Kehinde, commended the enactment of the law and believes that it would check overbearing excesses of landlords in the state, many of whom have been leveraging on the shortage of housing provision to increase rent arbitrarily.

Oluwole a lawyer, said he did not see any thing wrong in the promulgation of the law as some are canvassing.  According to him, the law would work and aid housing provision.

In his comment, one Julius Ikpekaogu said, “Do you know what this means? A tenant that has been paying N120,000 per year translates to N10,000 per month. Landlords will increase it to N15,000 or even N20,000 without the tenants having any right on the increase. Or do tenants have power over the increment? While we commend this effort, the government should also look into the unscrupulous increment by these landlords.”

Fashola Signs Lagos Tenancy Bill into Law

View the Lagos Tenancy Law in Detail

View more property news from Nigeria.

Source: The Guardian