In our society today, especially in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja, it is becoming a regular practice for a landlord to involve the police over disagreements with their tenants just to intimidate them and effect their wishes. Same applies to tenants who have contacts in the police force to also intimidate their landlords, some tenants also use the police to scare their Landlords from asking for rent or enforcing their rights.
In this article, we will discuss the impropriety of police involvement in a purely tenancy relationship between a landlord and tenant.
A tenancy relationship is purely of a civil contractual nature that does not involve the police. It is only where there is an element of crime that police involvement is allowed. What you find now is that Landlords use police to evict tenants from their premises, to collect rent, and even to force the tenant to carry out obligations tied to the tenancy or another. In most cases, the tenants even get locked up on trumped-up charges just to punish them.
Section 4 of the Police Act clearly outlined the duties of the police which are:
- Prevention and detection of crime.
- Apprehension of offenders.
- Preservation of law and order.
- Protection of life and property.
- Due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged.
Read Also: STAMP DUTY ON TENANCY
The case of Gaul Ihenacho & Ors V. NPF explains the matter more succinctly, the court held that “the police whose duties are provided in section 4 of the Police Act….. do not include investigation and/or the settlement of civil or contractual disputes or more properly put, the collection of debts or enforcement of civil agreements and contracts. There is no provision in the Police Act that empowers the police to enforce contracts or collect common debts. The Nigerian jurisprudence is replete with practice and procedure for enforcing contractual agreements which do not involve the arrest and detention of parties.”
A Landlord/Tenant relationship is not regulated by criminal law, it is purely of a civil nature and therefore it is unlawful to report a tenancy matter to the Police. The only time police is expected to come into the scene is when there is criminal involvement in the tenancy relationship e.g. Theft, burglary, fraud, breach of peace, disturbance, trespass, forceful land takeover, or entry by violence and illegal occupation of property etc.
If you have any issues with your Landlord or Tenant which has escaped private settlement the legal and right thing to do is to get a lawyer and go to court.
Recently a client called me from Abuja, his Landlord arrested him and locked him up because he refused to pay for light bills. He explained to me that the tenants in the premises, himself included contributed money to get a prepaid meter and the money was misused by the landlord so they stopped paying for bills. So, the Landlord who had a police relative arrested him been the ring leader of the protesting tenants.
I spoke with the DPO on phone and it was not long before he was released and we commenced a breach of fundamental human rights action against the police and the landlord.
Always seek legal advice from a lawyer before you take any action against your landlord or your tenant. Another angle to this problem is the fact that our police officers sometimes don’t know the scope and limits of their duties. Some even go as far as being agents for recovery of arrears of rent and forceful eviction without court orders.
It is not every tenancy matter that needs the intervention of police. Do the right thing and save yourselves the needless expenditure and discomfort that comes with acting outside the bounds of the law. Get a lawyer and act right.
Do you have any further questions? feel free to call Ibejulekkilawyer on 08034869295 or send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we shall respond accordingly.
Disclaimer: The above is for information purposes only and should not be construed as a legal advice. Ibejulekkilawyer.com (blog) shall not be liable to any person(s) for any damage or liability arising whatsoever following the reliance of the information contained herein. Consult us or your legal practitioner for legal advice.