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Being a Lagos Landlord 101

It was Okey’s very first time since buying his property a few years back that he wanted to rent it out to some tenants. The property comprised of 4 4-bedroom housing units. He had already concluded on how much he would rent each flat apartment and taken a lot of energy, time and money in bringing the property into tip-top shape. In short, this property was a spectacle! However, as he got closer to getting some tenants, he got apprehensive. He didn’t know why, but the mention of ‘tenants’ instilled a strange fear in him. ‘I am just going to speak to David about this whole tenants issue. After all, he has had tenants on most of his properties for a few years now with no complaints. He would know what to do!’

Later that evening, Okey met up with David and immediately unburdened his tenants’ scare. ‘David am almost done with the house o and I have decided what my rental value would be but see ehn, the actual tenant thing is scaring me! Biko, I have heard a lot of stories and it is sort of haunting. I don’t want wahala at all o’. As David adjusted his seat and put up a stern face, Okey knew he was in for some lecture.

‘Look here Okey, if you have made up your mind to be a landlord, I would not lie to you, you are going to deal with a problem tenant at some point! They cannot all be good na! Ranging from late or no rent payments to an unauthorized number of roommates to illegal activities, tenants issues come in all shapes, sizes and levels of severity!’ He sensed that Okey became uncomfortable then he said, ‘I am not trying to scare you, I am just been honest. Becoming a landlord can be a very lucrative proposition but it comes with its own challenges. Don’t’ worry, I am going to tell you how I effectively manage my tenants and the procedures I put in place for my sanity:


1. Prevention is always better than cure

Firstly, the best way to deal with problem tenants is to try as much as possible to avoid having them in the first place. I always carry out a thorough and professional approach when vetting my prospective tenants. With this detailed vetting procedure in place, tenancies are sure to run smoothly and successfully.

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Make sure you get up-to-date, valid references for your potential renters. It is normally advised that you get a reference from their place of work as well as from a past landlord.

Make sure you draw up a tenancy agreement that you both happy and satisfied with and carry out a thorough inventory. As a new landlord, remember that you can employ a lettings agency to sort all these out for you, although, they will, of course, charge a fee.

2. Know the law

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your landlord rights and responsibilities as well as tenants rights. Each state has their own law so you need to get familiar with them as soon as possible. Work with a lawyer to set up your policies and procedures too.

3. Stick to the policies and procedures

Make sure your rental agreement clearly states your rules, regulations, dos and do not’s as whenever a tenant signs any agreement with you, they are bound by what is in the agreement. Ensure you provide your tenants with a copy of the agreement as well. The details my rental agreement include; the amount to be paid as rent, when it is due, how it can be paid, rules about noise, resident-to-resident conflict resolution, tenant responsibilities, landlord responsibilities, guidelines on additional occupants, guests, pets, smoking, property maintenance, normal wear and tear and so on. You can use this as a guide to set yours.

You can also charge a lateness fee when the need arises. Do not give your tenant the permission to pay rent whenever. While this might sound mean, being as strict as possible will ensure that all the rules are followed to the latter and it can also create a better relationship between you and your tenant. Remember, familiarity breeds contempt. If it comes down to the question, Is it better to be feared or loved? In the case of ‘landlording’, I strongly feel it is better to be feared o!

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ALSO READ: The Legal Rights of a Lagos Tenant

4. Document everything

Okey, hmm, make sure you note every phone call and conversation, save emails and text messages, document every rent payment, notices served, warnings issued, complaints, maintenance requests.This is incredibly important.

Document your policies and the procedures for handling a tenant’s problem or complaint and this should include expected response times, forms of communication, warnings, notices (when, how and where to serve them). You may also want to create incident reports and conduct incident review meetings with your tenants or team. If the matter is not resolved and further action needs to be taken, these records will be evidence of your professionalism and attempts to resolve the problem quickly and agreeably. ,

5. Be wise

When you have familiarized yourself with your policies and procedures, you would know the different types of termination notices and tenant warnings available. It is important that you must maintain professionalism, even when your tenant does not.

A respectful conversation with your tenant may be enough to stop an issue in its tracks. When a non-legal issue arises, consider meeting them face-to-face, use your best judgment first and watch to see if the issue dies down. If it doesn’t, you can then take other measures. Outline the issue(s) and the consequences for not complying with the rules and policies.

You may want to learn more about conflict resolution if you are managing a property that has a lot of housing units. A basic understanding of these strategies and techniques can further help you in getting a solution to problems that may arise. Be understanding, but above all, be firm and unwavering when it comes to sticking with your policies.


6. Confidentiality

Late payments can be a major problem but there are some circumstances beyond human control.

Make sure you treat issues with confidentiality. Tread carefully when sharing information with other residents or neighbors.

7. Safety first.

If you feel like a situation is putting anyone in danger, don’t hesitate to call the police. While you want to treat your tenants with professionalism, it should never come at the cost of safety. If your tenant is involved in illegal activities, contact the authorities and let them handle the situation and secure the property. Once that has been addressed, you can go through the eviction procedure, which is separate from any criminal charges.

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8. Termination notices

There are several types of notices or warnings you may use as a landlord. Check your state tenancy laws to see how to serve the notice, particularly when it’s an eviction notice.

ALSO READ: Lagos Renters Beware!

9. How to evict a tenant

Only move forward with an eviction if you have tried to work with your tenant to correct an issue or if the transgression was so serious, it is grounds for an immediate eviction like an illegal drug activity . No matter how bad the problem is, you cannot kick your tenant out of the property without proper notice, make threats, change the locks or turn off the utilities. This is illegal.

10. Serve your notice

All legal evictions start with a notice informing the tenants of your intentions. The notice should include the number of days the tenant has to comply with your request.

11. Take it to court

When the tenant refuses to vacate the property even after being served a quit notice, you can take him/her to court as a last resort.

Above all my friend, know your state tenancy law! When dealing with problem tenants, emotions can run high, and things may not always go as you would like. However, remaining firm, level-headed and sticking to your policies will help you make the right decisions and resolve issues.’

‘Thank you, David, I have learned a lot from these tips!’ Okey said



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