In the Tenancy contract, the Landlord hands over exclusive possession of the property to the Tenant for an agreed period of time, in return for rental payment; at the expiration of the Tenancy period, exclusive possession of the property reverts to the Landlord.
However it must be noted that inasmuch the property reverts to the Landlord, there is still a laid down procedure for recovering this property from the Tenant. The Landlord may, not on his own, and without employing statutorily provided means, evict the Tenant from the property. Indeed it has been alleged by some quarters that the laws for recovery of premises tend to be more protective of the Tenant, than the Landlord; however it important to note that an eviction that is in compliance with the statutorily employed means will not prevent an employer from repossessing his property.
Before a Landlord can recover possession of his premises from a Tenant, the tenancy must first be determined. Termination of tenancy may be through any of the following ways:
Notice to quit
This is a statutory requirement for termination of all forms of periodic tenancies. It will also be used where even though the tenancy is for a certain term, the Agreement provides that it be issued. It must contain the description of the premises, its location, the commencement and expiration of the Tenancy. The length of this notice and its content is dependent on the length of the tenancy in question. Section 13(1)Tenancy Law 2011 of Lagos State, whichprovides for the length of notice as follows:
a) Tenant-at-will:one week notice.
b) Monthly tenant: one month notice.
c) Quarterly tenant: three months notice.
d) Half yearly tenant: three months notice.
e) Yearly tenant: Six months notice (half a year).
A notice to quite may be issued either by the landlord or by his solicitor or agent, who must be authorized in writing. The length of the notice to quit should be such that it will expire on the eve of the anniversary of the tenancy. As soon as the term of the tenancy has been determined by a notice to quit, and the Tenant fails to hand over possession, the Landlord or his agent may then issue a 7-day notice of the Owner’s intention to recover possession.
Notice of Owner’s Intention to Recover Possession
This is a 7-day notice to the Tenant, of the Landlord’s intention to proceed to recover possession on a date not less than seven days from the date of the notice. This notice must state the grounds and particulars of the claim. Where the Tenant is arrears of rent for six (6) months in the case of a monthly tenancy, or for one year in the case of a quarterly or half-yearly tenancy, the tenancy shall lapse and the Court shall make an order for possession and arrears of rent upon proof of the arrears by the Landlord.
Effluxion or expiration of term granted (for fixed tenancies)
Where the tenancy is for a fixed or certain period, it determines automatically at the expiration of the term, and no formal steps are needed to put it to an end. Where the Landlord intends to proceed to Court to recover possession, he shall then issue a seven-day notice as described above. Please note however that where the Agreement stipulates that a notice shall be given then it must be issued,provided that it is not less than the statutory prescribed time.
Please note that the notices must be served personally on the Tenant, or delivered to an adult at the premises. Where the Tenant cannot be found, it may also be delivered to the premises by courier where the Tenant cannot be found, provided that the courier supplies proof of delivery.
Institution of proceedings to recover possession
Where the notice issued to the Tenant has expired, and the Tenant has failed to surrender possession, the Landlord my file a claim for recovery of possession at either the Magistrate Court or the High Court closest to the premises. The Landlord must prove grounds such as arrears of rent, breach of any covenants of the Agreement, that the premises is being used for immoral or illegal purposes, the premises has been abandoned, the premises is unsafe and dangerous or that the conduct of the Tenant or a person living with him constitutes intolerable nuisance. The Landlord can also recover possession on the grounds that the premises is required by the Landlord for personal use or that the premises requires substantial repair. The Landlord may not need to prove any of the above where the requisite notices were properly issued, and the content and length of notice are in line with statutory requirements.
This is usually provided for under the force majeure clause. The doctrine of frustration provides that, where after a contract has been entered into, and for some reason, it subsequently becomes impossible for one party to perform their obligations, due to supervening events beyond his control, then the contract has been frustrated. The consequence is that the parties are discharged from the performance of their contract. The Supreme Court in Araka v Mornier Construction Co. (Nig) Ltd has held that the doctrine of frustration may in certain circumstances apply to leases. In that case, the period of the lease coincided with the Nigerian Civil War, and the government ordered that all expatriates leave the area. At the end of the war, the Landlord claimed rent for the period, and the Tenant contended that the government order frustrated the tenancy. The Supreme Court held that the tenancy was frustrated by the war and the Landlord was not entitled to the rent claimed.