How Tenants Can Avoid Conflict with House Owners

By Gloria Attah

Landlordship dates back to the feudal era. It is a historiographical terminology used in describing the combination of the legal, economic, military, and cultural customs that flourished in Medieval Europe between the 9th and 15th centuries.

Broadly, it was a way of structuring society around relationships that were derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labor. Ownership of resources was based on a personal fealty between a Lord and a Vassal (subject). 

In modern day society, property (house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate)  is usually owned by an individual known as the landlord and is  rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a tenant (also a lessee or renter). 

Dispute between landlords and tenants is as old as the housing system. Access to comfortable housing is one of the fundamental needs of every human being and the desire to fulfill this important need pushes individuals to the lengths and breaths of the nation.

Nigeria’s current population stands at over 200 million according to a statistical data by the World Bank. It currently has its housing deficits grossing to as high as 22 million with a poverty level of about 40.1 percent. The reasons may be attributed to the low or declining level of economic growth, income inequalities, unemployment, corruption, bad governance, diversion of funds into non-developmental projects and so on.

The consequence of the aforementioned causes on the population is a low or reduced standard of living. A popular Nigerian saying states that “man must survive” and with mentality, millions of its citizenry put up with the economic situations and try to fit in with whatever condition they find themselves.

According to a 2018 report by RentSmallSmall.com, over 130 million Nigerians in Urban areas live in rented apartments leaving millions of people at the mercy of landlords and their agents. Over the years, the Nigerian media has recorded several cases of disputes between tenants and landlords with some of them leaving fatal consequences.

From a landlord harassing and physically assaulting a tenant to the tenant hacking the landlord to death in his sleep…, the list is endless. A number of factors can be accrued to this never ending feud. One of the major causes of disagreements is breach of contract or agreement. When either the landlord or the tenant fails to meet with the laid down requirements set in acquiring the contract, disagreements start to emerge. Also disagreements are caused by lack of effective communication from the parties involved. Communication is effective when both parties fully understand one another.

Other reasons for disagreements between landlords and tenants includes intolerance, failure in accepting cultural, religious, social or ethnic differences and so on. However, conflict and resolution are two sides of the same coin and therefore should be handled constructively for those involved to benefit. There are a number of golden steps tenants must take to enjoy renting experience in Nigeria.

The very first step to a beautiful renting experience as a tenant is to read your lease and ask questions. It’s your responsibility to ensure you read and understand the terms of your lease agreement. A good landlord will explain the terms of your lease and be clear about expectations.

Understanding the terms will ensure you do not break the lease or put yourself at risk of getting into a bad spot. Most leases will discuss the rent amount due each month, the security deposit amount, rules for pets, and the expectations of keeping the place clean along with schedule and emergency maintenance. You should make sure you understand the requirements and are comfortable with them before signing the lease.

A good tenant will follow the rules that are outlined in the lease. Breaking the terms of your lease could lead to termination of your rental agreement and possible eviction by the landlord. Following the rules of your lease will also ensure you maintain a positive relationship with the property manager or owner. For example, if you decide you would like a pet but your lease does not allow pets, you should not sneak a pet into your rental. This would be considered breaking the terms of your lease and could lead to eviction. Rather reach out to the home owner and try to resolve to terms that would also suit your preferences.

Money has been described as the root of all evil and overtime, has been the reason for many sour relationships. One of the way to continually enjoy renting in Nigeria is to always pay your rent in good time. Landlords appreciate tenants who do not miss rent or pay rent late, as they do not want the hassle of having to track down a tenant or chase after them for rent. Missing a rent payment could lead to an eviction so always pay your rent on time every month, without fail. If you think you may be short on rent for the month, you should reach out to your landlord and let him or her know that you are struggling financially and he or she may be able to work with you. 

Another important step to also note is promptly informing the landlord or caretaker whenever the need for a repair emerges. If you find that something in your home needs a repair or maintenance, do not try to do it yourself. This could lead to further damage or issues that you may be responsible to pay for. Instead, promptly contact your landlord so they can address the issue properly. Do not be afraid to contact your landlord about repairs or maintenance, as this is part of their responsibilities as a property manager. You should not be responsible for doing repairs or maintenance in the rental, as this is not your responsibility as the tenant, but reporting the issue is. 

Cleanliness, they say, is next to godliness. A good tenant will make sure the property is kept clean on a day-to-day basis. You may need to create a cleaning schedule where you clean certain areas once a day or once a week. If you have roommates, you could decide on how to split up the cleaning tasks. If the rental has carpet, you should make an effort to keep the carpet clean and stain-free. Avoid eating or drinking in areas with carpet by putting down rugs or mats to protect it.

Getting renters insurance is another important point to consider for a stress free when leasing a home. Keep in mind that your landlord is not responsible for the loss or theft of your personal property. You should protect yourself by getting Renters insurance so you are covered in the event of theft or a fire. Renters insurance is not expensive and requires you to pay a fee once a month to an insurance provider. Ask your insurance agent or landlord about where to get Renters Insurance.

Finally, when the time comes for one to move out, endeavour to do so within the agreed time frame. Make sure you leave the rental as you viewed it, clean and free from damage. Leaving the rental in good condition will help you get a good reference from your landlord for your next rental.

Don’t forget to notify your landlord in advance before you move out so that you make sure the move-out date works with your rental agreement. You should arrange a walk-through inspection of the unit with your property manager on your move-out day to make sure there is no damage or issues.