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NATURE OF TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE

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Now, a tenancy at sufferance is one in which the original grant by the landlord to the tenant has expired, usually by effluxion of time, but the tenant holds over the premises. In such a case the tenant’s right to occupation of the premises to which he had come in upon a lawful title by grant is at an end but, although he has no more title as such, he continues in possession of the land or premises without any further grant or agreement by the landlord on whom the right to the reversion resides. One necessary pre-condition of such a tenancy is that the tenant must have come upon the land or premises lawfully. Though he no longer, strictly, has an estate, the law will deem his right to possession to have continued on the same terms and conditions as the original grant till possession has been duly and properly wrested from him by the landlord or reversioner. It is a form of tenancy which, as it were, depends upon the law and not the agreement of the parties and can only be determined either by the landlord’s lawful act of forcible entry, where it is still possible, or by a proper action for ejectment after due notices as prescribed by law.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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THREE MAIN TYPES OF TENANCY

Be that as it may, there are 3 main types of tenancy, tenancy at will, periodic tenancy and fixed term (or term certain). – AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JCA. Bocas v. Wemabod (2016)

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STATUTORY TENANT & TENANT-AT-WILL

Hence when the initial occupation of premises is lawful, the occupier, even if holding over becomes a protected tenant qua the landlord. This is a status arising from a statute creating the tenancy. The difficulty arises when the contractual tenant who enters into possession lawfully continues at the expiration of the contract and against the wish of the owner of the premises without any contract. This is the situation described as tenant-at-will at common law. Under the 1976 Rent Edict, as soon as the contractual tenancy expires, the tenant, who becomes so by operation of law becomes a statutory tenant. He occupies the property as a tenant, and enjoys the restrictions against recovery imposed by the Edict. He enjoys protection and security of tenure and is at par with the contractual tenant. Although the tenant is protected from eviction except in accordance with the law, he is liable to pay for his occupation and use of the property.

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

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COVENANT TO PAY RENT IS INDEPENDENT OF LANDLORD’S DUTY TO REPAIR

Oke v. Salako (1972) 11 CCHCJ 88, wherein Kassim, J., held – “…A tenant’s covenant to pay rent is independent of the landlord’s covenant to repair the premises; the tenant is not discharged from his obligation to pay rent merely because his landlord is unwilling to fulfill his obligation.”

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LICENCEE VERSUS A TENANT; EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION GIVES TENANCY PRIMA FACIE

Errington v. Errington and Anor. (1952) 1 All E.R. 149. At page 154 line D. Denning, L.J. stated that:- “The difference between a tenancy and a licence is, therefore, that in a tenancy an interest passes in the land, whereas in a licence it does not. In distinguishing between them, a crucial test has sometimes been supposed to be whether the occupier has exclusive possession or not. If he was let into exclusive possession, he was said be a tenant, albeit only a tenant at will: See Doe D. Tomes v. Chamberlain (4), Lynes v. Snaith (2); whereas if he had not exclusive possession he was only a licensee; Peakin v. Peakin (5) This test has, however, often given rise to misgivings because it may not correspond to realities.” And at p. 155 Denning went further to state:- “The result of all these cases is that, although a person who is let into exclusive possession is, prima facie, to be considered to be a tenant, nevertheless he will not be held to be so if the circumstances negative any intention to create a tenancy. Words alone may not suffice. Parties cannot turn a tenancy into a licence merely by calling it one. But if the circumstances and the conduct of the parties show that all that was intended was that the occupier should be granted a personal privilege with no interest in the land, he will be held only to be a licensee.”

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TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE & STATUTORY TENANCY

A tenant who enters upon premises by reason of a contract with the landlord is a contractual tenant. Such a tenant holds an estate which is subject to the terms and conditions of the grant. Once that tenancy comes to an end by effluxion of time or otherwise and the tenant holds over without the will or agreement of the landlord, he becomes a tenant-at-sufferance. This is strictly a common law concept. But sometimes there is a statute which gives security of tenure to such a tenant after his contractual tenancy has expired. Where such a statute exists he now holds the premises no longer as a contractual tenant because there no longer exists a contract between him and the landlord. But he nonetheless retains possession by virtue of the provisions of the statute and is entitled to all the benefits and is subject to all the terms and conditions of the original tenancy.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Petroleum v. Owodunni (1991)

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WRIT OF SUMMONS REGULARISES DEFECTIVE NOTICE TO QUIT

The ruse of faulty notice used by tenants to perpetuate possession in a house or property which the land lord had slaved to build and relies on for means of sustenance cannot be sustained in any just society under the guise of adherence to any technical rule. Equity demands that wherever and whenever there is controversy on when or how notice of forfeiture or notice to quit is disputed by the parties, or even where there is irregularity in giving notice to quit, the filing of an action by the landlord to of the property has to be sufficient notice on the tenant that he is required to yield up possession. I am not saying here that statutory and proper notice to quit should not be given. Whatever form the periodic tenancy is whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly etc., immediately a writ is filed to regain possession, their regularity of the notice if any is cured. Time to give notice should start to run from the date the writ is served. If for example, a yearly tenant, six months after the writ is served and so on. All the dance drama around the issue of the irregularity of the notice ends.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Pillars v. William (2021)

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