Ignorance of the law no doubt is not an excuse. As much as the Landlord owns the property, the tenants as well also have their rights. And this is why a duly signed tenancy agreement must be given to both the landlord and the tenants if a property manager wants to experience some peace while managing on behalf of their client (the landlord). The story I am about to share here happens in real terms, and I was also involved. But the important is not the story itself, but the lessons I got from it afterwards.
On this fateful day, we were mobilized from the office to go and eject one of this stubborn tenant of ours. His rent has expired; he has refused to renew the rent and as well refused to exit the property. Various correspondences had been sent with no response, and the surveyor in charge of the said property was just too fed up. His patience had been tested beyond measure and just could not cope with this tenant’s show of power again. The landlord had been calling for his rent, it has always been stories after stories; making the manager look as if he does not know his onions again as regarding property management and rent collection. Obviously, the landlord couldn’t take any further story again.
So, we decided to take things personal with this tenant. About three of us left the office – the plan was to go and forcefully eject the tenant out of the house. This we simply did by locking the premises with a different key so that the said tenant wouldn’t be able to gain entrance again until he pays the rent owing, or sometimes we just go and start packing the tenants belonging out of the said property. We had toed this kind of path before in the past and somehow, it had worked on some tenants; and it didn’t work on some. But because we are just so fed up of this particular tenant, we decided to get a new padlock to lock this said tenant out of the property. We never knew what we had been doing, or about to do again; is out rightly against the law.
Unfortunately on this day, we met the tenant at home. It was as if he had had a premonition that something like that was going to happen and so; he had been battle ready. Three hefty guys versus one tenant: the guy obviously didn’t have a choice. So, we told him… ‘We had come to lock you out of this apartment since your rent had been due, and you have failed to renew’. The guy simply responded… “No problem” – you guys should do what you are here for. The next thing we noticed was that the tenant simply took one of his shirt, wore his clothe and then left us in the apartment. Well, we didn’t care; we simply locked up the said flat and then, we were waiting for him to come back as usual and start begging and make some further commitment.
Like twenty minutes after, what we saw was shocking. The tenant had gone to the nearby police station to report, and here with him are police officers who had come to arrest us. I thought it was a joke. Before we knew it, we all had found ourselves behind the counter. Thank God the surveyor took responsibilities and said the officers should release me and the other person, that he was the leader of the team. That day would have been my first experience behind the counter of a Nigerian police station.
To reduce the long story, the police officer brought out the state’s penal code. This incident occurred in one of the Northern states in Nigeria. And then he read to us where it was written that under no circumstances should any landlord in the state forcefully eject a tenant from their apartment except it is a court order. And even if it is a court order, it is not the responsibility of the landlord or the manager to do so; a court representative would usually bring such an order and then execute it on behalf of the landlord or the manager. It was a calculated set-up for us by the guy. The tenant had been aware that such a law exists, and then had been waiting for the day we would walk into such a trap and believe me – we did!
That day, I learnt a vital lesson that although being a tenant, there are protection for you in the law against unscrupulous landlords and property managers. In no time, the police had started preparing to charge us to court. Our dear ‘oga’ that we followed there had been taking away from behind the counter and locked up in one of the cells. We didn’t have a choice but to inform our principal partner what had taken place. As Nigerians, we didn’t know what to do other than to start begging the officers and the tenant not to process the case to court. Six hours later, the office sent in our lawyer to come do the necessary thing. The lawyer came and begged, and then our manager was released. In all, we spent about 10 hours on the case I just narrated to you briefly. It was then I learnt and know that tenants too have right!!!