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NATURE OF A TENANCY AT WILL

Dictum

A tenancy at will, which is held by a tenant at will, generally conveys a mutual wish or intention on the part of the tenant and the landlord in the occupation of the estate. There is general understanding that the estate may be legally terminated at any time. A tenancy at will is built into the mutual understanding that both the tenant and the landlord can terminate the tenancy when any of them likes or at any time convenient to any of them. In a tenancy at will, the lessee (the tenant) is the tenant at will because the lessor (the landlord) can send him packing at any time the lessor pleases. In other words, the tenant occupies the estate at the pleasure or happiness of the landlord. This is however subject to proper notice emanating from the landlord.

A tenancy at will arises whenever a tenant with the consent of the owner occupies land as tenant (and not merely as servant or agent) on terms that either party may determine the tenancy at any time. This kind of tenancy may be created expressly (e.g. Manfield and Sons Ltd. v. Botchin (1970) 2 QB 612) or by implication, common examples are where a tenant whose lease has expired holds over with landlord’s permission without having yet paid rent on a period basis. (See Meye v. Electric Transmission Ltd. (1942) Ch. 290), where a tenant takes possession under a void lease or person is allowed to occupy a house rent free and for indefinite period and (usually) where a purchaser has been let into possession pending completion.

– Onnoghen JSC. Odutola v. Papersack (2007)

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A CUSTOMARY TENANT CANNOT DISPUTE THE TITLE OF HIS TENANT

The statement that occupation by a customary tenant is no occupation by the landlord is, in my view, too wide and is certainly in disregard to the relationship between customary landlord and customary tenant. Although it has been said that a customary tenant who keeps the conditions imposed by the tenancy agreement can enjoy his tenancy in perpetuity, he is in
fact a tenant from year to year subject to the payment of rent or tribute. As in English Common Law when: a tenant cannot challenge the title of his landlord under customary law, a customary tenant cannot dispute the title of his landlord.

– Obaseki, JSC. Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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WHEN TENANCY AT WILL ARISES

Pan Asian African Co. Ltd. v. National Insurance Corporation (Nig.) Ltd. (1982) All NLR 229, this court said at page 243: “A tenancy at will arises whenever a tenant with the consent of owner occupies land as tenant (and not merely as servant or agent) on terms that either party may determine the tenancy at any time. This kind of tenancy may be created expressly [e.g. Mansfield and Sons Ltd. v. Botchin (1970) 2 QB 612] or by implication, common examples are where a tenant whose lease has expired holds over with landlord’s permission without having yet paid rent on a period basis (see e.g. Meye v. Electric Transmission Ltd. (1942) Ch 290).”

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WHEN RENT IS DUE FOR PAYMENT

Rent is paid as an acknowledgment of tenancy, and it shall be paid to the landlord or his agent in person or otherwise as directed by the landlord, when due depending on the terms of the tenancy, which in this case is monthly. By virtue of section 77(1) – Landlord and Tenants Law rent becomes due in the morning of the day appointed by the parties to a tenancy for payment thereof, if no specific day is appointed, rent becomes due on the last day of the period for which it is payable, so that annual rent payable annually becomes due on the last day of the year in respect of which it is payable, rent payable monthly becomes due on the last day of the month and so on.

– ADEKEYE JCA. Anyafulu v. Agazie (2005)

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SEVEN LANDLORDS MUST NOT NEED OCCUPATION

Why must the seven landlords who were the plaintiffs in the case need the occupation of the single ground floor flat before they can recover possession of the flat. If that is the law, it is a law devoid of human face, human reason and common sense. I shall not project such a law.

– Ubaezonu JCA. Coker v. Adetayo (1992)

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RECOGNITION OF TWO CLASSES OF TENANTS

It is now well settled, by decided cases of this court that for the purposes of the Rent Control and Recovery of Premises, the law recognises only two classes of tenants. These are the contractual tenancies, and the statutory tenancies.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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LANDLORD CAN BE LIABLE IN TRESPASS TO A TENANT OR LICENSEE

Trespass, of course, is a wrong against possession of land. It is not in dispute that by virtue of his employment the plaintiff was let into possession of the premises situate at 4 Benue Road in the defendant Company’s estate at Ogunu and was paying rent to the Company. Under the contract by which he held the premises he was to quit the premises within one month of his ceasing to remain in the employ of the Company. When plaintiff’s employment was terminated on 18th August 1981, he was given notice by the Company to quit the premises by 18th September 1981. If he remained in possession after that date, he would become a trespasser. But this fact did not give the defendant company right to forcibly evict him. If it did so, it would be liable to the plaintiff in trespass. It is immaterial, in my respectful view, that he was a tenant or a licensee.

– Ogundare, JSC. Chukwumah v. SPDC (1993)

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