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Your Rights as a Tenant: Understanding Tenancy Laws In Nigeria

Tenancy laws vary from state to state in Nigeria. It’s essential to understand your rights and obligations under Nigerian tenancy laws to ensure a smooth and secure renting experience. In this edition of our “Know Your Rights” newsletter, we shed light on the general aspects of tenancy laws in Nigeria and empower you with the knowledge you need to protect your interests as a tenant.

1. Types of Tenancy Agreements

In Nigeria, tenancy agreements can take different forms, such as fixed-term tenancies, periodic tenancies, or tenancies at will. It’s crucial to know the specifics of your tenancy agreement, including the duration, rent amount, and any additional terms and conditions. Understanding the type of agreement you have will help you plan better and avoid misunderstandings in the future.

  • Fixed-term Tenancy:
    A fixed-term tenancy is a rental agreement that lasts for a specific period, typically six months or one year. During this time, both the landlord and tenant are bound by the terms and conditions specified in the agreement. Once the term expires, the tenant has the option to renew the agreement, negotiate new terms, or vacate the property.
  • Month-to-Month Tenancy:
    Also known as a periodic tenancy, this agreement does not have a fixed end date and continues on a month-to-month basis until either the tenant or landlord gives proper notice to terminate the tenancy. The notice period is typically one month, but it may vary based on the terms agreed upon.
  • Yearly Renewable Tenancy:
    This type of tenancy agreement covers a one-year period but automatically renews for an additional year unless either party provides notice of termination before the end of the current term. It offers more stability and continuity for both landlords and tenants.
  • Long-term Lease:
    A long-term lease typically covers multiple years, providing the tenant with greater security and stability. The lease outlines the conditions and rules for the entire lease period, and it is legally binding on both parties. However, breaking a long-term lease before the agreed-upon period may come with penalties.
  • Sublease Agreement:
    A sublease agreement occurs when a tenant rents out a portion or the entire property to another person, known as the subtenant. The primary tenant remains responsible for the property, while the subtenant pays rent to the primary tenant rather than directly to the landlord.
  • Commercial Lease:
    Commercial leases are used for renting properties for business purposes, such as office spaces, retail shops, or warehouses. The terms and conditions of commercial leases can be more complex than residential tenancy agreements, and they often include provisions for rent adjustments and commercial activities allowed on the premises.
  • Short-term Rental Agreement:
    Short-term rental agreements are typically used for vacation rentals or temporary stays. These agreements may last anywhere from a few days to a few months and often have higher rental rates than long-term arrangements.

2. Rent Payment and Increases

Tenancy laws in Nigeria regulate rent payments and stipulate the frequency and manner of payment. Generally, rents are paid in advance, usually monthly, quarterly, or annually, as agreed upon in the tenancy agreement. Moreover, any proposed rent increases must comply with the law and be reasonable, giving tenants adequate notice before implementing the changes.

Rent Payment:

Frequency: Rent is typically paid on an annual basis, especially for residential properties. The tenant is expected to pay the agreed-upon rent amount on or before a specific date each year.

Payment Methods: Rent payments are commonly made in cash, bank transfers, or via checks. Some landlords may have preferred payment methods, so it’s essential to discuss and agree on the payment method during the initial tenancy agreement.

Advance Payments: In Lagos, it is customary for landlords to request advance rent payments. This may include the first year’s rent and a security deposit, which is often equivalent to a percentage of the  rent. The security deposit is intended to cover any damages or unpaid rent at the end of the tenancy and should be returned to the tenant if the property is in good condition.

Rent Increases:

Fixed-term Tenancy: For fixed-term tenancy agreements, rent increases are typically not allowed during the agreed-upon lease period, unless otherwise specified in the contract. Once the lease term is up for renewal, the landlord may propose a new rent amount, and the tenant can choose to accept the increase, negotiate, or decline the offer.

Month-to-Month Tenancy: With a month-to-month tenancy, landlords can increase the rent after providing proper notice to the tenant. The notice period required for rent increase may vary, but it’s usually around one month.

Legal Limitations: Some states in Nigeria, such as Lagos, have regulations that limit the percentage by which landlords can increase rent. These regulations are often set by the state  and aim to protect tenants from exorbitant rent hikes.

Negotiation: Rent increases are subject to negotiation between the landlord and tenant. If the tenant believes the proposed increase is too high, they can discuss the matter with the landlord to reach a more mutually agreeable amount.

3. Repairs and Maintenance Responsibilities

Both tenants and landlords have responsibilities when it comes to property maintenance. While landlords are generally responsible for structural repairs and maintaining the property’s habitability, tenants must take care of day-to-day upkeep and report any issues promptly. Understanding these responsibilities can help prevent disputes and ensure a comfortable living environment.

4. Right to Quiet Enjoyment

As a tenant, you have the right to enjoy the property without interference from the landlord. This means that the landlord cannot enter the premises without proper notice or justification, except in cases of emergency. Your privacy and peace should be respected throughout the tenancy.

5. Security Deposits

Security deposits are often required before moving into a rented property to cover potential damages or unpaid rent. Nigerian tenancy laws require landlords to hold the deposit in a separate account and return it to the tenant, minus any legitimate deductions, upon the termination of the tenancy. Keeping a record of the property’s condition at the start of the tenancy can help protect your deposit when you move out.

6. Evictions and Tenant Protections

Evictions must follow a specific legal process in Nigeria. Landlords cannot forcefully evict tenants or use self-help measures to remove them from the property. Tenants are entitled to receive adequate notice before eviction, allowing them time to find alternative accommodations.


Valid Reasons for Eviction: Landlords in states in Nigeria, for instance, Lagos can evict tenants for specific legitimate reasons, such as non-payment of rent, breach of the tenancy agreement, or illegal use of the property. However, landlords cannot undertake a self-help eviction (e.g., forcefully removing tenants or their belongings) as this is illegal.

Notice Period: In most cases, landlords are required to give tenants adequate notice before initiating the eviction process. The notice period may depend on the reason for eviction and the terms outlined in the tenancy agreement. For instance, non-payment of rent typically requires a 7-day notice, while others usually depend on the nature and terms of the contract.

Court Order: To legally evict a tenant in Lagos, the landlord must obtain a court order. This involves filing a lawsuit against the tenant and providing evidence supporting the eviction reason. If the court grants the eviction, law enforcement officers can enforce the order, and the tenant must vacate the premises.

Tenant’s Right to Contest: Tenants have the right to contest the eviction in court, especially if they believe the grounds for eviction are unjust or if they have rectified any alleged breaches.

Tenant Protections:

Security Deposits: While landlords commonly request security deposits, there are usually no specific regulations governing the amount that can be charged. However, landlords are expected to return the deposit to the tenant at the end of the tenancy, less any valid deductions for damages or unpaid rent.

Unlawful Evictions: Unlawful evictions, also known as “self-help evictions,” where landlords forcibly remove tenants or their belongings without a court order, are illegal and not permitted in Lagos or anywhere in Nigeria.

Tenant Associations: Some areas may have tenant associations that advocate for tenant rights and provide support to renters facing issues with their landlords. Joining such associations can provide tenants with valuable resources and information on their rights.

7. Dispute Resolution

In the event of a disagreement between tenants and landlords, it’s essential to seek an amicable resolution. Mediation and negotiation are encouraged, but if a resolution cannot be reached, tenants have the option to pursue legal remedies through the appropriate legal channels.

As a tenant, understanding your rights and responsibilities in your state or locality is crucial for a harmonious and stress-free renting experience. If you encounter any challenges or need legal guidance, our experienced team is here to support you.

Remember, knowledge is power. Stay informed, stay empowered!

Disclaimer: This article provides general information on tenancy laws in Nigeria and should not be considered legal advice. For personalized advice on your specific situation, consult a qualified legal professional.

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