In Nigeria there are either of two things – you are either a landlord (a property owner) or a tenant. If you are a tenant, there are two further things – your landlord either lives in the same compound as yourself or he doesn’t. We could go on and on to show how the relationship of either landlord or tenant is not one that can be avoided in Nigeria.

But in this piece, the question we will answer is does a landlord have the legal right to by himself forcefully throw out the properties of his tenant when the tenant is owing rent or because of any other unwholesome/disagreeable action of the tenant?

The simple answer is this – a landlord has no such legal right to take the law into his own hands and forcefully evict his tenant without a court order.

Let’s explain.

The Law is that a landlord has the right to take back (or recover) his property from his tenant but this has to be in accordance with the tenancy agreement (if any) and the laws governing such recovery of his property. The landlord must not take the law into his hands in an attempt to recover his property – no matter how honest such an attempt maybe.

Put differently, this means that the landlord is not allowed by the law to forcefully enter into his property rented out to his tenants and evict them without a court order. This remains the position of the law even where a tenant is in arrears of rent (that is, he has not paid up his rent).

See also  Fundamental Rights Under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (Chapter 4 of the Constitution)

Where a landlord brushes aside the necessity of obtaining an order of Court and enters the property and forces the tenant out, he has invaded and committed an infraction on the rights of the tenant and could be liable in trespass. This means that the affected tenant can sue the Landlord for trespass and be awarded damages by the Court.

It is also necessary to mention that as a tenant, when your rent expires and you fail to move out on time and hand over the property to the landlord, you do not get to stay in the property for free.  The Landlord is entitled to claim mense profits for the period of your continued stay after the tenancy has expired[1]. This claim is usually made by the landlord in the court action filed to recover the property from you, the tenant.

For further reading

Case law on forceful eviction of tenants by landlords

[1] A P. v Owodunnmi (1991) 8 NWLR (Pt 210) 391 at 416 – 417, Oketade v Adewunmi (2010) 8 NWLR (Pt 1195) 63.