WHAT IS SERVICE TENANCY
Service Tenancy is the type of tenancy that comes into effect when an employer provides accommodation for an employee to stay during employment whether rent is paid or not. That is, it is a type of tenancy that arises as a result of employment fro employer to the employee.
The court in Oduye V. Nigeria Airways Limited defined “Service Tenant’’ as a person who occupies any premises as contractual tenant during employment.
Examples of service tenants:
- Lecturers staying in school quarters.
- Doctors staying in quarters provided by the hospital.
- Teachers in boarding school.
A common feature of service tenancies that often excludes them from statutory protection is the existence of a low rent or the absence of rent altogether.
SERVICE TENANTS AND STATUTORY NOTICES
Normally in other type of tenancies, statutory notices are given depending on the agreement of the parties (Landlord & Tenant), but where this does not reflect on the agreement of parties what applies is based on the provision of statute.
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For example, Section 13(1) of Tenancy Law 2011 Lagos State, provides the length of notice as follows:
- Tenant-at-will: one week notice.
- Monthly tenant: one month notice.
- Quarterly tenant: three months’ notice.
- Half yearly tenant: three months notice.
- Yearly tenant: Six months notice (half a year).
Unlike these type of tenancies, a service tenancy is tied to the duration of the employment,making it dependent on the express terms of service tenancy, the right to occupy will either cease automatically on termination of employment, without need for any quit notic, or a notice to quit may be required if provided for under the tenancy agreement which may be subsumed in the employment agreement.
According to Nnaemeka-Agu, J.C.A. “The first point that must be decided is whether the tenancy had been determined. It is necessary to note that this was not an ordinary type of tenancy as between a landlord and a tenant as such. It was tenancy in consideration of the appellant’s employment as a Nursing Sister, the tenancy being merely subservient to, and necessary for the said employment. As the employment had been terminated, the tenancy is automatically terminated.”
The argument has always been that if any sum is deducted from the salary of the occupier, then he is entitled to a statutory notice.
If the service tenant can prove that there is some consideration in the form of reduced wages, then he can successfully claim for a statutory notice and can do this by referring to wage rate for employees in similar employment who are not staying in accommodation provided by their employers.
The argument on if a service tenant is entitled to a statutory notice will continue to maraud our courts because unlike other jurisdictions in UK and US where they have Tenancy laws covering service tenants here we have no such laws.
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