Who is a Landlord and Who is a Tenant

A landlord is a person who owns and rents or lease land such as a house, apartment or real estate to an individual or corporate organization. Tenant is a person who pays a fee to the owner of a property for the use or possession of the property for a certain period. A tenant may also be called “lessee”. A tenant can also be described as a person who holds or possesses lands or tenements by any kind of title, either in fee, for life, for years or at will. The agreement between a landlord and a tenant is called a lease or tenancy agreement.

The landlord and tenant relationship originates from feudalism. It is a social system based on personal ownership of landed property and personal fealty between a suzerain (Lord) and a vassal (Subject). The vassal pledges his services to the lord in exchange for right to live and work on the land.

Put differently, a landlord is the legitimate owner of a landed property, real estate or an apartment which is leased or rented out to an individual or corporate organization. According to Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data the population of Nigeria as of Saturday May 16, 2020 is 205,444,156[1]. In 2018, Nigeria population was 195.9 million.

With the growing population in Nigeria, there is bound to be a landlord and tenant relationship. In view of the fact that there is a huge shortfall in the provision of housing in Nigeria; the oppressive tendencies in the allocation of few available houses and the deficient housing policies in Nigeria, it becomes obvious that only few Nigerian citizens can afford to be landlords. The reason, in addition to the ones already listed include the high costs of purchasing a plot of land and the exorbitant costs of putting up structure on the land.

Consequently, a relationship of landlord and tenant is essentially created. And like in any relationships there is bound to be issues between a landlord and his tenant(s). It is in consequence of this that all State Governments enacted laws to control and moderate and regulate the landlord and tenant relationships. In Lagos State, the landlord and tenant relationship is regulated by the Tenancy Law which came into force on 24th day of August 2011. Recovery of Premises Act (RPA) is applicable in Abuja.


The landlord and tenant relationship exists in the following conditions:

  1. The landlord has title to the property;
  2. The landlord consents to letting the demised premises to the tenant;
  3. The tenant acknowledges the landlord as the owner of the property and that he has title to the property;
  4. The landlord transfers possession and control of the premises to the tenant for a certain period of time;
  5. The tenant pays a specific fee to the landlord for the use of the premises;
  6. The tenant receives a limited right to use the premises;
  7. There must be an agreement to rent or lease.


It is essential to note that, a landlord or tenant may delegate or transfer his title or duties to another to act in his place.

A landlord can also be a beneficial owner of a property i.e. a person who inherited the estate of the original/previous landlord under the law of succession.

A landlord could be a bona fide purchaser of the property of the original landlord.

A landlord can also be an agent or solicitor who has been given a power of attorney by the landlord, such agent/solicitor can represent the original lanlord to perform his duties to his tenants.


There are certain obligations placed on the landlord by law.[2] Some of these obligations are implied or written as landlord covenants in the Tenancy agreement. Some of these obligations include the followings:

  1. The landlord shall pay charges and rates as stipulated by the law;
  2. The landlord is to keep the premises insured against any loss;
  3. The landlord shall not restrict the tenant’s use of common facilities or services;
  4. He shall not deprive a tenant of the use of his personal property;
  5. He shall repair and maintain the external parts of the property;
  6. He has an obligation not to disturb the tenant’s privacy and exclusive peaceable possession of the premises[3];
  7. He shall keep the house in good and habitable condition[4];
  8. To issue rent payment receipts to the tenant[5].


As with the Landlord the tenant also has some obligations that are implied or written. These include:

  1.  He shall pay rents when due;
  2. He shall pay all rates and charges not payable by the landlord according to the law;
  3. He shall keep the premises in good and tenantable repair, reasonable wear and tear expected;
  4. He shall allow the landlord/ agents access into the property to assess the condition of the property upon reasonable notice;
  5. He shall not redesign or redecorate or make any alterations to the property without the written consent of the landlord;
  6. He shall not assign or sublet any part of the premises without the consent of the landlord;
  7. He shall notify the landlord where structural or substantial damage has occurred to any part of the premises as soon as possible.


  1. Periodic tenancy
  2. Tenancy at fixed terms
  3. Lease of reversion
  4. Statutory tenancy
  5. Licensee
  6. Service tenancy
  7. Tenancy at will
  8. Tenancy at sufferance
  1. Periodic Tenancy-

Periodic Tenancy is based on an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. It can exist until it is terminated by the parties. It is an agreement that has an automatic renewal. It continues until it is determined by a notice. It could be a yearly tenancy, monthly tenancy or weekly tenancy.

  • Tenancy at a Fixed Term-

This is for a fixed period of time and it expires at the end of the agreed term. It is essential for it to be stated in the agreement that it is for a fixed term. The length of time must be stated in the agreement. A fixed tenancy can become a periodic tenancy where the tenancy continues at the end of the stipulated term. In order to prevent that the agreement should be renewed for another fixed term. Where the tenant wants to renew the tenancy a notice must be given at least 21 days before the end of the fixed term. The tenancy must be renewed for the same length of time.

A fixed term for a period of 90 days or less is called a short fixed term. It is essential to note that once a short fixed term comes to an end it does not automatically comes to an end neither does it automatically becomes periodic. When the fixed term elapse the relationship between the landlord and the tenant terminates automatically.

Note that, for a fixed tenant a landlord is not expected to serve a Notice to Quit, all that is required is a 7 day’s Owner’s intention to recover premises[6].

  • Lease of Reversion

It is known as Concurrent Lease. It is where the landlord’s interest in a property is subject to another lease. It is also called Overriding lease.  It is granted out of reversion. A reversion is a future interest that is retained by the grantor after the conveyance of an estate of a lesser quantum that he has by way of lease or life estate; once the lease expires or the life estate tenant dies the property reverts back to the grantor. For instance, where a testator devises a property in his will to his children and also devises the property to his wife for her life time. During the life time of the wife she can lease the property but upon her death the interest in the property reverts back to her child.

  • Statutory Tenant-

Is a tenant in lawful occupation after the expiration of the first tenancy term according to the law. A statutory tenant is protected by the law and has right to possession until such tenant voluntarily gives up or compelled by an order of court to give up possession. Such tenant cannot be ejected from the premises by the landlord after the expiration of the tenancy without the intervention of the court.

In Pan African Co. Ltd. vs NICON, Statutory tenant is an occupier who when his contractual tenancy expires, holds over and continues in possession by the virtue of special statutory provisions. In Lagos State Tenancy Law a statutory tenant is referred to as a Sitting Tenant.[7]

  • Licensee

A Licensee is a person who comes into occupation by mere permission without the creation of a landlord and tenant relationship and has no estate or legal interest in the premises.[8]The landlord need not give a notice to quit to eject the licensee because there is no landlord and tenant relationship between the parties.

  • Service Tenancy

This occurs when an employee with an accommodation to live in during employment. Here the employee occupies the premises as a privilege or remuneration. The basis of the accommodation is not for the employee to perform better. This tenancy needs a written tenancy agreement even if the tenant does not pay rent. The tenancy agreement may be part of the employment contract.

A service tenancy terminates once the employment contract terminates. This tenancy can be terminated by giving at least 14 days’ written notice to end the tenancy. In Diocesan Synod of Lagos v Dedeke[9], the Plaintiff has a vicarage which was occupied by the Defendant was relieved from his office as a vicar but he held over the premises contending that he was a tenant within the meaning of the Recovery of Premises Ordinance, and as such entitled to statutory notices. The Court held that the Defendant was a service occupant simply because the Constitution provided so.

  • Tenancy at Will

This is also known a s Estate -at-Will or Month to Month tenancy. It is a type of tenancy that does not have a lease or contract. It does not have specific period as well. Here the tenant has the landlord’s permission to stay on the property. It is a mutual agreement between the landlord and tenant.

In most cases, it commences after the expiration of a written lease/ tenancy agreement. Simply put it is a tenancy in which a landlord allows a tenant to occupy the premises but without [10]any formal terms of tenancy. This tenancy can be terminated by giving a week’s notice.[11] The tenant occupies the property not because of rent paid but due to the will of the landlord. The tenant holds right over the property with the permission of the landlord for an unspecified or agreed period.

  • Tenancy at Sufferance-

This is where a tenant holds over the demised property after the expiration of the tenancy without the permission of the landlord. The difference between a tenant at sufferance and a trespasser is that the tenant enters into possession in a legal manner but has now over stayed his welcome.



The Federal and the State legislatures in Nigeria have has enacted legal guidelines, most of them similar in contents to control landlord-tenant relations. Examples of those statutes in Nigeria embody the Tenancy Law. 2011 of Lagos State and the Restoration of Premises Act, Abuja. These laws and their enforcement have now made it unlawful for ejection of a tenant viet armis  from lawful occupation of a demised premises without a valid order of the court. A landlord who seeks to get possession of his premises from his tenant must apply to designated court for an order to recover his premises from the tenant. (See sections 16 and 44 (1) of the Tenancy Regulation of Lagos State, 2011)

In other words, there are different applicable laws guiding the landlord and tenant relationship in different States.  It is also essential to note that these laws have similar applications. For the sake of this study we would be restricting our research to both Lagos and Abuja.

The Lagos State Tenancy Law 2011 does not apply to the following places in Lagos[12]:

  1. Residential premises owned or operated by an educational institution for its staff and students;
  2. Residential premises provided for emergency shelter;
  3. Residential premises;
  4. In care of Hospice facility
  5. In a private or public hospital or;
  6. Mental facility
  7. Premises made available in the course of providing rehabilitation or therapeutic treatment;

The following areas are also exempted:

  • Apapa
  • Ikeja GRA
  • Ikoyi
  • Victoria Island

Section 4 of the Tenancy Law 2011, makes it unlawful for a landlord to demand or receive any rent in excess of one year from sitting yearly tenant, six months from a sitting monthly tenant and one year from a new tenant, where a landlord violates this Law by receiving rent in excess or where a tenant pays rent in excess beyond what has been stated by Law commits an offence and the penalty is a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N 100,000) or three (3) months imprisonment.


The relevant law in each States prescribes the court with jurisdiction to hear recovery matters. In Lagos State, the Court jurisdiction is dependent on the rental value of the property. If the rental value of the property is below Fourteen Million Naira (N 14,000,000) Magistrate Court would have jurisdiction. Where it is above Fourteen Million Naira (N 14,000,000) High Court has jurisdiction.


A landlord cannot evict his tenant without the statutory provision. The procedure for recovery of possession of premises as earlier stated is strict and technical and a breach of it may deny the landlord of possession. The following process must be observed to evict a tenant successfully:

  1. Letter of authority
  2. Notice to quit
  3. Notice of owner’s intention to recover owner’s possession
  4. Action in Court ( writ/ plaint)

A landlord must give a written letter of instruction to his agent or solicitor to issue a notice to quit on a tenant.[13]This letter empowers the solicitor or agent to give a notice to quit on behalf of the landlord or owner of the premises.


A landlord and a tenant relationship can be determined by a notice to quit.  A Court can only give an order for possession upon the determination of rent by statutory notices. The notice to quit stipulates a period within which the tenant must quit possession. The length of notice to quit is primarily to be determined by the parties in their tenancy agreement. In the absence of any agreement, the period of notice will be determined by the law. In the various Laws applicable in the different jurisdictions, there is a provision that in the absence of express agreement to the contrary, the period of notice[14] to be given is as follows:

  1. Tenancy at will or weekly tenancy- a week’s notice;
  2. Monthly tenancy- a months’ notice
  3. Quarterly tenancy- a quarter’s notice
  4. Half yearly tenancy- 3 months’ notice[15]
  5. Yearly tenancy

The primary aim of requiring service of these statutory notices on tenants by landlords is to safeguard the tenor granted to the tenants.  Furthermore, it is to prevent unlawful or forceful evictions. It is in consequence of these that Nigerian courts have insisted that statutory notices must essentially be served on the tenant. Consequently,, any defect, deficiency, irregularity, mistake, omission or deviation however slight or trivial discovered in the Notices or service renders such notices or service  invalid and of no impact. 


  • A notice to quit must contain the name of the landlord or his authorized agent. In Bashua v Odunsi & Anor (1940) 15 NLR 107, the Court held that the tenancy has not been properly determined as the letter did not refer to the 2nd Defendant neither was the 1st Defendant the owner. Both the Lessor (2nd Defendant) and his son were liable to the Plaintiff (Tenant) in trespass.
  • It must contain the name of the tenant. Even when the premises is occupied by a sub-tenant.
  • The nature of the tenancy must be clearly stated. Olaoye v Mandillas [16]
  • Date of expiration of tenancy Lasaki v Dubian[17]
  • Location of the premises
  • It must state that the tenant holds over the premises.  Fasade v Nwabunike[18]

This served after the expiration of a notice to quit. It is also called a 7 days owner’s intention to recover possession. It must be served immediately after the expiration of the prior notice. It is given not less than 7 clear days from the date of service of notice.[19]

It is important to note that, the notice of intention cannot be issued and served before the expiry of the notice to quit or effluxion of time. In Ezeama v Ejidike[20], it was held that the notice was invalid as it fell short of the 7 days’ as provided by statute; the fact that the landlord did not apply to Court until the expiration of 7clear days was held immaterial.


After the above step has been taken and the tenant refuses to give up possession of the premises the landlord is expected to take an action in the court of law through summons either at the High Court or Magistrate Court.

Conclusively, a landlord and tenant relationship is very important to a State that is why there is a need for it to be regulated by statute. In Nigeria, real estate housing is majorly provided by the private sector and not the government so there is a need to maintain peace between parties by providing rules that will govern their relationships. These laws must be adhered to by the landlord or tenant where there is a default either the landlord or tenant may be punished by the established statute. It is important to state that where a landlord fails to give the required notices required by the law or fails to give the stated days or months’ notice he may not be able to recover possession of his demise property from the tenant.

[1] accessed May 16 2020 at 3.00pm

[2]Section 8 of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011

[3]Owen v Gadd (1956) 2 QB 99

[4]Smith v Marable (1843) 152 ER 1114

[5] Section 5 of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011

[6]Section 13 (5) & 26  of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011

[7] Section 47 of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011, see also Oduye vs Nigeria Airways Ltd. (1987) 4 S.C. 2023

[8]Section 47 of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011

[9](1956) LLR 30

[10] See African Petroleum Ltd. v Owodunni

[11]Section 13 (1) (a) of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011, Section 8 (1) (a) Recovery of Premises Act

[12] Section 1 of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011

[13] Section 47of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011, Section 2 of RPA, Coker v Adetayo

[14] Section 13 (1) of theLagos State Tenancy Law of 2011, Section 8 Recovery of Premises Act, Cap 544 LFN (Abuja) 1990, Section 8 Recovery of Premises Law, Cap 118,  

[15] Lagos Tenancy Law

[16](1949) 19 NLR 59

[17](1959) NNLR 12

[18](1974) 12 CCHCJ 1865

[19] Section 16 of the tenancy Law 2011

[20](1962) 6 ENLR 185

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