In the preceding part of this essay, I shared about six tips you need to consider, know while before renting an apartment/office space in Nigeria, here is five more points for you.
7. Beware paying down payment for unfinished or uncompleted properties. This is another booby trap. This headline may interest you: ‘’Developer flees after duping 31 accommodation seekers’’-Punch Newspaper, October 31, 2012. This is a common occurrence in Nigeria but people still fall for it usually out of desperation. So if you are really in dire need of an accommodation, be cautious in paying towards the completion of an unfinished apartment. There is no guarantee it will be finished as at when due.
8. Before you rent an apartment, find out why the previous occupant(s) vacated the premises. You can glean one or two information from neighbours especially whether the landlord is troublesome, occultic etc. It may be a tell-tale sign if you find out that the previous tenant in that apartment moved out before or at the expiration of their initial rent. Ever heard of ‘Scorpion houses’? They exist! Rent such an apartment only if you are one of them or stronger than them spiritually. Whether you are superstitious or not, it’s a fact that some houses/environments are haunted, bewitched or cursed. Again, this is not a Nigerian thing. Am sure you don’t wanna pay for what you do not know. I once rented an office on a street that has a long history of business failures. Almost every business along that street is comatose. One or two spiritually discerning clients that came to that my office asked me if I prayed before renting that place or paying the Landlord. I guess you can draw an inference from such allusions. It is not unusual to see people consulting their Pastor’s, Alfa’s, Native doctor’s etc before they move into an apartment or office. They say prevention is better than cure. Prospective tenants are not alone in employing the services of pastor’s, alfa’s etc to ascertain whether an apartment is conducive or not. Many landlords also employ the services of clairvoyants etc to do a ‘background check’ on prospective tenants. My former landlady unwittingly boasted that she checked me and my wife out, I mean she consulted a Seer who Okayed us before she agreed to rent the apartment to us. Let me spare you of conspiracy theories and dreadful renting experiences in Nigeria.
Another reason to ask neighbours about the apartment or office space prior to renting is because some places are flood-plains or the roof of the house may be leaking seriously. Am sure you know that it is easier for most of the landlords/agents to collect your money than to refund it for whatever reason. A very good time to rent an apartment is during the rainy season as you don’t necessarily have to ask people around whether the area is prone to flooding or not. You will see it by yourself. Sometimes if the rent for an apartment is too good to be true, it is a telltale sign that something is wrong somewhere.
9. Please if possible, avoid living in the same compound or building with your landlord/landlady because more often than not, there will be issues. This usually obtains with some of the unenlightened, unreasonable landlords that may not have sojourned outside their locality or those ones that inherited properties not appreciating what it takes to build a house. Most times these folks and even their kids will want you to kowtow to them. This is always an issue between some Yoruba landlords and their Igbo tenants. The Yoruba culture entails younger people bowing or prostrating to greet their seniors but not so with the Igbo’s hence they see some of us as not been respectful. You may also have issues when you live in the same compound with some of these lonely old landlords. Every little thing irritates them, they stay at home 247 and monitor your going out and coming in. They see you as one of their ‘children’ forgetting you are paying them rent. Sometimes it is akin to living with your parents. I once lived in the same compound with a Yoruba landlady who constantly reminds me and my wife that she has children our age. So what you if you have children my age, at least I am not directly one of your children. I have a business (tenancy) relationship with you so you ought to treat me with some iota of respect. Per adventure you move into a compound where the landlord/landlady also resides, never make the mistake of trying to be too close to them. Certain relationships tend to last when there is some kind of distance or space between people.
10. Availability of water, steady power (electricity) supply. Bad as constant power (electricity) supply is in Nigeria, there are still areas that enjoy upwards of sporadic 15 hours electricity every day. It does not even have to be any of the posh areas. Towns neighbouring the Kainji Dam are said to enjoy fairly constant electricity supply. I visited a friend somewhere around Alimosho (Lagos state) and I was amazed that these guys are privileged to enjoy electricity supply at least 12 hours every day, of course intermittently. I did a little research and I deduced that in some cases, that an area enjoys fairly constant electricity supply in Nigeria is directly proportional and can be a function of any or a combination of the following: senior PHCN officials, prominent politician lives in that area or there is an unholy alliance between PHCN staff and Companies around there. Imagine the money individuals and businesses located in such areas will save from not relying on generators. It is always painful when a street or locality has electricity and the next street/locality wallows in abject darkness.
11. Probable questions Landlords or Agents will ask you. When you go searching for an apartment in Nigeria, be prepared to answer all manner of questions from landlords/landlady’s and Agents. Don’t be surprised if the first question a would-be landlord asks you is, ‘’where are you from or what part of the country are you from’’? This is the most popular question. Your answer will invariably make or mar your chances of the apartment been rented to you. Tell them you are from a particular tribe and you will immediately notice from their countenance that you have lost it. The ‘Agents’ will tell you upfront that so and so landlord does not rent his house to so and so tribe. To give you an idea how popular this question is, of the ten or thereabout landlords/landlady’s and agents that I contacted prior to my moving house sometime, it was only one that did not bother to know where I was from. I later discovered that the landlord is widely travelled and has lived in different parts of Nigeria at different times. Some prospective tenants disown their origin to get what they want. Another likely question you should be careful in answering is, ‘’how many children do you have’’? It took me some split seconds to reconcile myself with the import of the question when it was jabbed at me.
In addition to the tenancy law, an urgent step must be taken to rein in the activities of these so-called ‘’Estate Agents’’ in Nigeria. This ‘industry’ is now synonymous with touting, fraught with exploitation and needs to be sanitized. How can you justify a situation where a tenant pays say N150, 000 (annually) as rent for a flat and pays an agent N60,000 and N40,000 respectively as ‘Commission’ and ‘Agreement’. By the time you sum ‘Commission, ‘agreement’, ‘damages’ etc, the rent fee is doubled.
The National Assembly must beam its search light in this area. It is high time they intervened and enact an enabling state-wide law that curbs this mess. A pragmatic and encouraging mortgage regime will tremendously help too.