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Common tenants' complaints against landlords

Written by Abiodun Doherty
~Punch, Nigeria. Tuesday, June 14, 2016.
Abiodun Doherty

Landlord and tenant problems are among the most contentious after issues of land ownership and the reasons are obvious. The interests and concerns of both categories are usually divergent or opposed to one another. One tends to wonder why this is often so and what can be done to reduce or eliminate it. In my opinion, the journey to solution in this instance should start with a careful understanding of the key issues that generate these conflicts. A discussion with most tenants reveals the following issues are the common areas of complaints against their landlords.

Most landlord and tenant relationships usually start on a semi-formal level and it is only as these issues build up and are not addressed amicably that they degenerate into a level where the landlord is more comfortable with ejecting the tenant or the tenant is more interested in renting another property than renewing his or her tenancy. When issues arise, it is better to discuss them and find amicable solutions to them where possible.

The primary complaint of tenants is that many landlords do not mind their own business. They tend to interfere in the personal space of their tenants and seek to control everything happening in the property. The obvious reason for this is the fact that many landlords have personal attachment to their properties. They are concerned with the look and feel of the properties. They cannot stand to see anyone inhabiting the property without taking care of it as his or her personal property.

This is further compounded if the landlord lives in a portion of the property where he or she could easily see what goes on. Only few landlords can discipline themselves not to comment on issues such as cleanliness and maintenance. This is also one reason why several tenants are not excited about the possibility of living in the same compound or building with their landlords. A tenant's personal space is important to him since he has paid for it and it is his right to quietly and peacefully enjoy that space. Undue interference and control of the tenant due to this proximity are unacceptable.

Another sore point that often arises is regular increment of rent by the landlord or property manager. Although there are regulations put in place in Lagos State for intending tenants to pay one year rent at the inception of their tenancy, many tenants are forced to pay two years .Some landlords and agents are in the habit of increasing rents every year. The parameter for rent increase that some landlords use is the rent paid by the newest tenant in their neighbourhood. This almost always results in conflict between landlords and tenants especially due to the significant increase in the expenses of the tenant. Considerate landlords usually allow the new rent to be in force for at least two or more years before increasing the rent.

In addition, conflicts can arise when a landlord is very slow in effecting repairs or maintenance of the property and leaves everything concerning the building to the tenants. There are two kinds of maintenance that occur on rental properties. There are repairs that are products of normal wear and tear on the property; this often affects the structure of the building and common infrastructure such as water, sewage and roofing system for instance. These repairs are the responsibilities of the landlord. There is also a minor or major damage that is caused by a tenant's negligence for instance and should be handled by him or her.

Tenants expect the landlord or his agents to respond to calls to carry out repairs promptly. Quite naturally, when the landlord fails in this regard, the tenant becomes hostile and often sees him as interested only in the money and not welfare. The motivation to pay rent based on moral compulsion is removed. Some tenants have had to pay for the installation of permanent assets such as prepaid meters on properties when the landlord is nowhere to be found.

The principal solution to this is to ensure that your tenancy agreement contains terms that deal with the above issues in a way that is fair to both parties. These issues can be discussed and agreed on upfront. When it comes to rent increase, the period of increase and the percentage could be discussed beforehand. It is also important for tenants to formally bring up the need for any repairs in writing in order to have a document for reference as well as follow-up. The tricky aspect may be where the issue involves interpersonal relationship and attitude. These are issues that could be resolved through open dialogue and where this fails, you may consider moving to another property rather than living in an environment of conflict.

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