It Won’t Work ‘- Nigerians Reject Senator Ned Nwoko’s Bill On Monthly Rent Payment

Taiwo Ajayi
10 Min Read
Senator Ned Nwoko
Recently, the senator representing Delta North, Ned Nwoko, announced he will be initiating a Bill, titled: One-Month Rent Limitation and Landlord Registry Act, to allow tenants pay their rents monthly instead of the current one-year, two or three-year practice, if passed into law.

The Senator said the essence of the proposed Bill was to aid tenants pay their rents easily, thereby fostering a cordial relationship between the landlord and the tenant.

He stated that the issues at stake concern not only the poor but also the rich as there were different classifications of houses all over the country.

“The issue here is that it is unfair on tenants to be asked to look for such huge amounts for advance payment of rents of one year or two years.

“It is not done in any civilised nation. Where does the money come from? Would it come from begging, lying, stealing, killing, deceiving?,” he queried.

For this to work, Nwoko spoke of the need for a rent control body to effectively monitor and implement the law in every local government and in every state.

“Every tenancy agreement must be in a written form and a copy must be filed by the landlord and the tenant at the rent control agency.

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“This must be done two weeks before the commencement of the tenancy; otherwise, there will be a fine of 10 percent of the total rent sum,” he said.

Nwoko seems not to be the only one thinking that monthly rent payment is the best for Nigerians in the era. Former Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, also recently called for a review of tenancy laws in states to compel landlords to collect rents monthly.

Fashola who spoke during the launch of his book titled: “Nigerian Public Discourse: The Interplay of Empirical Evidence and Hyperbole”, in Lagos, said that advance payment of rent, up to three years or more, was overwhelming tenants.

According to him, many houses are unoccupied due to the way rents are being collected.

He urged other states to copy the tenancy bill passed by the Lagos State House of Assembly in 2011 which criminalised the collection of rent over one year in advance from a new tenant.

Fashola noted further that instead of just complaining about housing, every state House of Assembly must do something to alleviate the pain of tenants especially with the current realities of the day.

“Can we bring it down from three years to one year? Can we hopefully bring it down to six months? Can we let it coincide with when people get paid at the end of the month,” he said.

Monthly or yearly rent? Nigerians are divided on the issue. While some think it will be a welcome development if passed into law, others think Nigeria is not ripe to practice such an approach as practiced in many countries.

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“How can we pay monthly rent when our salaries are being delayed?,” Emma Uzoegbu, a civil servant working in one of the ministries queried.

“Haven’t you heard that some civil servants are yet to be paid their March salaries? So how will they cope if the rent is monthly when they are not paid when they are supposed to? That won’t work here,” Uzoegbu, who is a tenant in Dei Dei, concluded.

For Henry Ajah, an automobile painter and a tenant in Kubwa, payment of monthly or yearly rent should solely depend on the type of job a tenant has.

“It is all about your income for me and the type of business you do. As a painter, my job comes and goes. I can get a job today and tomorrow, I won’t. So how do I navigate the challenge of paying rent monthly?,” he said.

A meat seller in Wuse Market, Taju Yinka however has a different opinion. For him, the monthly rent is the best considering the economic situation of the country.

“You won’t feel it if you pay little by little. Paying a whole lump of money looks as if all your yearly savings is going to the landlord. But paying monthly, will make you not feel the impact of payment at all,” he said.

Property Agent, Sunny Nwadike supports Yinka’s submission, noting that with the economic situation, paying huge sums of money for rent at a go will destabilize the breadwinner.

“ We have a lot of responsibilities. You have dependents who you have to take care of. Let’s say somebody is paying N1.5m a year as rent, it is not easy for the person to gather the money at once to give to the landlord. It is not easy due to the economy. But paying like N125,000 monthly will not affect you at all,” he explained.

Nwadike accused landlords who ask for yearly rent of being greedy adding that if they are more considerate, payment of monthly rent is achievable.

But for Richard Mordi, a landlord who also manages houses for some house owners, monthly payment of rent will not be beneficial to house owners who normally want to invest the paid rent to other projects.

“For example, the rent I will be collecting this year, I intend to use it to start up a land project in Mpape. If my tenants keep paying monthly, I will not use the money to achieve anything. It will all go for feeding and frivolous things,” he said.

Mordi also added that with the attitude of some tenants who deliberately choose not to pay their rent, monthly payment is not an option he is willing to explore.

“I am also a caretaker for some houses in Lugbe. What some tenants make me pass through is unimaginable. Some will still take you to court even without paying their rent. It won’t work,” he stated.

Adding a legal angle to the issue, Barr. Patrick Okereke Nwajah of P.O Nwajah and Co. Chambers explained that the Law of Tenancy is not within the exclusive legislative list.

“Long before now, most states starting from Lagos already have their Tenancy Laws. We have never had any federal legislation that dealt with tenancy. Every state has their respective tenancy laws,” he said.

Speaking on the proposed Bill, Nwajah noted that the bill is not necessary as the tenancy laws already have provision for monthly tenancy.

“Whatever laws they are passing on this, I doubt if it is going to work. It is just window dressing to make people feel as if they are doing something,” he said.

He noted that Nigeria operates a free market economy adding that “You cannot expect a person to build his house and you now tell him how to collect rent or how much rent he will take.”

Also speaking, Barr. Jerry Ombugadu Musa of the J-K Gadzama LLP, Abuja Office, explained that the monthly rent payment will not be advantageous to landlords especially with how long it takes to eject tenants who default in paying their rent.

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“The process to eject the person might take 10 months, one year, two years. How will I spend two years in court to eject someone I gave a house to for one month? It is not advantageous to me as the landlord,” he said.

He proposed a process where a tenant can easily be ejected with just proof of ownership and evidence to show that they defaulted in rent payment, without the normal rigorous process in court.

Musa, who among other things specializes in Dispute Resolution and Legislative Drafting/Advisory, stated that instead of monthly or yearly talks, the lawmakers should deliberate on how to make housing affordable for Nigerians.

“They should be making laws to allow people to have access to credit facilities to finance where they stay. If they think housing is the problem, they should try to meet the issue of availability and access to funds and being able to be productive to refund the money,” he said.

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