Some lawyers in Lagos on Saturday called on the Lagos State Government to set up a special taskforce aimed at ensuring full compliance with the State Tenancy Law of 2011.
The lawyers said that some landlords had continued to breach the provisions of the tenancy laws.
The Lagos State House of Assembly had in August 2011, passed the Tenancy Bill and was assented to by ex-Gov. Babatunde Fashola.
Section 4 of the law provides among others: “It shall be unlawful for a landlord or his agent to demand or receive from a sitting tenant rent in excess of six (6) months from a monthly tenant, and one year from a yearly tenant in respect of any premises.
“It shall be unlawful for a sitting tenant to offer or pay rent in excess of one (1) year for a yearly tenant and six (6) months for a monthly tenant in respect of any premises.
“Any person who receives or pays rent in excess of what is prescribed in this Section shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction, to a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000.00) or to three (3) months imprisonment.”
The law is said to be applicable to both business and residential premises in Lagos State, except those premises which are specifically exempted in highbrow areas.
The lawyers expressed dissatisfaction with the level of compliance by landlords, and called for a workable mechanism for ensuring compliance.
Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, noted that the law was “observed in breach than in compliance.”
“There is no doubt that the tenancy law of Lagos State has been observed more in its breach than compliance and the reasons are not far-fetched.
“The reasons range from the cost of acquiring land in Lagos, the astronomical charges and the outrageous taxes being imposed by government; this makes it virtually impossible for landlords to comply with relevant provisions of the law.
“In most parts of Lagos State, landlords still insist on two to three years rent, and they compel tenants to pay agency and legal fees, and in some extreme circumstances, even demand caution fees.
“Since the passage of the law, there has been no effort made by the government to enforce its provisions, or even monitor landlords and tenants, to observe compliance.
“A simple way out is for government to set up a task force or committee to monitor and ensure compliance.
“Above all, government must endeavour to invest more in a mass housing scheme, and use its own houses as models for the private sector to follow,” he said.
He also underscored the need for a huge reduction in the cost of land and registration in the state to enable landlords to spread the cost of building and development over a long period of time.
Another lawyer and social critic, Mr Spurgeon Ataene, described the law as a “huge failure”.
“The tenancy law of Lagos state has recorded no remarkable success since its enactment.
“Some landlords even collect more than three years rent in some instances and prefer to classify it as a lease.
“I think what ought to have been regulated is the issue of exorbitant rent.
“If a new tenant can negotiate to pay for one year or more, then the rent should be such that he can afford, while existing tenants are restricted to yearly rent,” he said.
Ataene noted that the law was not effectively implemented for what he called lack of political will on the part of government.
He also urged government to put in place adequate mechanism to ensure compliance with the law.
In the same vein, a constitutional lawyer, Mr Emenike Nnoromlele called for adopt a holistic approach in ensuring compliance with the provisions of the tenancy laws.
He noted that inspite of the law some tenants were still made to pay two to three years advance rents as well as being forcefully ejected from their premises without sanctions.
He said: “Even the state that promulgated this law seems not to be doing enough to enforce its provisions.
“A large number of residents had felt relieved with the emergence of the tenancy laws as they thought it would check the excesses of property owners.
“However, it is sad that its provisions are completely neglected as landlords now evidently flout the law, while desperate tenants remain helpless.”