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STATUTORY TENANT

Dictum

Pan Asian African Co. Ltd. v. National lnsurance Corp. (Nig.) Ltd. (1982) 9 SC 1 at p.13: “Put simply, the statutory tenant is an occupier, who when his contractual tenancy expires, holds over and continues in possession by virtue of special statutory provisions. He has also been described as “that anomalous legal entity,…who holds the land of another contrary to the will of that other person who strongly desires to turn him out. Such a person will not ordinarily be described as a tenant.”

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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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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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NATURE OF TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE

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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OPTION CLAUSE IN A TENANCY AGREEMENT BINDS SUCCESSIVE LESSORS

An option clause in a tenancy agreement is a covenant which runs with the land and binds the successors of both the lessor and the lessee in possession. It is immaterial that the lease is not registered provided the lessee has entered into possession and paid the rent pursuant to the agreement, he acquired a legal tenancy. Both parties in such a case are bound by the terms of the agreement and the parties are treated as having the same rights and as being subject to the same liabilities as if a valid lease had been granted. See Manchester Brewery Co. v. Coombs (1901) 2 Ch. 608, p.613.

— Coker, JSC. Okoye v Dumez & Ors. (1985) – SC.89/1984

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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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TENANCY AT WILL – HOLDS OVER THE PROPERTY WITH CONSENT

Cases of tenancy at will are common where a tenant for a fixed term holds over the property with consent of the landlord while negotiations for further lease are going on. The general rule is that if a tenant pays rent during this period, he becomes a periodic tenant, e.g. if he pays a year’s rent, then he is a yearly tenant.

– AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JCA. Bocas v. Wemabod (2016)

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