A Senate bill seeking to make it an offence for any landlord to demand payment of advance rent from tenants of residential and office buildings and spaces beyond three months, has prescribed a three-month jail term or N1 million fine for offenders.
The bill titled, ‘Advance Rent for Residential Apartments, Office Spaces, Etc, Regulation Bill 2022’ was sponsored by the lawmaker representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Smart Adeyemi (All Progressives Congress. It passed second reading on the floor of the Senate last week.
It seeks to protect low-income earners from oppression by homeowners and provide a safety net for landlords against erring tenants.
The bill bars landlords from demanding from a fresh tenant, rent in excess of three months and also bars the tenant from offering to pay rent in excess of three months if they are securing the use of the apartment for the first time.
In case of termination of agreement, the bill prescribes a one-month notice to a tenant paying rents on a monthly basis and three-month notice to a tenant paying on a quarterly basis.
The bill forbids arbitrary increase of rent and gives the courts the powers to determine reasonable rent increments.
The bill gives exclusive jurisdictions to the magistrate courts to try rent cases, but that either of the two parties could appeal to the High Courts.
Adeyemi, who addressed journalists after the bill passed first reading, said it would enable tenants to make a maximum advance payment of three months’ rent, with subsequent monthly payment.
He said, “We discovered that landlords are compelling tenants to make one-year and two-year advance rent payments before they would give them keys to their apartments. It may not be an issue to quite a number of people but to many others, it is a great pain for them. Most Nigerians need the protection of the law to be able to meet their basic needs after paying rent.
“Many landlords did not secure loans to build their houses; they are products of free money they acquire from the system. Yet, they make life difficult for poor Nigerians who do not have such privilege of making ill-gotten money from the system and put up structures.
“The buildings are constructed in such a manner that an average Nigerian would not be able to afford it. Many people are involved in corrupt practices to get their rents paid, while the ladies took to prostitution.
“The law we are proposing stipulates a maximum advance rent payment of three months. After the expiration of the three months’ rent, the tenants are expected to pay monthly.
“There are many tenants whose salaries are competing with their rents because they live in cities like Abuja. The law will prevent the poor workers from any form of oppression.”