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TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE & STATUTORY TENANCY

Dictum

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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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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STATUTORY TENANT

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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NATURE OF A TENANCY AT WILL

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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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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CONDUCT OF PARTIES MAY DECIDE IF A TENANCY HAS BEEN CREATED

Isaac v. Hotel de Paris Limited (1960) 1 ALL E.R. 348, it was held that the intention of the parties and the conduct of the parties must be the deciding factor whether a tenancy has been created or the relationship was merely that of a licensor and licensee even though there was exclusive possession by the appellant and the acceptance of the amount of the rent by the respondent company.

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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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