DOES A LANDLORD HAVE THE RIGHT TO EJECT A TENANT WITHOUT A COURT’S ORDER?
We write this article following an email that we received from a follower who sought to know whether his landlord had the right to forcefully eject him out of his residence owing to his default in paying rent. We sought his consent and he gave same to have his inquiry reproduced here:
I currently reside at the mainland area of Lagos state. A few days ago, I had an altercation with my landlord over a little dispute regarding my rent payment. I promised him that I was going to pay him last week but somehow, I couldn’t come up with the money. He therefore got angry and locked my entrance door. After much plea, he opened it and warned me that he would come back next week to lock it up if I don’t pay or move out before then. So, I wish to know if he has a right to do that?
Lekan (not real name),
Frankly speaking, this is not the first time that we are confronted with these kinds of cases. More often than not, we get reports about Landlords threatening their tenants with arrest or lockage of their premises when they default in making payment of their rents. Some landlords go as far as using trial by ordeal to coerce their tenants into paying rent, which method is not only morally condemnable but also illegal. With due respect to the landlords, although we are not in support of a tenant owing a landlord his/her due rent; however, the landlord has to ensure that he recovers his arrears of rent and/or premises in line with extant laws. Any action by the landlord to eject a tenant by any means necessary other than by a court’s order amounts to self-help.
The courts have always frowned at the resort to self-help`by Landlords and have never relented to express their disapproval of such acts. In the case of IHENACHO V. UZOCHUKWU (1997) 2 NWLR (PT 487) AT 17-18, the Supreme Court held to wit;
“A landlord desiring to recover possession of premises let to his tenant shall firstly, unless the tenancy has already expired, determine the tenancy by the service on the defendant of an appropriate notice to quit. On the determination of the tenancy, he shall serve the tenant with the statutory 7 days’ notice of his intention to apply to the court to recover possession of the premises. Thereafter the landlord shall file his action in court and may only proceed to recover possession of the premises according to law in terms of the judgment of court in the action. It must also be stressed that resort to self-help by a landlord in a bid to recover the premises occupied his tenant who is in lawful occupation does not come within the purview of the provisions of the law. Where a landlord fails or ignores to obtain an appropriate order of court for possession after due hearing or enters the premises and takes same without the said order of court, the landlord had invaded and committed an infraction of the rights of the tenant and renders himself liable in trespass.”
The Tenancy Laws of various states of Nigeria not only frowns at self-help but have also gone ahead to criminalize any action(s) bordering on self-help. In particular, Section 44 of the Tenancy Law of Lagos State, 2011 provides,
44(1) Subject to the provisions of any law,
- Any person who demolishes, alters, modifies a building to which this law applies with a view to ejecting a tenant and without the approval of the court; or
- Any person who in respect of any premises.
- Attempts to forcibly eject or
- Threatens or molests a tenant by action or words with a view to ejecting a tenant or
- Willfully damages any premises,
Shall be guilty of an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250,000) or a maximum of six (6) months imprisonment and any other non-custodial disposition.
Hence, it suffices to say that upon the expiration of a tenancy or in default of the tenant to pay his rent, the landlord cannot forcefully go the tenant’s premise to eject him or take any action that is geared towards ejecting the tenant without a court’s order. If this happens, the tenant may bring an action for damages against the landlord. Premised on the above statutory and judicial authorities cited above, we conclude by saying that a landlord does not have the right to eject a tenant from his rented apartment without a court’s order.
For further inquiries or clarifications, feel free to call Ibejulekkilawyer on 08034869295 or send a mail to email@example.com and we shall be glad to respond accordingly.
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